I was the good girl. For me being good was easy. I liked following the rules, and making my parents happy. If I was the perfect kid, the perfect sister, and the perfect friend, I thought life would be easier but also better. When you're young, adults, teachers, family all tell you, "be a good girl." Being good made other people happy, so it would make me happy (right?). I completely self-identified as such and was that good girl growing up. Crushes and unrequited loves would tell me I was "green" and "a girl to marry." My best guy friend in high school brought me back a souvenir from his summer vacation: a bumper sticker that read, "Good girls need it too." It was a crude yet accurate token to my teenage self. My mother was horrified (and to no one's surprise, I was not allowed to put it on my car).
When I was 8 years old my parent divorced. They truly disliked one another, and even at 8 I sensed relief at their announcement to separate. Yet, their divorce proceedings brought out the worst in them and life didn't get easier. I soon had a step sister who got pregnant at 16, and a party boy brother who once told I'd be the perfect sister if I could just party harder. My only path left was to be good. I could fly under the radar unnoticed and un-in-trouble. I did everything a good girl should: an altar server at our Catholic church, honor roll student and varsity athlete, college graduate, and virgin until love (the requited kind). I always had a job, money saved. I was the "responsible one," and had a hard time letting loose and letting go. I followed a lot of self-implied rules that I was convinced were nonnegotiable.
It wasn't until recently that I realized two things: 1. Trying to be perfect and "good" was exhausting, and 2. I wasn't being myself. The idea that being a good girl would make me happy didn't pan out. Saying the right thing, doing the right thing, and living out the good-girl path laid before me, didn't give me everything I longed for. Being good and proper often left me feeling walked over, disappointed, bored, and sad. I was rarely being honest with myself and was people-pleasing my way through life. Maybe it was turning 30 that slapped me hard on the face and called me a liar— but thank goodness it did. Leaving my 20s seemed so scary at the time, but the big 3-0 finally freed me. I don't have to be "good" to be a good person. I can speak my mind, forge my own path, and say what I want. I can make my own decisions and if it disappoints someone I love, so be it. So be it!
This was October's MR Writers Club submission for the topic: A Lie You Believed About Yourself.