So it usually goes like this:
You’re born. At some point between drooling down your chin and learning how to walk, you realize that there are people who are constantly around you and watching everything you do. Bigger people, sometimes meaner people that are always saying no and telling you what to do, or sometimes nicer people that still tell you no and tell you what to do, and you have to listen because they said so.
And then there are more people, and more places, bigger places, and you realize there are some people who don’t tell you what to do. Some of them ignore you and pretend you do not exist, or are outright mean because you’re small and they’re big. And at some point you realize that not everything revolves around you. In fact, a lot does not revolve around you, and the bigger you get, the more you realize that you are not, in fact, the center of the universe, and probably never were.
And then you get bigger, and the things they tell to do start to make more sense, and somewhere around your teens you start to feel like some of it is crap, but you can’t put your finger on it, and the more you try to argue against it, the more people laugh at you, talk down to you, or dismiss you, and the more powerless you feel, so you become kind of sullen and morose.
Or, you’re happy because the crap works for you, and everyone is so proud at how good you are at following the rules. And sometimes during family get-togethers, you’re the center of attention because of how good you are, not like your emo cousin with the black nail polish. And you’re kind of full of yourself because you get it, and as long as you get it, you’re fine.
OR, you think it’s all crap, but you play along, because that’s how winners get ahead, and you know the rules really don’t apply to you, but you follow them as best as you feel, because that’s how you play the game. And if you mess up, you know what to say to get out of trouble. And if someone doesn’t play along the way you like, you know what to do to get rid of them. And you know who to kiss up to, and what to say, because that’s how you succeed. By playing the game.
I know this is an oversimplification, but there’s a point, I swear.
For some people, their lives usually follow this format pretty closely, with minimal disruptions in self-awareness or habits. But for a lot of people, more and more, there’s a stage that starts right around their 20’s where their entire realities come crashing down. The reasons are wide and varied, but some common ones are:
- Going to a college or university that provides a different cultural experience than back home.
- Making friends with people from different backgrounds.
- Moving to a new town.
- Getting pregnant/getting someone pregnant.
- Being sexually harassed or molested by someone you looked up to and trusted.
- Finding out your parents were waiting for you to go to college to finally get a divorce.
- Discovering you’re gay or someone you know and respect is gay.
- Finding out you were adopted.
- Loving something that is considered “gay” when you’re a male.
- Loving something that’s considered “for boys” when you’re a female.
- Learning a social science.
- Gaining first-hand knowledge that the poor/disenfranchised/ incarcerated/abandoned/insane are people too.
A part of sociology is the study of how individuals interact with, and are shaped by the institutions in their lives. These institutions include, but are definitely not limited to, your family, friends, school, government, community, church, sports, etc. It’s called Social Conditioning, and these institutions have a HUGE part of shaping who you are. Depending on where you are, some circles (institutions) are bigger or closer than others. Examples:
- You were a foster kid.
- You were the parent, while your parents were more like teenagers.
- You come a big family and you had to share everything.
- You were an only child and never had to share.
- You’re from middle America and the only “social” place you know is your local church.
- You grew up on a farm with no TV.
- You grew up in a bad neighborhood and could only watch TV.
- You were the kind of girl that’s been in beauty pageants since the age of five.
- You’re the kind of guy that’s been playing in sports teams since the age of five.
- You’re Jewish and your dad is the local rabbi.
- You’re born into a long line of police officers.
- You were born into a long line of politicians.
- Your daddy, grandpa, and great-grandfather were all Harvard men.
- You’re old money and just talking about the M-word is crass.
- You’re the longtime maid of a family who thinks mentioning money is crass.
- You’re the daughter of a maid to a rich family while you’re broke af.
See how these examples can produce VASTLY different people? Whatever the background, if you’re that person in your 20’s (or whatever age, really) realizing that everything you know is a big lie, or you’re having trouble just keeping it together even though you’re sure you followed the rules and you don’t know what the fuck is going on, that’s where people like me come in.
Just like we are thought many rules throughout life to help us navigate the experience, we are also taught many lies, often well-meaning, to keep us safe. But a lot of us were taught many lies in order to keep us complacent, subservient, or under some sort of social control. And realizing that can sometimes be much more traumatic than the experience itself.
But that doesn’t mean the end of you. In fact, it can be a beginning. It can be a very painful, difficult, and traumatic beginning, but it’s a beginning all the same, and making that change, I assure you, will be the best thing that happened to you.
So ask yourself the questions I asked before:
- Are you doing the right thing?
- Are you a good person?
- Are you making the right decisions?
- AND: Are you making a positive impact for the world around you?
And allow yourself to accept the no, because that’s how you grow. And you can begin again. You can. You can. YOU CAN. And don’t believe what other people tell you. When you’re living the wrong life, life feels LOOOOONNNG. It’s only short after it’s over. But I assure you, realizing your truth is the way to grow. And once you realize your truth, you can re-condition yourself in the image that you think it’s right for you.
What am I trying to say? Nothing that the School of Life hasn’t been navigating in depth better than I have in this article. You should check them out.
And what was the truth that I had to realize? That being a good girl was not going to protect me. And it was devastating. And it took years to get over. And that’s okay, because you know what? Because being a good girl wasn’t a good fit for me anyways.
And on that note, have a great weekend! 🙂