I don’t agree with my life curriculum

On why I am annoyed that the skill set I was given didn’t include kicking butts and swearing more

Today, I was driving whilst listening to a podcast (should I be admitting to driving and listening to a podcast? Is that even legal?) and in the time it took to drive from one end of the bridge to the next, I went from whistling along fantastically happy about the Super Noodles I was going to eat for dinner to completely hopeless at the state of the universe. OK maybe not the whole universe. But at least my own life prospects. A quick analogy from the podcast guest about a domesticated cheetah and the systematic boundaries we are all raised to believe exist made me realise I have been taught a bunch of completely outdated life notions and limitations. Which have all led me to believe things are the way they are and that’s that. And quite frankly, I am worried it’s too late for me to challenge this and I’ll be stuck where I am for ever. So what’s wrong with me that this prospect would be scary? It’s bad. I have been well and truly programmed, to my core, to be nice. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I have the misfortune of being nice.

As human people raised in civilised society, we are all undoubtedly moulded based on a reference grid that, of course, ensures some sort of order, but also creates specific expected outcomes for each of us. For me, there were of course the obvious ‘getting married, having children and buying a mini-van’ type of expectations, but we all know those and we also all know that as a childless spinster who drives the world’s smallest car, I am quite comfortable with being considered an example of mild life failure. I mean I’m not quite eating out of rubbish bins or talking to myself on the bus, but I also don’t have a kitchen-sink-fixing Prince Charming. Or a six pack. Or self-control in front of a box of cookies. So you know. Mild success all-round. No, the kind of expectations that I have been brainwashed with go much deeper and those particularly deeply-ingrained life boundaries are much harder to shake.

As I little girl with pigtails, I was repeatedly taught I needed to be nice. To not make a fuss, because annoying noisy whining little girls didn’t get the ice cream sundae. I was told to put others first. Because it’s nice to be nice. To not argue. To not get in a fight. To try and make friends because who wants to live alone on a desert island cause nobody likes their company? I was told to have good grades, because when you work hard at something, you will be rewarded. A principle we have all discovered applies to absolutely no situation at all once you reach adulthood. The role models I had did their best with what they were taught, of course. And whilst it made for a really pleasant childhood full of bunny cakes, glitter and warm glasses of milk , I’m not sure this particular set of skills actually prepared me for the real world. Being nice in no way guarantees your happiness. It’s not a ‘chemin de croix’ where if you have suffered enough, you reach enlightenment and win the lottery. Being nice often means not wanting to offend or disappoint others, at the detriment of your own wellbeing.

I mean if you knew your kid was going into a war zone with a bunch of hungry mercenaries ready to punch them in the face in order to steal their food rations, you’d probably switch your approach. And that’s kind of what life is really, let’s be honest. So instead of being taught to be nice, I wish I’d gotten the badass version of the life curriculum. The Jason Bourne super kick butts version. The one that hands you a Rambo bandanna before teaching you to spearfish a shark. The one that shows you how to kick and scream when someone attacks you from behind. The one that teaches you that you don’t have to put up with stuff that doesn’t make you happy. And that if people are not happy with you making those kinds of decisions for yourself, you can tell them to f*ck off. And yes, I wish I’d gotten the version of the curriculum that teaches you to say f*ck off more. I don’t want to charm my way out of a lion attack with a plate of baked goods and some kind words. I want to learn to Predator myself by rolling around in the mud and lie in wait for the mother-effing lion. That’s who I want to be. Not nice. Just gusty enough to understand that to be happy sometimes mean not being nice to others.

I guess I can dream of kicking arse and successfully defending my boundaries, but let’s be honest, it may be a bit late for me. Being a lovely happy chappy (chappette?) is programmed so deep within me that I feel terrible being told off by the sixteen-year-old manager at Dairy Queen for holding up the queue. So you know, a long road ahead of me. But I promise not to give up and to work at it every day, even if it seems a bit hopeless. And whilst I may never quite be Arnie telling everyone who pissed me off to Hasta La Vista Baby, maybe one day soon I’ll be able to tell the power-hungry Dairy Queen lady to just like, cool her jets.

This particular podcast was an episode of ‘Unlocking Us’ with Brené Brown, Glennon Doyle and Brené Brown on Untamed, recorded 24th March 2020.



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Annie Gelinas

Globetrotting freelance writer. Founder of . I value kindness in all its forms. (She/Her)