When I was younger, I would have told you that a rebel is someone who breaks the rules. I would have smiled and said that rebellion is for troublemakers; knowing full well that I put myself in such a category and was proud of it, seeing the world as made for those who fit into perfect little boxes with straight lines and thin bodies that fold up, sit still and make very little noise once inside. My hair alone has always been too big and untame to ever fit inside a ponytail, let alone a metaphorical square box made for conformity. So, the chances of me tucking suitably into a specific set of expectations, rules or any particular role in life other than that of, well, a rebel, was out of the question. It is in my nature, I guess, to do things different. I prefer movement to stillness, blurred edged to straight lines, and wide-open spaces to tiny little boxes.
But now that I am an adult, a mother, a wife, I find myself following the rules more often than not. I feel so overburdened by rules, in fact, that my whole life has seemed to become a stack of boxes I am fighting to keep organized every day. One box labeled: type of food you must eat and feed your children. Another marked: how clean your house must be. The trendy box: how you should dress, groom and accessorize. The wife box with the clearly, or often completely unclearly, defined rules: my jobs, his jobs, the jobs that no one wants at all. And I could go on and on with the boxes, but you get the point. You have your own stack of boxes you are likely working into like an old pair of jeans that you think will make you look great but don’t actually button anymore and cling to your legs like a whiny child instead of a sleek slender hug. My younger self would say, Get rid of them! My current, more contained, less rebellious self (because I have responsibilities now that include three little people to care for) asks, But how!? And somewhere in between a voice is whispering, Just do what you can, and leave the rest alone.
It almost sounds too simple. But maybe rebellion doesn’t have to mean breaking all the rules. It doesn’t have to be smoking a cigarette in the girl’s bathroom, or staying out past curfew and getting a speeding ticket. It doesn’t mean dating the boy your parents hate, or skipping class, or refusing to clean your room. All of which I may or may not have done in my younger days. Maybe rebellion means so much more as an adult, and all that trouble was only a little bit of practice for the really truly hard work of growing up and learning how not to follow the heavy tides that try to pull us into a certain way of life and away from our beautiful selves. I know I feel it. I have been swayed many times. But I am beginning to channel my inner rebel these days and remind myself more often that most of the rules I feel set upon me like tops to boxes holding me down, are merely the suggestions of my environment and merely the ideas of others. I am reminding myself that even though sports are a religion for many and their kids worship in arenas and on fields and courts, it’s not an actual rule we have to live by. I am reminding myself that while I am pierced with embarrassment and feel the need to hide and apologize to anyone around me if I happen to show up anywhere without perfectly pedicured toes, that having pretty feet is not actually a rule. I’m throwing that box away. Not because I don’t love a good pedicure, don’t get me wrong, but because it is unrealistic to try and fit into that standard all the time. So, I’m not going to anymore.
A rebel is not someone who breaks the rules and sticks up her middle finger to the world. A rebel, in truth, is a woman who holds onto herself. Who trusts herself to make choices based on faith, and who behaves not for the applause and approval of others but for her own mind and heart. It is easy to do what we think we should, what will make others happy, what will keep us in good graces and high esteem, but it is honorable to do something different and go against the grain even if it means going against the popular choice. Even if it means being a rebel. Besides, the only real box that matters is the one created by God, and he already put everything inside of us we ever need.
Krissy Dieruf is a licensed marriage and family therapist. She lives in Minnesota with her husband and three children, loves to sing and dance around the house, and has a soft spot for rebels and crazy hair. You can find her on her blog at krissydieruf.blogspot.com.