Monday, July 23, 2007

Me? Stubborn? You bet.

I'm not sure exactly where my stubborn-as-a-mule tendencies came from. It is probably a combination of my Mom - who could be stubborn as hell without you ever really realizing she was blocking all attempts to dissuade her - and my Dad who is blatantly stubborn when the situation calls for it. I have always been headstrong and getting my way all the time about everything was just another challenge I was determined to overcome pretty much since birth.

Growing up I remember having a group of friends that I ran around with and I was often the one coming up with the plans. I was the de facto leader because I wasn't shy and would talk to everyone and voice my opinion and basically run the show. As I got older I remained stubborn, but by the time I hit junior high and high school I had become a follower rather than a leader.

I was still outgoing and had a lot of personality, but I was easily swayed by those people I deemed more popular, beautiful, smart, [insert pretty much any adjective] than me. I was friends with a lot of the popular kids, but I was never really one of them. I spent my high school years feeling like I was on the fringes and that I was a complete and utter dork. I think my biggest problem was that I tried too hard to be part of the "in-crowd" and I forgot to just be myself.

I vividly remember buying a pair of really cute, brightly striped shorts in New Orleans that I really, really liked. We had gone down to the Big Easy for a drill team competition and spent an afternoon shopping. I was so excited to wear them to school and walked proudly into the drill team locker room sporting my great new shorts and out walked one of the most popular girls in school wearing the exact same shorts…only she looked way better than me in them. I looked like a dork because I was too embarrassed of my pale skin to show my legs so I wore some kind of ridiculous tights under them with flats and some silly shirt. As soon as I saw her I did this horrific little Rumpelstiltskin hop up and down because I was simultaneously shocked that we were wearing the same shorts and horrified that I so clearly looked like an escapee from clown college compared to her tan legs, striped shorts, Keds and simple t-shirt. It still embarrasses me just to think about it. That pretty much sums up my high school existence – I had the same shorts as the hot, popular girl, but managed to turn it into something dorky. I don't think either one of us ever wore those shorts to school again.

In the spring of my senior year I checked out. I decided that I was never going to live up to the popular kids, decided they were all silly, frivolous people and I no longer cared about silly high school drivel. I ended up dropping out of drill team right before our final performance. I started dating someone out of high school and quit spending time with my friends. No one really noticed. They went about their lives and I went about mine. I stubbornly refused to admit I had made a mistake and when I graduated I swore to never look back…so much for that bright idea. I will tell you that high school was certainly not the "best years of my life" like they are for a lot of people. I don't miss it, but I still look back and see things I wish I had done differently. I don't think I would go so far as to repeat it like Drew Barrymore in "Never Been Kissed," but sometimes I think about what it would be like to have the chance.

Lucky for me college was much better. I hit my stride in college. I felt pretty and smart and funny so I just turned on the charm. It helped that noone knew about the striped shorts and Rumpelstiltskin debacle. I dated a lot and had some good friends. Looking back I realize that, for a little while, I was the popular girl. I wasn't the follower anymore.

Now, as an adult, I am so far away from being a follower that I have gone from merely stubborn to blatantly headstrong. I have found that I will not accept anything but the best for myself and I push, push, push the people around me to do the same. I am sure it drives them all crazy. I also have this desire to be independent while safely engaged in my wonderful marriage. I went out of town this last weekend and on a whim I got two new tattoos (that makes 8 for those of you keeping count). Eric was a bit chagrined, but not really surprised. He put it quite eloquently when he joked, "You can't go out of town alone anymore because you always do something crazy like cut off all your hair or get a tattoo." It made me realize that I am kind of a rebel at heart.

As much as I love my life, my job, my friends and my family I have this little piece of me that wants to be free to do whatever I want whenever I want. I tend to express that by doing things on the spur of the moment without talking to anyone about them. I suppose I believe in that little adage that states:

"It is far easier to gain forgiveness than permission."

Whoever said that was a wise person. I would like to shake their hand and then unceremoniously smack them upside the head because that little statement gets me into hot water on a regular basis!!

Now that I am a Mom I look at my son and realize that he is stubborn and headstrong just like me. He is also very smart and very inquisitive. He has a sense of humor that will surprise you because you don't expect it out of someone so young. He's a star in the making if I ever saw one. I want him to realize that he is exactly what he is supposed to be. I don't want him to ever have a Rumpelstiltskin moment to look back on even though I know there is little I can do to prevent it. Short of locking him in his room from 13 until graduation it will be impossible for me to protect him from high school and all the teen angst that comes with it. I just want him to know that you don't have to be a follower because who you are is who you are supposed to be. I know that we all have embarrassing moments and they are important because they teach us about humility, but I hope his embarrassing moments are never about trying to be one of the popular kids.

So, I guess I have to concede that I am stubborn, but I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing. Being stubborn got me through college because I refused to give up. Being stubborn got me through my grad degree because I refused to believe I wasn't smart enough to make it. Being stubborn got me safely out the other side of a short-lived but horrible relationship and a suicide attempt because I refused to be broken. Being stubborn got me where I am today – happier than I ever imagined possible – and if my son is stubborn then I am going to encourage it because being stubborn will get him through tough times and out the other side a stronger person. Just like me.