“Whatever you choose, however many roads you travel, I hope that you choose not to be a lady. I hope you will find some way to break the rules and make a little trouble out there. And I also hope that you will choose to make some of that trouble on behalf of women." - Commencement Address, Wellesley College, 1996

Rebellion doesn’t have to be dangerous, violent or political, or limited to teenage resistance of authority; rather, for me, the simple act of resisting convention when I was 19 made me feel invigorated, alive, confident and uniquely me, leaving a long-lasting profound impact that I feel to this day at age 57.

In 1977, inspired by Betty Friedan to explore new roles, I did not want my personal identity to be defined by anyone but me. And, truthfully, I wasn’t sure what that identity was. Who does know at that age?

"Originality is the best form of rebellion." - Mike Sasso

The woman’s movement, despite the ever-present consciousness raising groups on college campuses was a bit stagnated, but nevertheless present in my thinking. That’s when I made the decision to forgo a traditional summer job in a clothing store and work as a roofer, my own way of resisting convention.

Much to my boyfriend’s dismay, and girlfriend’s incredulity, I donned jeans and a hard hat, hopped into my VW bug and drove the four hour drive up the mountain to begin a job for which I had zero experience.

Tip for young people: you are not old enough to have experience! No one expects that!

Most thought my decision to employ “men’s” work was bordering on the cusp of crazy, rough callouses and all.  Despite the butterflies in my stomach, that judgment only fueled my intense desire to break the traditional rules of what was proper for a 19 year-old female.  

Another tip: have the audacity to be unapologetically you!

I was the only female employed in the entire operation and was determined to prove my worth. The derogatory remarks from the male employees challenged my patience. As I strategically ignored the controversy, my presence eventually became a nonissue. Defenselessness can be a profoundly successful tactic.

However physically taxing this work was, it stretched me in ways that folding clothes, putting on a smile when shoppers came into the store, and ringing up bags of empire waist tops did not. I discovered my grit, my ability to adapt, my mental and emotional strengths and weaknesses. But mostly, I learned to live with facing fear, the fear of abandoning the comfort of tradition and stepping into the unconventional.

After college, my career journey did not include roofing.  Yet, 38 years later, I marvel at that independent, strong, rebellious young, hard hat-wearing woman who set the tone to embrace the unconventional.

Perhaps rebellion is not so much what we do, but how what we do makes us feel that leaves an everlasting impact. 

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Teresa Oefinger is a middle school science teacher and Personal and Professional Development Coach who believes understanding and addressing ones whole self is essential to living a joyful life. She has been happily married for 32 years and is the mother of two adult daughters who inspired her column called Help! Parenting Teens in the Ark Newspaper at Tiburon, California from 2005 to 2009. She blogs on issues of Whole Life Living here.

 

 

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