What if you lived with no rules?
No, I didn’t mean that as a “CARPE DIEM! Sieze the day!” kind of way. I’m not trying to kick you into high gear or anything (although, don’t get me wrong, I’ll probably get around to it). It’s just that, first, I’m going to play with your perspective.
I know you have loads of responsibilities. I know you have places to go. But humor me for the exercise—
What if you actually lived with no rules?
What if you woke up every day and acted like you had no where you had to be?
What if you went to your room and decided to never come out, and no one would know?
What if you left your room and went EVERYWHERE, and still no one would know?
What if you looked at the sky from your bedroom window every morning and realized that the weather is truly the only thing that’ll fuck you up if you don’t listen?
What if no one’s around to see if you do your laundry?
What if you have the thrilling experience of being able to be completely ridiculous in public because you’ll never see these people again?
Oh wait….you know what that’s like already? Congratulations, you’ve been one step ahead of me.
I’ve never felt those things before, ever.
And so falls out my confession–
All my life I felt commanded by rules…. and frankly, loved it that way. It organized my secret chaos. Sure, I was tired all the time. But I relished in the struggle! I had places to be! So many people to impress!
I even encouraged the pressure, and heightened my expectations of myself.
Expectations expectations expectations expectations KATRINA DON’T YOU DARE SLIP UP! Expectations SHUT YOUR MOUTH, YOU’RE TALKING TOO MUCH expectations expectations THEY’RE WATCHING, STAY PERFECT! Expectations expectations expectations….
It was a lovely way to drown, my friends, running around trying to meet expectations. It’s beautiful– if you have someone who loves you by your side at all times, you can even forget you’re dying. You sculpt your inner peace onto another person’s body, someone who promise to always be around ,and then you can always find your happiness without bothering to search your interiority for it. It’s a shortcut for the person who doesn’t have time to ask themselves what they truly want.
You won’t realize the injustice you did to two people until much later.
And so this machine was my masterpiece; this cycle, my life’s work. I spent my days chasing down rules so that I could excel at them all—I could be forever distracted, and forever appear full. If a thing moves, it works… right? So my theory was if I move fast, people will always think I work great. I’ve been practicing that since I was thirteen. Stay in motion, and you won’t bother anyone with all your cracks. You don’t have time for them, no one has time for them. Move, Katrina. Stay blurry.
And then a couple freak accidents happened, I signed a couple papers without thinking, and I destroyed all my hard work by hopping on a plane.
I’m starting to realize why four months is too damn short. It took me 3 months to get from one huge realization to another. For the first 3 months, I was too in awe of this shiny, stunning freedom. It was everything I touched, everything I saw. I was abroad in France, all on my own.
This was such a HUGE, MINDBOGGLING concept that it took priority over other realizations. It makes sense though, because I’d never started at zero before.
Well, actually, I had. But that time I started at zero without my consent. This time, I chose the reset—it felt like a retake of a test I had failed so many years ago. The new prompt:
On this retake all of your friends and relatives are in good health. You won’t have the same tools as last time: there are no family or boyfriends allowed during the taking of this exam. This test will take four months. Your time starts now. Good luck.
I flew into France at zero. I actually knew NO ONE. That means if I made any friends it’s because I made friends, it was my personality that people liked. It wasn’t my mom’s friends kid who grew up and learned to love me; it wasn’t my sister’s friends who saw me around all the time and learned to love me; it wasn’t my housemates, co-workers, or boyfriend’s friends who had to learn how to like me—
No—here, if someone stuck around, I knew it had to be because they liked who I was.
I came here at zero. I recognized NOT A SINGLE PLACE. That means that if I know a place, it’s because I found it for myself. Mom wasn’t buying my tickets, I had no trusted buddies giving me solid recommendations. In college I explored a town, maybe a couple adjacent cities.. Here I set to solo explore a country, a culture, a parallel universe. I had to start walking (and missing trams).
Now, whatever place I realize I know, it’s because I pushed to put it on the map. The world I live in is literally of my own creation.
There are no expectations here. I’m in a position where I could fail all my classes and still graduate on time—I can skip class.
I’m in a position where I don’t have to speak french, I could get them to communicate with me in English if I really needed.
No one expects anything from the American girl who’s only passing through Bordeaux for four months.
…and so I do it all. I want everything. I go to class! I do well in class! I skip class! I write notes in class! I speak French! I speak terrible French! I resort to shitty English! I resort back to shitty French!
And I traveled with 2 other American girls, just after saying “Let’s go to London. And Edinburgh, I heard that place is beautiful as shit.”
And it was at this point that I started Part II of Test #1: Finding Freedom.
The first, the one that took me 3 months to grapple with, was: You are starting at zero, there are no expectations.
The second, this most recent revelation that’s built upon the first: You’ve been living without any rules, and you’ve been truly happy.
I’ve never known how easy it is to buy tickets and just go. You just type in your first and last time, hold your breath and close your eyes as you type in your credit card number, and press CONFIRM. And then a couple days later you find yourself on the Bus Route 1, giggling with 2 fairly new friends about the unreal whirlwind of your Tindr “date”, en route to an airport with ZERO anxiety about flying.
I know how jobs work. I know how grinding goes. I know double-shifts.
What I don’t know is relaxing. I never understood spending. Time or money.
It’s the lack in airport anxiety that clued me to realize—Holy…Fucking….Shit. Katrina, you’ve changed.
Where are those “rules” that you guide your personality by?
And why do you seem to be thriving without them?
Is that you, Kat? Are you the girl cracking jokes in class again?
Katrina, is that you, adding salt to your eggs?
Katrina? Whoa, is that you, thinking you can start writing where the world can see?
You fucking bet. I fucking love salt on my eggs, almost as much as I love staying still sometimes. Staying still, and writing to my heart’s content. Staying still and watching a building for as long as I want to, because I’m alone and I feel no rush to move(Do you know how beautiful things get the longer you stare at them? Give something time, and it will give you something back).
I travel to new places, I stay still with myself, I eat the fat, and when I do catch the tram… sometimes I don’t even swipe my card.
BOOM. Rule breaking.
I hope I come back like this. You might like this Katrina, too.