“Settle down”, they say.
I’ve heard this my whole life. My whole wild child, big mouthed, drama-filled life.
When I was a little girl, I was loud. I sucked up all the air in the room with my big ideas, my “plays” and “productions”. And when I was pissed off, I was louder. If it wasn’t through the words and slammed doors, it was through my facial expressions.
I was a kid who was good in school. Very good in school, because I liked school. I liked learning. I liked creating. I breezed through my elementary years, and high school – for all intents and purposes – was very much the same. I started a class newspaper when I was in the fifth grade. I was the school newspaper editor in high school. In fact, one year in secondary school, I was the President of the Arts Council, I was on the Debate Team, I ran the Coffee Houses, ran for School President, was a part of the Inter-School Christian Fellowship, and worked in the school cafeteria. I never cut class. Actually, I even elected to go to summer school each year to upgrade courses, so that by the time I was in the twelfth grade, I was taking all OAC classes so I was able to graduate five years in four. Truth be told, I only ever failed one class. A blotch that stained my scholastic career so deeply (in my mind), that I taped the failed report card print-out to my binder.
I had friends along the way that would say things like – my Mom says I should try harder like you. I found the notion to be ridiculous. Just because I liked school didn’t mean I was any better at it than anyone else. I just manipulated my time tables, and arranged schedules to get it done. I enjoyed being there.
And it was probably during these “My Mom says” crap moments that things started to fully shape the way I thought about who I was, and the mark I was undoubtedly leaving on the people around me.
My parents – and if they’re reading this are probably bracing themselves – had a fair amount of rules growing up (and for the sake of their sanity, I’ll leave it at that. God knows Pandora’s box will remain shut on how they and I separately interpret my formative years). And those rules – I was ready to fucking break.
I didn’t want anyone’s parents and assume they’re kid should “be like me”. Hell, I barely even knew who I was in those years.
How many things I could I cram into the four years of teenage youth?
I started dying my hair. First colour? Black. Then came smoking. Audacious outfits. A penchant for the ‘f’ word. Fighting, kicking and screaming if we were going to Church. And if we were, I was wearing all black. I was kicked out of Youth Group, and the fighting between my parents and I hit a wall I can’t shake out of my memories.
The bull ride in my mind over the relationship with my parents while I was a teen rages on. But the oxymoron remains that I continued being an excellent student, I reveled in extracurricular activities. I didn’t talk back to teachers. I didn’t walk in late from class. I did homework, was on time for my part-time job(s). I was just this swinging pendulum between right and wrong, angry and elated, misunderstood and understanding who I was in a rapidly changing age of adolescence.
But something happened as I was rearing the corner on my final semester of high school. I had fully intended on leaving Ontario behind come June. I had a countdown timer in my bedroom. I was gearing up to sell whatever of my things I could in favour of a post-apocalyptic trip to out West. I was going. I was ready. And rationality be damned, I’d be gone.
I’d settle down out there.
After a string of heartache during those final few moments of being caught between a kid with a complex, and an adult being set free – I was pregnant. I’d cast my rod into an unforgiving ocean, and now the world was sinking.
I’d gone from bellbottoms and paper clips in my ears, to a bride to be. A mother to be. A disaster to be. I’d never see the inside of my high school graduation. While my peers walked the stage and were handed their diplomas, I was walking down the aisle to a man I barely knew, carrying a child I’d barely know how to raise.
And that one moment set the tone for the rest of my adult years. One unguided, misstep at a time.
I was very suddenly no longer the kid my friend’s parents wanted their kids to turn out like. In fact, there was a barrage of comments from work colleagues, fellow classmates, even family members, that decided I’d sealed my fate. That my wild child ways, and my insubordinate attitude landed me in the deep end of trouble.
What was it going to take to settle down?
20 years ago, they decided I was trouble.
20 years later, I’m going to unravel if that’s true.
And we’ll settle that tomorrow.
— c ☆