Fuck the Rules
Hi, my name is Emily, and in case you did not get the official memo, I do not have my shit together.
And I don’t really know how it happened. I spent most of my young adult life following the rules and doing what I thought was expected of me. I went to a four-year university. I had respectable, good-paying jobs at places like banks and non-profits. I spent my Saturday nights watching Golden Girls reruns and eating raw cookie dough, rather than passed out drunk in some random guys bed. I guess I kind of just assumed that if I did all these things, if I went down the right path, things would just magically work out for me.
You know what they say happens when you assume.
So, I played it by the book and I graduated from college and I thought, “This is it! This is what I have been working for; this is the moment when my life begins.” And as if by some sort of sick, cosmic joke, I was diagnosed with cancer.
I was twenty-three with a college degree, a child who just started Kindergarten, and three tumors slowly growing in my neck. Not exactly a dream come true.
I went through my treatment, which I was constantly informed was not that bad. Thyroid cancer is the best kind of cancer to get, they said. I was lucky, they said. It will only make me stronger, they said.
But I didn’t feel lucky or strong. I felt completely and utterly destroyed. Betrayed. This wasn’t at all how my life was supposed to go. This wasn’t what I had signed up for, and the worst part was I felt like I couldn’t say that. I couldn’t be unhappy or weak or vulnerable or unbearably sad. People have this idea of what people with cancer should say and do, and despite the fact that life had already royally screwed me over, I still felt obligated to continue following the rules.
Post uplifting quotes. Be positive. Pretend to be okay. Smile.
People don’t want to hear the truth. The hard, ugly truth. That cancer changes you, that it takes away a piece of you that you simply never get back. It is something that I wouldn’t wish on anybody.
So, I kind of went off the deep end. They told me the cancer was gone like everything was going to go back to normal. Like I was going to be the same Emily I was before they told me I had abnormal cells in my body that were trying to kill me. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing. There was a hole inside of me that nothing seemed to fill anymore, no matter how hard I tried.
And everybody expected me to just move on with my life. I could see the confusion in their faces. You don’t have cancer anymore, what could possibly be wrong? They expected me to be happy, and I just could not muster up the courage to scream I. AM. NOT. HAPPY. I am so unbelievably lost and scared and more than anything, I am pissed at the universe.
No, I couldn’t do that. Nobody would understand, I told myself. So instead, I took my anguish and frustration out on myself, on my own life. I decided to do whatever the fuck I wanted. I was tired of always following the rules and playing it safe. What was the point of doing all that anyways if you still get fucked with cancer at 23?
I began to take risks, to do things that I was always scared of doing. I didn’t want a stable job with a steady income. No, I wanted to do something creative that I truly felt passionate about. So what if I just spent four years of my life and $40,000 to get a Psych degree? Fuck it. I wanted to become a photographer and take pictures of happy families and cute couples. And with that, Fearless Photography was born.
Now this is probably where everybody has a look of disapproval take over their face. We are all expected, at a certain point in our lives, to grow up. To give up on the dreams we had as kids and throw ourselves headfirst into the big, bad world of adulthood. As I approach the big 2–5, I can tell that people expect so much more out of me.
But I have held tight to Drake’s wise words, “YOLO”. You only live once. Unfortunately, there is no edit-undo on this adventure I call life, and I am done living it based on other people’s standards. I am no longer doing things because I think that’s what I am supposed to do. Fuck the rules. Fuck’em.
I am doing the best that I can with the cards that I have been dealt. I am trying to find what makes me happy, and in the process of all that, I am going to make some awful choices and fall flat on my face a million times.
But I will always get back up. I will always try again. And I will consistently pursue happiness until the day I die.
And honestly, isn’t that what life should be about anyways?