I am a rule follower.
I wait in line. I pay my taxes. I return library books on time. I don’t interrupt.
Yes, I am a rule follower, and I was raised by a rule follower to be a rule follower. My whole life has been built around following rules. If I follow the rules, I’m a good, obedient girl. If I follow the rules, I won’t get in trouble (on a related note, I have always been terrified of getting in trouble–I got sent to the principal’s office once in third grade for cutting a boy’s finger with a pair of scissors. It was all a big misunderstanding, but I still remember it to this day and how awful it felt to be unjustly accused of NOT FOLLOWING THE RULES, this specific, unspoken rule being “Do Not Cut People”). And this is key: I will get what I think I deserve or what has been promised to me for following the rules.
I’m hope you’re following me here.
I don’t speed, I don’t enter doors labeled “EXIT,” I don’t sneak into movies, and I don’t bother people who are on vacation when I have specifically been asked not to bother people who are on vacation.
So I’ve been doing this my whole life. And as I got into high school, the rules became about my future. Get good grades and participate in good extracurriculars, and get into a good college. Get good grades and participate in good extracurriculars and get a good ACT score and write a winner of an essay, and get into a great college. Study hard in college, graduate with a superb GPA and do an unpaid internship (or several) and get a good job.
But that’s where following the rules have failed me.
So the reason I’m so mad is because I followed the rules. I held up my end of the cosmic bargain. I do not have even a sliver of the life I thought I would, and I feel that familiar feeling of injustice–the same one I felt waiting outside of the principal’s office in third grade.
I understand that the world doesn’t work the same as it did a generation ago. I understand that “life isn’t fair” and doesn’t necessarily adhere to the same rules I do. But aren’t I allowed to mourn for a future that has died as nothing more than a vision? Aren’t I allowed to be mad, at least for a little while?