I’ve been living in the Land of Juicy Memoir Writing as of late.
I’ve been hanging in a land where sleep barely ever scratches at the window. And unicorns don’t prance in chocolate fountains (I know, I’m shocked too!). And inspiration wakes you from a tousled mess of dreams at two a.m. And you begin to wonder if your skin will ever know sunlight again or if you’ll just resort to prehistoric grunting when the last shreds of human interaction you hold run dry in your soul.
Some days you cry. Other days, you ball your hands into fists and march around the room when you finish a chapter. And most days, you have to schedule out slivers of thirty seconds to keep your sanity with the Harlem Shake.
But alas, it’s an amazing little blessing to catch your story on a page. To finally put it down to rest in some sort of peace and pieces. And I hold all the power in the world to make it look better than it actually is on Instagram.
In purging the nitty-gritty of my existence, I stumbled upon my “Rules for Being a New Yorker.”
Yes, you may absolutely pause in your reading to point and laugh at me when I admit that I wrote this little ditty and all its awesome glory before I moved to New York in Summer 2010. People, this thang is thick. And it’s a no-messing-around Rule Book. The Dos and Don’ts. The Yes and the No to City Slicker Habits.
The Rules for Being a New Yorker, well, they shimmied their way into existence at the point in my life where I realized the rules had poofed and disappeared in the summer air. The diploma was passed; the leadership positions were gone; college had ended. And suddenly, I was left to forge for myself in a world where no one cared if I showed up, if I brought my A-game or my G-game. And I couldn’t imagine a life that was Rule(less) and Wild. And so I forced the rigid boundaries. And I made the boxes to stuff myself inside. And I begged for the sanity that comes with saying Yes and No to yourself.
I wonder what we are so afraid of when we construct these rules for our diets and our dress codes and our schedules. I wonder what we are really petrified will happen if there be a little less boundaries and more breathing room. Would we spiral out of control? Would we become carnivorous and start attacking the passing cars? Would we feel threatened by the freedom that mingled in our limbs? Do we need the flimsy little rules to convince us that we are too fragile for the alternative? That we will, in fact, break without self-inflicted restrictions?
I only write about this topic because it’s been all over my scattered little brain these days. And I recognize myself as a girl who has often felt like she needed rules. Like she needed to be tamed. Like she needed someone to stop her.
In tandem with the Rules of Being a New Yorker, I also inflicted another kind of rule book upon myself entirely. It was the rules that I would endure when it came to the plates placed before me. The calories I could consume. The meats I could eat. The sugars I could intake. And I set up a lifestyle that was very much fragile and very much restrictive and very much tethered to the rules that kept me in check.
“What would happen if you broke the rules?” My mother asked me one day over black coffees—as my life had been sucked dry of creamers and sugar.
I didn’t want to go there. I didn’t want to speak of the monster who would wreck through all the cabinets and chomp down all the cereal and eat and eat and eat until the sun came up. She was bad. So bad. And she needed to be told NO. And limits. And a muzzle on her mouth. And rules in her pockets.
But the rules took out the joy. And the rules made me the counter in the corner. And the rules took the fat from my cheeks. And the rules turned me into a vapid little girl, shriveled and shrunk in the body of a woman who everyone else thought had all the world at her fingertips.
I’m breaking the rules these days.
I’m finding more joy. I’m trying to let the laughter in. I am wearing the red lipstick whenever I damn please. I am eating pastries with the sunrise, and I am having wine to celebrate the fact that this life is turbulent but tremendous. I am being kinder to myself. I am touching my skin and repeating with a gusto, “That’s ok…That’s ok…” And, truth told, I am finding that I don’t really need the rules so much as I need to trust myself a little in the morning. And a little in the afternoon. And a little in the evening before I say my prayers and fall to sleep.
And I don’t need to sabotage myself with the Dos and Don’ts so much as I need to realize that “failing” just might mean “trying” with a little less frill and a bit of a harder crash.
You see, like all things—the flowers, the bees, the birds, and my sweet soul—the rule book dies eventually. She gets buried in the ground. She gets forgotten and remembered and reforgotten and reremembered. And she’ll be back one day. Oh, oh, certainly she will live again before my feet are propped up in a blue suede coffin.
But when she comes on back, I will be ready. I’ll know that she can be broken, and she can be morphed, and she can be rewritten. Rewritten and rewritten with a soft velvet pen, like a melody that hasn’t learned to be a love song just yet.
Hannah Brencher is a writer, speaker, and creator pinning her passion to projects that bring the human touch back into the digital age. After spending a year writing and mailing over 400 love letters to strangers across the world, Hannah launched The World Needs More Love Letters in August 2011—a global organization fueled by volunteer “letter writers,” now in fifty states and forty-seven countries. She’s been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Oprah, Glamour, the White House Blog, and is currently a global finalist for the TED2013 Global Talent Search (watch the TED Talk). You can also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.