I’ve Become My Own Worst Nightmare

Image by Bill Lapp via Flickr

My mother was right. About everything. And if you ever tell her I said that, I may have to kill you.

I wasn’t always the upstanding, hard-working, settled-down, home-owning, pinnacle of the American dream that I am today. And yet, that’s exactly what my mother predicted, even as I was sneaking out all night, smoking, throwing parties, and piercing body parts that aren’t easily visible in everyday clothing.

My rebellion started after my mom sent my brother to live with our dad and forced him to relinquish his troublemaker badge of honor. I picked it up, dusted it off, and gave it the best run ever. I was rebelling against everything I found to be mainstream: office jobs, pearls, kids, marriage, and any other kind of socially-accepted lifestyle. Worst of all, I’m pretty sure I permanently corrupted my younger brother.

My mother has one small tattoo on her hip. I went levels beyond. Today, everyone can see my rebellion plastered right there on my forearm. And my back. And my hips. And my thigh. Never did I contemplate how looking like I belonged on the back of a motorcycle would affect job prospects, social interaction, or even the person I ended up marrying.

I stopped caring about school. Not to the point of complete and utter failure, but just enough so that the assistant principal was on a first-name basis with Mom. I still had plans to attend college, but never once thought beyond the typical in-state arts college.

Children were out of the picture. Marriage, a dream that belonged on afternoon sitcoms or bridal magazines.

I was living my life as though the story that had no ending. No regrets, no consequences, and no clue. 

My mother always told me that I was going to change my mind. She assured me in that tone that makes teenage eyes do backflips inside their sockets. After I got my first tattoo, Mom’s only concern was how I got my fake ID. After my fourth, her concern switched to how I was ever going to find a job outside of food service or car repair. She informed me that no matter what my current stance on children, four million years of biology was always going to win. She supported me thoroughly in my dream of being a roadie, even buying me my first tool set. But she was always sure to remind me pointedly that one day I was going to crave stability and the opportunity to “nest.”

Whenever she said that, I could only laugh.

But then, somewhere in my mid-20s came a horrendous realization. I had changed my mind.

I realized that living out of a suitcase was getting old. Every once in a while, I would look at my tattoos when I was dressed up for a night out and wish they weren’t there. I found myself craving a partner to spend my life with. My biological clock started ticking so loudly, I swear it caused that permanent ringing in my ears.

It was time to make a change. It was time to make all the changes.

I started with the job. I moved to a new city and got an office job with a desk, a phone, and no need to carry my own tool set with me. And I loved it. Shortly after that, I met someone. We’ve been together for over two years and just bought our first house together. We have a dog, a snake, and a fish. We are planning on getting married, and–gasp–we want children.

I recently found myself on a shopping excursion for a set of bar stools. By the time I got to the Target check-out line, I realized that I had picked out a shabby-chic wine rack, the perfect set of sheets for my antique-themed guest bedroom, a perfectly art-nouveau fireplace screen (that matched the wine rack), and a new Christmas ornament for my tree.

I was nesting. It hit me like a herd of elephants surfing in on the back of a blue whale.

I was turning into every single thing I had once held in such contempt. And yet, I’ve never been happier.

When I look back and compare what I thought my life was going to be with what it is today, I can only laugh. And I finally have to admit to myself that my mother does know more about life than my teenage self gave her credit for. She always knew that I’d have the normal family life, even if my version of “normal” encompasses tattoos and a pet snake. She knew that I’d succumb to four million years of biological programming to make a tribe. And by God, she knew I’d eventually forge my own path towards normalcy.

My mother’s the smartest woman I know. I’m sure she remembers those bygone years and the predictions she made over a decade ago.

And she is smart enough to never have said “I told you so.”

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Rebecca Sullins

18 comments

  • Oddly enough, I find myself going in the opposite direction. Growing up I had it together. The most “rebellious” thing I probably ever did was stay out 20 minutes past curfew. I probably even called first. Now, though, I wish I had done more rebelling when I was younger because I feel like I set my life up for something that suddenly doesn’t feel as right. I mean, I want to get married and have kids, but not for 5 or so years. I just feel the need to not put down roots and not do all of the things people around me are doing.

    • It is NEVER too late to be rebellious. I can give you a few pointers if you’d like.

    • That totally makes sense to me. It’s greener grass syndrome. If we spent our younger years running the straight and narrow, then we’re going to want to stray in our old age. And, if we spent our younger years being rebels, then we’re going to want to straighten up a bit in our old age.

  • I can totally relate to this post. Although I’ve calmed down a lot this past year, at 22 I’m still going through the tattoos, piercings and all other rebellious things phase (though I think with mum tattoos will be rebellious at any age). She keeps telling me all the things you mentioned your mum told you and I too laugh at everything that she says and I shake my head in disbelief. I guess this post just might prove me wrong and I know for sure mum will not hesitate to say ‘I told you so’ 😛 Ah well, guess I’ll bask in my rebellion while I still can!

    • Do it. My mom basks in my rebellion a little, I’m sure. She got married right out of college, had kids young… she never had the chance to do HER thing.

      And when she does give me that all-knowing grin, she will usually cheers me while she does it!

  • I can so identify with this. I never did the tattoos, and only got my ears pierced, but up until my late 20s I loathed the idea of working in an office, getting married, living in the suburbs and having kids. Instead of going to college and getting a toe-hold in the corporate world, I spent those years playing in bands and partying like the rockstar I thought I’d be by now. I’d watch Office Space with my friends and think about what hell it would be to live that life.

    Now I’d kill to have Peter Gibbons’ job. I got tired of the crappy day job that was “getting me by until the right A&R rep comes to one of our shows,” and went off to college to get my degree. I started dating again, and would ask myself why I’d find it a letdown when I the girl I was with said she never wanted kids.

    Unfortunately, I got my degree right when the economy got flushed down the toilet, and now I’m back at that same crappy job I’d hoped to escape when I went off to university. And I can’t help but wonder how different things would be now if I’d done what I rebelled against back when I was young.

    • Yeah, I’ve thought MANY times about going back to school and totally switching jobs, but my stability is so priceless right now. I feel like such a wuss.

  • Most of the stuff I’ve done that would be considered “rebellious” was unintentional, and the unconventional aspects of it scared the hell out of me, even though I’m pretty used to it now. It sounds like you have a better grasp of what you want now though, and perhaps the rebellious runaround helped with that?

    • I think it did… had I grown up on the straight and narrow, I would have no idea what I wanted at this point. My sisters are both in that boat. One of them has called off a wedding and switched colleges twice… the other is just lost.

  • What a great post. I wish I would have been a bit more rebellious. My strict parents saw to it that my wandering was at a minimum. At 19, I cut all ties and started taking care of myself so I could have freedom. I learned all too quickly that freedom was expensive and spent all my time working. Ugh. Not to say, I don’t still feel like running wild and do on occasion.

    • As well you should… being an adult sucks, you gotta let loose and act like a kid once in a while!

  • Great post! I’ve been wondering about this topic a lot myself – people who don’t have the desire to settle down and have children. I wish there were some study to point to. One of my close friends does not want to marry, have children, none of those things. Other than that, she has completely average expectations of relationships and the men in her life. Her mother also has told her that she will change, but now she’s 30 and she still doesn’t want these things. She’s not rebelling, exactly, she just doesn’t have the desire. I have to wonder what percentage of people change their mind versus those that stick to their guns or never really feel the need to change their minds? It’s hard for my friend to date, becuase around the third date she reveals her intentions, and many guys are gone. Or they try to convince her to change her mind, or reassure themselves that she WILL change her mind. I’ve struggled with what advice to give her – because I’ve always wanted the white picket fence, let’s get married and live happily ever after with 2.5 kids. So much of me wants to send her your post and say – see! She changed her mind! Maybe you will too!! But I’m not sure that’s appropriate or would be of any help to her. I can’t change who she is. I wouldn’t want to.

    • There are a lot of women that don’t want children. It’s becoming quite popular actually. Although I would guess that the majority of women DO end up changing their minds, simply because that’s what your mind and body are programmed to do.

      She may change her mind, she may not. If I were you, I wouldn’t worry about your friend NOT changing her mind, I’d worry about her doing it when it was too late.

      The thing I learned was that what’s right for you will always come out in the end… and you can’t predict it, you can’t force it, you can’t change it.

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  • Great post! Have to say I have done the opposite, a little bit. I was a very good (read: boring) teenager. Shy and awkward and not half as bad as my older brother and sister. I am now in my thirties, have 3 tattoes (but I do like them), joined a martial arts club, party more than as a teenager and am having great fun. Good thing doing this now is that the parents never have to find out 🙂 Well… I also own a house, have a partner, enjoy getting stuff for the house… how contradictory is that?!

    And yes, mothers are more clever than we ever give them credit for as teenagers.

    • See, it’s the balance that makes it work. I also party upon occassion, play pool many nights a week… but I’m at the point where when we decide to have kids or something, I’d be willing to give it up, and I think that’s the difference.

    • Well, I don’t think you’d have to give it all up. I’m sure you could still party and play pool (just not as often). Like you said… balance. 🙂

  • I can really relate to your blog… but still i do not listen to my mom… and when fall falt on face i do recall her words… Love her so much…. I am missing my family … 🙁

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