This week’s Random Writers prompt is to write about something you learned the hard way. When I started writing this post, I thought I was getting on a train destined for a specific stop, but I took a ride around for a while and finally got off here:
Growing up in the South, in a culture dripping with cotillions, debutante Balls, tea cakes and mint juleps, the bar is set high. The understated expectation of “having it all” is engrained deep in the fabric of a young girl’s DNA (boys, too, I suppose). Picket fences (of the white variety), 2.5 children, an active association with the Presbyterian Church and the Junior League, all while supporting the professional efforts of our handsome and competent husbands. This was the formula a young woman was supposed prescribe to in order reach heaven’s front door.
A + B = C. C equals Happy.
Let’s call it, Plan A.
And Plan A was foolproof.
And failure to accomplish Plan A by the ripe old age of 25 was a failure, indeed.
Or so, I thought.
Fortunately for me, from childhood I tended to be a bit more of a rule breaker than a rule maker. I never really adhered to that plan, though internally, for many years (even some in recent years), I longed to be the kind of girl who followed all the rules and complied with societal norms. My mother certainly would have been more pleased with me, people in my home town would have liked me more, and, in general, life would certainly have been easier had I just followed a very basic set of rules.
Yet, I was a bit of a tomboy, a bit fool hardy, and a lot naive. None of which were among my mother’s top 10 character traits, nor the other adults in my hometown for that matter. A “concerned friend” actually sent my parents an anonymous letter one time when they saw me kissing a boy who did not belong to the pre-approved, Plan A dating material list. I was 18. Heaven help us. People were watching me and wanted better for me. I should want better for myself.
So for many years, I believed there was something wrong with me. That I was a disappointment. That my being me, the way God made me, was a blow to my elders who had worked HARD to stick as close to plan A as humanly possible. And flawless execution of Plan A isn’t easy, which means that those who accomplish it are to be revered. Plan A had value and was a worthwhile endeavor because it required hard work, sacrifice and tenacity. You might have to be poor for a few years while your husband goes through medical school, but that short-term sacrifice would pay big dividends.
For most of my late teens and early 20’s, I thoroughly disliked myself, and the decisions I made at that time were a direct reflection on what was going on deep inside of me. I believed they were right and that the way I was, the way I was made, who I was, the inner workers of my innermost being were all wrong, rotten to the core, and thoroughly disappointing to the world around me.
Years slowly drug on with me believing that there was something wrong with me. That I was bad. Yet, I didn’t have a drug problem, I wasn’t sleeping around, I wasn’t running with the “wrong crowd” (with the possible exception of a few boys I kissed). The truth was that I was a good kid. I kept it between the ditches, got a degree, and got married. My parents never had to bail me out of jail nor ever bail me out of anything noteworthy.
When people now ask me what brought me to Vero Beach and I tell them it was for my ex-husband’s job, I can see them registering, “Oh, no. They aren’t together any more. She’s here on her own now. Oh, you poor thing.” So I often follow it up with something along the lines of, “And I wouldn’t have it any other way”. Which is true. There are very few things I would do over, but moving down here is the best thing that has happened to me. Building my own life and discovering who I really am, so far away of the culture that had asphyxiated me as a young adult, is was what ultimately taught that Plan A sucks. For me.
Despite my association with the church and the Junior League, it wasn’t the plan . . . FOR ME.
Moving away and making my OWN life taught me that I had been all wrong about Plan A, and that believing Plan A was THE way had cost me the better part of my 20’s. That time was gone and I couldn’t get it back. I sacrificed years, letting my environment tell me who and what I was supposed to be, and in the process learned that there is so much more to life than a picket fence, and that you could do much, much worse than Plan B.