When I was very young I wanted to be special. I didn’t really know what special meant, but I wanted it to mean that I would be different than my parents. I loved my parents, it’s just that I didn’t want their life. I didn’t want to get married young and have a bunch of kids and work my fingers to the bone at a low paying job just so I could make ends meet. Yet, I didn’t know what I wanted.
I talked to my older sister about this one day, while we were doing our homework in the room we shared. I said, “Dar, I don’t want to be like mom and dad when I grow up.”
Offended, she told me that there’s nothing wrong with them and maybe I’m just being ungrateful. I felt very ungrateful then, and very guilty for feeling so ungrateful, so I kept my big mouth shut from then on.
I didn’t like my first boyfriend. I only went out with him because I was eighteen and he was the first person who had asked me out. I thought he was gross, quite frankly, and I didn’t want to kiss him. But I did, because I thought I was supposed to. My mother told me I would marry him, that he was “the one”. I was terrified, but I sat on my bed one night and cried because I knew if he asked me, I would say yes. My mother thought I should marry him, and mom always knows best. Better than me at least, who didn’t know what she wanted.
I was working at a job I hated at nineteen. I had quit college because I had landed a full time job already, and isn’t that why you go to school; so you can get a good-paying job with vacation days and great benefits? My father was so proud of me! What did I need school for?
I felt like an old person before I was twenty, working in an office with cubicles and forty-something year olds who talked about anyone not within earshot. I spent the money I earned on skirts and button down shirts, high heels and purses that matched them. I spent my Sundays lying in bed, planning on what I would wear to work on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday; trying desperately to give myself a reason to feel good about the upcoming week.
You know what saved me from a lifetime of servitude to “have to’s”, “supposed to’s”, “right’s” and “wrong’s”?
I am a rebel. I have always been a rebel. Even when I did what I was told, I knew I didn’t want to be doing it, and for many years I rebelled a little and caved a lot, rebelled a little and caved a lot more. But that little bit of rebelliousness helped me to make slow, small changes and those changes changed the course of my life. Ever so slightly it seemed, but things are not always what they seem.
I eventually moved on from the boyfriend I felt responsible to. I moved away from the job I hated. I moved on from the things I found stifling and the people I felt stifled by. I moved into things that made me feel good and people who gave me room to grow.
At an outdoor concert one beautiful starry night, about a year before she died, I said to my sister in a rush of spontaneity; “Dar, I think I want to take guitar lessons!”
I felt silly after I said it. I was already in my forties after all. But with a casual shrug and an encouraging smile she said, “Why not? The world is your oyster!
Oh, she got it too! Healing words indeed.
Today, I realize that my parents lived the life they wanted, and they were good at it, but it’s okay that I wanted something different. Today, I abhor the thought of right and wrong. I abhor being told what I should and shouldn’t do. I don’t even know if I like the word “abhor” but it sounds powerful, doesn’t it? and I think it’s all I’ve got left in the rebel department. I must need that little bit of courage though. There must be some changes coming.
Denise Barry is the author of the children’s picture books What Does the Tooth Fairy Do with Our Teeth? and Soap On A Rope. She is also an inspirational writer whose work has been featured on various websites and in the best-selling book Watch Her Thrive: Stories of Hope, Courage and Strength. Denise lives in Buffalo, NY. Please visit her website at www.denisebarry.net