I admit it, I am a reformed rule follower. When I was in kindergarten, I learned that following the rules doesn’t always make sense.
It was a crisp autumn day in 1978 and I was sporting a newly knitted poncho from my Aunt Peg; it was made of a cozy, soft pink and white wool. After jumping off the bus and getting in to my classroom that morning, I hung up my beloved poncho to get ready for our skills testing.
My teacher explained that under NO circumstances do we get up from our seats and that if something came up, we would have to wait for whatever it was that we needed until after the testing was done.
And so as nature would dictate, about 15 minutes into the testing, I raised my hand because I suddenly needed to go to the bathroom. Really bad. As per the earlier instruction, she ignored my hand waving in the air. I began to panic–I know she saw me, and my 5 year old bladder couldn’t hold on for too much longer.
Eventually, I lost control and peed in my pants right at my seat.
I felt totally humiliated in front of my classmates as they started giggling and pointing at me and the puddle under my chair. I was forced by my teacher to put on my new poncho as a make-shift skirt and was sent to the school nurse to wait until my mom got to school to pick me up with dry clothes. Talk about embarrassing.
As young as I was when this happened, it had a profound impact on my life. I learned that I was never going to let anyone stop me again from taking care of my personal needs; I was always going to choose myself first.
Back then I was worried about what the other kids would think if I got out of my chair and disobeyed the instructions. I was worried I would get yelled at by the teacher. My five year old self wanted to be ‘good’ and follow the rules and not get in trouble.
But the world doesn’t work by one set of instructions and sometimes you need to break the rules. Sometimes you just have to do what’s best for you and let the chips fall where they may. I learned in that classroom that listening to my primary needs are the most important thing I can do for myself, especially when it comes to my health.
So now as I embark on new kinds of journeys in my life: getting married, starting a family and developing my art career, I remember that taking care of myself should always be the first step. Self- care will make the journey more fun and enjoyable. And whatever comes up after that, I can handle with a little grace + patience.