No, I Don’t Play By the Rules
I’ve taken on a new part-time gig. I’m excited about it. I’m working with Northern Colorado Writers, and things with the group are energized and have movement.
This job means more mingling. My face is out there, and I’m a little public figure in this small pond. Not my preferred status, but I believe in the new Director, and I’m having fun.
In a casual group meeting, an acquaintance stated I didn’t like following the rules. You’re damn right I don’t.
I followed the ‘rules’ and spent ten years in a dysfunctional and abusive marriage. I followed the ‘rules’ and stood up to say no against a system while other people were nodding and toeing the yes line even though it compromised safety and ended my career. I followed the ‘rules’ as a teacher and colleague to have the rules shift with the ground under my feet.
In my experience, the rules suit the folks who are invested in making certain the rest of us follow them.
The ‘rules’ we’re speaking of are what the general population considers proper form. Keeping your thoughts to yourself. Nose the grindstone. Nice women don’t have tattoos. Honor thy parents. Don’t talk about unpleasantries in public. Ladies speak softly and don’t use profanity.
The list goes on and on. No one really knows who makes the rules, but we all are familiar with them. And if we’re honest we would acknowledge they don’t serve us well.
I broke the rules and spoke out about abuse. I broke the rules and earned a masters degree. I broke more rules and found The Beard. I broke more rules and raised our children to think for themselves. I broke another rule and quit a full-time job to pursue writing.
I’ve never been happier.
The Rules Are More Like Guidelines
I may be brazen, but better uppity than fearful and dishonest. I could be called resolute, but better to be unswerving than unreliable and disloyal. I may be self-assured, but better strong-willed than meek and faltering.
People know where I stand, with whom I stand, and exactly how long I will stand there. And the people worth their salt appreciate my particular brand of mutiny.
I don’t lie, except to improve a story. (I’m a writer after all.) I don’t steal. I don’t cheat. I judge a little, but I tell people I’m doing it. I believe in the goodness in others until they prove me wrong. And finally, most importantly, I don’t live my life to please anyone but myself. It is mine in the end.
I used to tell my students I taught to entertain myself and the minute I wasn’t having fun I wouldn’t teach any longer. I didn’t.
Every time I’ve sacrificed or suppressed my truest nature for others, it’s come back to bite me in the ass. It doesn’t make those people any happier either.
The other thing I’ve discovered is a lot of those people envy my brass.
At the same time, they’re calling me audacious and cheeky, some of them are secretly wishing they had my nerve. They’ve confessed to me in whispers as though admitting it would rouse the beast.
Here’s another secret, I like me. I’m a rockstar. I’m a terrific teacher, a super bomb mom, and a fabulous person.
Flawed? Of course, but my mistakes are simply mistakes. We all flub and stumble.
Self-doubt? Sometimes, but I’m surrounded by amazing people who can talk me off of that ledge and remind me of who I am and what I’m capable of.
Over the top? Sure, it’s where the fun is.
At a recent writing conference, I think I surprised Grant Blackwood, best-selling author and legacy writer of the Tom Clancy and Clive Cussler brands.
After I walked him to the front of the drink line, because he’s a best selling author after all. He said, “You don’t lack self-confidence, do you?”
I smiled and shrugged. “I’ve learned humility is overrated.”
Practice Acknowledging Your Own Brilliance
If I waited for the people in my world to acknowledge me, I’d be old and dusty and still not hear a damn thing. We have to nurture and support ourselves the way we would a dear friend. Who is going to be with us to the very end? Sure my kids love me, but it’ll be a long time before they’ll say, “Gee mom, you’re amazing.” To be fair, the dotter has said that a couple of occasions. The boys….one can hope.
A couple of days ago in the tattoo gallery, one of my former students was getting some ink. I was working with Shawn McDonald on his art show write-ups, and I didn’t see this person, but Matt Evans told me later the student recognized my voice.
“Is that Ms. Lynne?” he asked.
Matt shook his head. “I don’t know. It’s Julia. I don’t remember her last name. It could be.”
“No way, that would be impossible,” the student said. “But man, she was AWESOME!”
Here’s a rule of mine, if you’re thinking of something complimentary about someone, say it. Don’t wait.
I tell store clerks they’re adorable. I tell random strangers their eyes are beautiful. I make coffee for the contractors working on the house. They become confused at first, and then their faces light up.
When I called Perry Weissman, my Expository English teacher, in 2004 to tell him he had been an inspiration to me and one of the most formative influences on my life, he was stunned. “You’re the first student in my thirty year career to ever call and tell me that.”
“I’m going to be a teacher because of the kind of teacher you were,” I said, filled with joy.
“You can’t ever sue me for damages,” he quipped.
In thirty years, not one former student thanked him for being who he was and teaching us to think…to really and truly think. How sad. I couldn’t be the only one.
So look in the mirror and say it with me, “You are awesome!” Practice until it feels true and then pass it on to someone else. Thank you Kid President!
In the meantime, read my spy, action thrillers written by a woman who couldn’t possibly write them well because she’s a WOMAN and have patience with the most important person in your life. YOU.