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.” She told me 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 and kept everything I felt inside, buried so deep I didn’t even know how bad I felt.
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, but I stayed with him because I thought I was supposed to and I didn’t think I could do better. 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 full-time job with vacation days and great benefits? What did I need school for? I felt like an old person at nineteen, working in an office with cubicles and forty-something year olds who talked about anyone who wasn’t within earshot. I spent the money I earned on skirts and button down shirts, high heels and purses that matched. I spent my Sundays lying in bed, planning on what I would wear to work the next day, trying desperately to give myself a reason to feel good about the coming week.
One day I decided I couldn’t take it anymore and I changed everything. The “everything” I changed were the ideas of what I had to do to fit in. Do this. Say that. Be this. Marry that.
I was called a rebel. I was called ungrateful. I was called insensitive. I was called selfish. It was tough, mostly because I didn’t know what I wanted, but I knew I didn’t want what I already had. So I chipped away at creating a new, happy life for myself.
One beautiful starry night, many years later on the lawn of the botanical gardens, I said to my sister; “Dar, I think I want to take guitar lessons.” I felt silly because I was already in my forties at that time. But with a shrug and a smile she said, “Why not? The world is your oyster!”
Those were healing words indeed.