I didn't write this for a specific "day" of the program. It just needed to come out. I know my journal entries are super long and I don't expect people to read the whole thing, necessarily. It just feels good to have it "out there" instead of only inside my mind where it used to be. I just read it to my husband and I started crying near the end because I realized I am still quite angry about how strict my parents were and how I had to get married at age 20 to get my life started and start making my own choices. I think I liked the idea of getting a haircut (I was 4, I think), but they made me look like a boy and I didn't like it. There's a pastel drawing of me that was done sometime afterward (at a festival or amusement park), and I remember thinking I was ugly with my stupid boy haircut. I didn't like the way I looked in the picture at all, not my hair, not my face or the expression on it. Dot and Mama and Nita all praised it but I hated it. I think I got used to the haircut but I never liked it. I probably just stopped saying anything because they were all so happy about it. I rarely ever complained about anything more than once. I would get in trouble and my mother would raise her voice (in a disappointed, hurt, angry tone) if I complained about something she did for me. I hated disappointing her more than anything in the world. The guilt was huge and it pervaded my childhood. I've been thinking lately that I wasn't allowed to express myself and my own personality growing up, but I think part of it was that I was so afraid of seeing her disappointment in me that I tried to conform to her ideal. She was incredibly strict with me a on a lot of things, but I think now that I just took her attitude and applied it to more areas of my life than she even did. I was afraid to ask for things, especially if they were odd or different from normal kid things. I also only asked for material things for Christmas or my birthday. I never wanted to inconvenience her. She made it clear that we didn't have a lot of extra money. She also didn't buy or do things for herself very often, and that made me sad and it got mixed in with my guilt somehow. I realize now that she did that to herself, but I was always subtly aware of the fact that she didn't have many possessions or interests that were her "own", either, so I didn't have a good example of a strong, self-assured person to look up to. My first "rebellion" was when I got into pop music when I was 11 or 12 years old. She loved to pick apart and criticize the artists I liked, looking for things to disapprove of. It wasn't meanness, it was fear. She wanted to make sure it wasn't causing me to become some sort of deviant. "You'd better get off that Pepsi Cola kick" she spat at me in the car when I was twelve or so and got excited that the fast food restaurant had Pepsi. This was right after Michael Jackson started doing the Pepsi commercials. A lot of racism issues came up when I got into Michael Jackson, but I'm leaving that for another journal entry. When I got into rap music a year or so later it was a way to like something different. I see now that I was desperate for something different - to be a part of a world that was, not "my own" exactly, but to belong to something my parents, sister, and cousins weren't a part of. I didn't mind my sister coming along for the ride on a lot of my interests, but it was important to me that they be "mine". This was the 1980's and we didn't have the internet, of course. We barely had a library in our town. My window to the world was very small, so the avenues I could use to branch out and grow were extremely limited. I needed to start becoming my own person and that just wasn't encouraged in my family, at least not for me. As we got older I would see my sister asking to do things and being allowed to do a lot more than I had been allowed to do at the same age, and I was both jealous and in awe of "how" she did it. I know part of it was because they had "practiced" on me and were a little more lenient and less paranoid with her, which seems to be a relatively normal thing with firstborn and second children. A lot of it was that she was just more outspoken than me. That was her personality. I do remember one of the only times I ever yelled at my parents was when they were giving my sister a hard time for not getting all A's in school one grading period. I was in high school and I remember standing in the living room between her and my parents and almost getting in their faces, telling them to leave her alone and that it wasn't the end of the world that she got a B or two. I had a lot of rage on the subject of grades, I guess, because from the time I started school I was supposed to "get good grades" and "do my best". It seemed like that's all they saw me as - a machine to make straight A's. There wasn't any emphasis on what I was actually learning and retaining, just the grades. When I got really passionate about dance it was an "acceptable" hobby and they did encourage me, but "school comes first". School was another place where I wasn't encouraged to be an individual. The system itself discourages it, and, being a quiet, sensitive child, I got picked on by other kids for being different. And it was SO boring! Ugh! I didn't see the point in "doing my best", putting my whole heart and soul into something that didn't matter. I wanted dance to be that thing, or something artistic and fulfilling, but it was never important like school. Actually, I could've easily become passionate about math or science (two things I'm still interested in) but there was no life in those classes the way they were taught. I'm still convinced that I learned more from the books I read on my own than from any class in that mediocre school system. I'm not saying that I was completely stifled. I was allowed and encouraged to get into "safe" things, and to wear certain clothing or hairstyles that I chose, but it all had to be relatively mainstream and acceptable. Nothing that would make waves. "When you start driving you won't have ANYTHING on the car that would make people think you're a hippie" she said to me in my junior year when I had gotten into the Beatles and started making peace sign jewelry and painting shirts. (This was 1989, btw, not the heyday of the hippie movement.) Again, it was something different, interesting, colorful and intriguing - a mystery world I wanted to explore. I tired of it relatively quickly, but it's a great example of her trying to "nip in the bud" anything that might make me stand out or bring me some sort of negative attention. "Are you on drugs?" she would ask me pretty frequently starting in late elementary school. Whenever I was moody or upset about anything she would ask me that. Yes, I was on a drug called "growing up frustrated". I wouldn't have known where to get actual drugs if I had wanted them. She was PETRIFIED that I would get pregnant. From the time she gave me the "birds and bees" talk (I think I was 9 or 10), she started telling me anytime some girl got pregnant or had a baby and how they had ruined their lives. She worked in a hospital so she'd tell me various horror stories about how "so and so is 15 and she almost died today giving birth", or "yeah, whatsername, my friend's neighbor's cousin, got married at the courthouse last week so she could give her baby a last name and she said she didn't care if she never saw the guy again." These things were just brought up like normal conversation. In warning tones, of course, but just worked into the afternoon or evening conversation. This fear of me getting married and/or pregnant at a young age fueled so much of the way she looked at me and treated me. I think she often saw me as a younger version of her (and indeed I looked more and more like her as I grew) and she was SO afraid that I would make her mistakes, but it seems like her fear and overprotective nature drove me right to it. I fell "desperately in love" as a senior in high school with a guy who was 9 years older than me. He had long hair and was in a band. He wasn't a bad guy, but I really could've done much better. I didn't have much self-confidence or any sort of self-actualization. He was different and exciting. They had just told me the previous week that "we couldn't afford" for me to live in the dorms at college, and I would have to live at home and commute. I didn't want four more years of living in my parents' house, with them analyzing my grades and trying to direct my life. I was 18 years old and looking for a way out, a way to gain some sort of independence from my family. I was almost conscious of that need, and when I met Jeff I immediately thought "what if we ended up getting married?" I had been raised on love songs and romantic movies and stories and, although my mother's own love life fell pretty wide of the mark, she raised me to believe in those things. I had never actually dated, though, and I had almost zero practice even flirting with a guy. There had been a brief summer boyfriend when I was visiting my grandparents a year or so earlier (they would let me out of the house with a lot less fanfare than my parents did) but I still knew almost nothing. So, this shy, older guy with wild red hair and an electric guitar was my ticket to a different life, one where I could make decisions for my own future. I married him when I was twenty, and it lasted two and a half years. It wasn't horrible, but he was very stifling and content to live in a small town, and I wasn't. He wanted children and I had decided that I didn't. I finished growing up during that time, and I knew I was in the wrong situation. I had finally started learning about all the possibilities of life, things I didn't know about while growing up in a small Southern town, sheltered by overprotective parents. Life opened up for me and I finally stepped into it. I've made a few more "mistakes" with men since then, but I don't regret any of them. They were MY choices to make and I made them. Maybe I took the long road to get where I am, but I wouldn't be WHO I am if I hadn't. And I love who I am. I love my husband and who we're both becoming, both as a couple and as individuals. Airing out past emotions that I never fully dealt with is making me stronger and happier every day, in body, mind and spirit, and able to move more powerfully forward into this amazing life. I am so grateful!