The comments section to a blog post or an online article can be a mean place, but just as often they can be a place where I realize things about myself that I had never given voice to. On Monday when we announced this week’s RTT theme – breaking the rules – a couple comments spoke to me. One was Meredith’s:
By nature, I’m a rule-follower…
Then Holli chimed in:
I’m a rule follower as well (and a rule enforcer in a not so long ago life-another story for another time).
It took these two ladies casually admitting their natural inclination to follow protocol for me to finally realize that I am pretty much the same way. I have always found a lot of safety in rules and guidelines, and it has only taken me 31 years to realize that. Yay for intense self-reflection?
Rules give me welcome structure in my life, and I find it easier to follow them than to buck the norm and act out just for the sake of misbehavior. When I was a kid, I never understood the mentality of classmates who arbitrarily gave the teacher a hard time or who stole a carton of chocolate milk from the big refrigerator in the cafeteria even though they had enough change in their pockets to cover the cost. That wasn’t where I found my thrill or vented my frustrations. The idea of committing an intentional foul against the rhythm of the day left me feeling stressed out, and I knew that any punishment I’d receive for my act of defiance – however slight – just wasn’t worth it.
But I think that no matter how much we identify with the goody-two-shoes persona, we like to commit small acts that don’t exactly fit within the rubric of model behavior. It’s like telling a secret to the still and silent corners of the Earth and daring the Earth to keep it. You drop your prized possession into the ocean, knowing full well that it’s still yours, but hoping that no one will ever find it. The desire to get caught is there, but all the better if that never happens.
When I was in third grade, I remember telling the world a secret.
I was staying after school for a computer club meeting. These meetings were mostly comprised of playing Oregon Trail and Super Munchers for an hour, and while the joy of guiding an ambiguously froglike creature to eat multiples of two while evading purple monsters was certainly an end in itself, the reason I really liked this after school activity was because the entire school was nearly empty. I liked the feel of the building when the only people there were the people who wanted to be there. The stillness of the halls was something special, and it relaxed me.
It relaxed me so much that one day after school I found that I actually had to go to the bathroom. I was one of those kids who never used the toilet at school because I found it to be really invasive of my eight-year-old privacy. Even now, I dislike using public bathrooms because the idea of someone hearing my pee hit the water is like inviting them along to my annual pap smear. However, when the school was empty and I knew I’d have the girl’s bathroom all to myself, I left the windowless computer lab to use the bathroom.
As I walked to the girls room down the second grade hallway, I heard nothing but my own footsteps. The absence of voices was beckoning, and I remember looking at a picture of a watercolor green fish that was hanging on the wall.
The next thing I knew, I was doing cartwheels. All the way down the hall, I turned over and over and over. I felt like all the secrets in the world were spoken into existence as my little hands made contact with the yellow linoleum. My own imagination had created this rule that one must never do cartwheels down the second grade hall, and I was flagrantly defying it.
I think that’s how I still am with rules. I break the ones I devise myself, and dare the world to tell on me when I admit my own guilt to it.
And I do cartwheels in inappropriate places because, really, that’s the secret to happiness.
Shhhh. Don’t tell anyone. ;D
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