Stratejoy Essay Contest - Finalist #4 - Sara Fry - Stratejoy
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Stratejoy Essay Contest – Finalist #4 – Sara Fry

*This post is an entry in the 1st Annual Stratejoy Essay Contest.  Each day throughout the month of February, we will be featuring one of the 20 finalists writing their answer to the question: How do you live life on your own terms? On February 29th, we will open the voting to YOU, our community, to select the winner of the $500 prize.*

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There’s a little string-bean girl with corn silk hair in her bedroom. She has these almost-black eyes that would be precocious if they weren’t so wise. She holds her head high with pride and struts as well as four-year-old legs will allow. It’s her first day of pre-school and she’s dressed herself.

Her mother stifles a laugh. Her eldest child has just emerged wearing floral-print leggings with a multi-colored striped t-shirt. It may be the 80s, but regardless: her daughter looks absolutely ridiculous.

Gently – and doing her best to squash the smile her lips so desperately want to form – the mother asks her daughter if she knows that her outfit doesn’t match.

The reply comes with an exasperated, defiant tone and predictable stubbornness:

“Mom, who says I always have to match?”

***

A few years later, the same girl is reading chapter books on her own. She identifies with the protagonist in Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Answer-Backer Cure; rather than instill the intended lesson of courtesy, the story lends itself to her first verbal rebellions.

Akin to her eclectic outfit selections, which will continue through puberty, this string-bean girl wonders why she is expected to obey anyone other than herself.

Her questions and curiosity lead to frustration and unintended rudeness. She is often chastised for her Attitude with a Capital A.

***

In middle school, a teacher once told the class to always question authority. It had never occurred to me not to.

At the ripe(er) age of 27, I no longer fit the string-bean description. My hair has turned the color of dark honey and I have developed a decidedly better fashion sense.

Luckily, I’ve kept the same inquisitive nature – only now when I ask, “Who says?” it’s to myself.

I don’t have anyone telling me what to do anymore, so that rebellious spirit ends up boomeranging right back at me. I have to – I get to – call my own shots.

I got laid off a week after Thanksgiving and while I’ve never actually been punched in the stomach, it’s easy to imagine what that feels like now. But more than that, it was jarring. I mean, literally, I was jerked awake out of some sleep I didn’t know I was in.

Suddenly I found myself wobbling uncontrollably and it wasn’t on my own terms this time. My greatest fear was that I wouldn’t be able to get that back. That ability to call my own shots.

And then I remembered that I haven’t always gotten to call my own shots. I remembered that little string-bean girl rejecting her own circumstances and
choosing her path. Whether it was a terribly mismatched outfit or making new friends at a new school, she always turned the terms into her own.

See, it had been a while since I’d had to react to change, rather than initiating it. As soon as I caught my balance, which always comes with a heavy dose of perspective, I knew I would succeed. I knew without a doubt that I could still live my life on my own terms, even if those terms were a little unexpected.

Who says you can’t turn this around? Who says you’re not still in charge of your life? That’s right, she said. No one says that but you.

I think, for a while, I’d lost sight of the string-bean girl with corn silk hair. I let her disappear into a corner of my mind; I guess maybe I thought I didn’t need her anymore.

If it took losing my job to rediscover her, then nothing better could have happened.

She reappeared right when I needed her because really, she’s me.

(By the way, I have a new job.)

 

I’m Sara. I don’t have a nickname or any freckles, though I’ve always wanted both.

I really love singing but not in the shower, pretending I’m on a catwalk when I walk in heels, my six younger siblings, my hair, the beach, pickled beets, getting lost in new cities, natural history museums, writing, and making funny faces.

I don’t really love being lactose intolerant, tripping on the sidewalk when I walk in heels, water slides and big waves, people with no self- awareness, humidity, being late, managing my finances, or anything grape-flavored.

I tweet at @sarafrita and write at www.guidetobeingawesome.wordpress.com.

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*This post is an entry in the 1st Annual Stratejoy Essay Contest.  Each day throughout the month of February, we will be featuring one of the 20 finalists writing their answer to the question: How do you live life on your own terms? On February 29th, we will open the voting to YOU, our community, to select the winner of the $500 prize.*

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