My new dog Murphy and my new house in Rochester
I’ve always been what most moms would call a “good kid.” I got good grades, had good judgment about friends, and generally stayed out of trouble. I never had stupid boyfriends, never snuck out past curfew, and didn’t really drink before I was twenty-one—to be honest I just never even thought about it.
When I moved to college and gave my parents a weekly report, they didn’t get all the details of my life, but they got enough to be mostly satisfied that I wasn’t ruining the family name 2,500 miles away with no recourse. And for a long time, I was mostly okay with that.
I just never saw the appeal of rebellion. Takes too much work, to be honest. Who has the time to go out clubbing and meeting strange men? Who has the energy to deal with toxic relationships and being manipulated into making questionable choices? Throughout college, I was more than happy to live the life of a hobbit-y old lady with a strict 10 p.m. bedtime and a diet full of fresh veg and lots of water. Some days I think I was born forty-five.
But then…the pandemic? That doesn’t quite seem right, but the world falling apart definitely made me reflect on the choices I made. It took some time to recover from my transition from college to the real world, and adjust to life throughout the pandemic.
Ultimately, whatever the cause(s), 2022 was The Year of Lillie’s Rebellion.
Within eight months I: adopted a dog, stopped going to church, moved to the home I’ve lived in longer than any other place in my adult life, got my nose pierced, got my first tattoo, and got my first real boyfriend. It was a bumper crop of a year, where “choices in direct opposition to my parents’ wishes” are concerned.
And you know what? I regret nothing.
One of the weirdest things I realized about my “rebellious phase,” if you want to call it that (and I do, I really do, it makes me feel cool—please just go with it, for me), is how normal it all has been.
For what can only be considered a myriad of reasons, something clicked for me that I could still live a good, happy, healthy, satisfied life without living up to my parents’ every written (and unwritten) expectation. I woke up one day and realized that I’d never told my parents everything, but for some subconscious reason I was still making sure everything else lived up to their standards.
Now, let me be clear: I don’t blame them for the implicit and explicit expectations they set out for me. I mean, mostly I don’t blame them. But there’s definitely a reason I live fully across the country from my family. Unreasonably high expectations are definitely part of that.
But 2022 was an awakening of sorts. And I could not be happier. My dog is the light of my life. The church hurt me for the last time. My new home is charming, my nose piercing is sexy as hell and so is my tattoo. Come to think of it, my boyfriend is sexy as hell too.
And you know what, even given all of my new choices, nothing bad has happened. Literally nothing. My new piercing didn’t even get infected.
That fact—that the world didn’t implode because I failed to meet everyone’s expectations of me all the time—is truly the most shocking thing to happen to me in the last year. Some small (okay, large) part of me always secretly assumed that the sky would fall and the end of the world would be all my fault. But, somehow, impossibly, it’s not.
Two weeks ago, I got my septum pierced. My family still doesn’t know about that one (or my tattoo, come to think of it), and that is on purpose. But I’m finding myself holding my head a little higher and smiling a little brighter, knowing that being me is allowed. Doing what I delight in makes me happier. Makes me better.
Even though I’m still decidedly a grumpy old lady, I am unreasonably delighted by my little rebellions. I am weirdly gleeful that I can do something unexpected and still find a good outcome. Maybe it doesn’t seem as impactful to you, but to me, it’s everything. It’s those little rebellions that make me feel independent and powerful. Grown up and wild and full of an unknown future, full of more minor rebellions.
Lillie grew up on a forty-acre hay farm in Central Oregon, making the trek to Michigan to study mechanical engineering and sustainability. After graduating in 2020, she moved to Rochester, NY, where her day job as an engineer for the local gas utility funds her outdoor adventures, love of books, various craft projects, and investment in her new community.