Three Things I Wish I Could Tell My Teenage Self, Part 3
First published at Tigress Mag for Girls
Image by Mai Ly Degnan
3. Hone your rebellion.
In 2011, I created a feminist blogging site and zine called Love Your Rebellion. The name came to me like a flash of light; rebellion had always been something I clung to, not out of youthful indignation, but rather a desire to stay true to myself. In my late 20s, rebellion came to mean something entirely different than it had meant throughout most of my life. In fact, although rebellion had always been something I chased and embraced, I didn’t really know how to integrate it into my life without causing drama or harm. By 2011, I had successfully completed my undergraduate and graduate degrees, a sign to many that I’d left rebellion in the dust. During my schooling, I had to come to redefine my rebellion so it could coexist with my prosperity.
Growing up, I was always the girl in trouble. I think I served more Saturday detentions in high school than anyone else. I weaseled my way out of suspension more than one time, and skipped classes so often that I had to repeat some. I almost didn’t graduate because I’d exceeded the number of days absent the state of Florida would allow. Somehow, though, my parents convinced me to attend community college, and from there, I went on to my undergrad. In undergrad, I continued to act largely the same way, at least for the first year. I remember having to write a well-worded letter to get my financial aid back and pleading with the Dean of Academics to let me continue.
Once I got to my core courses, though, in English and Creative Writing, I found that I could no longer be the same rebel I’d always been. I’d have to get real and start coming to class, doing my readings, and getting my work in on time. What’s more: I wanted to because I was finally studying something I truly loved. How, I thought at the time, could I keep being my rebel self if I started to do right by my schooling? Although I didn’t articulate this concept until March of 2011, I started to view my education as a form of rebellion. In feminist theory classes, I learned of women throughout history who’d become educated even though they were not allowed. Those women were rebels; therefore, wasn’t I a rebel for learning as well? Women all over the world still have to fight for the right to receive an education. Even though my privilege made it possible for me to attend university without a fight, wasn’t I still a rebel simply for being an educated woman in a world where women are discouraged from being too smart or too educated?
As my definition for rebellion began to expand, so then did the ways in which I expressed my rebellion. For example, where rebellion once meant skipping class to take drugs with my roommates, rebellion came to mean being an educated woman. Many areas of my life saw this same change as my ideas about rebellion changed. I began to see self-care as an act of rebellion. The same logic was applied to self-care as education: patriarchal society doesn’t want me to care for myself; therefore, self-care is an act of rebellion against patriarchal society. It’s not that your rebellion depends upon something like education; rather, your rebellion depends on how you define it and how you define it impacts the role rebellion plays in your life: positive or negative.
Often, I call my rebellion Wild Wisdom. I believe it is completely possible to be both wild and wise, and that rebellion can help a person access that wild wisdom. The key, though, is to define your rebellion as something that helps you progress as an individual, rather than the trite construction of rebellion touted in pop songs and teen dramas. Being a rebel doesn’t mean you have to die your hair purple, do drugs, skip school, or curse out your parents. For some, being a rebel means rejecting mainstream society’s ideas about what it means to be a person, and particularly what it means to be a girl or woman. No one can help you define your rebellion, however. It is up to you to find your wild wisdom, and let it shape you into a truer self.