ABSTRACT: A post on what it means to be good. To do good. To honor our internal goodness. And what happens when we abandon our good to be bad. With other people determined to do the same. The toll it takes. The cost. The Aftermath. And, of course, The Takeaway. Because I am a teacher and I believe in life lessons.
I have always had a thing for Clubs. When I was young(er), blond(er), and precocious(er), I formed my first Club. Always the ambitious young whippersnapper, it was never enough for me to get in and then be in. I wanted and needed to be in control!
It was called the “Save the Earth Club.” Our mission was simple: Save the Earth!
How? Well, since I wasn’t yet allowed to cross streets, we were somewhat limited in scope. So, after a quick brainstorming session with my dad (my guru in terms of lofty, idealist ambitions), I landed on a task: picking up all the trash on our block.
My recruits and I donned our puffy paint tee-shirts every Saturday and we were off to save the earth-one cigarette butt at a time! We did this every week for an entire summer, and the memory still lingers. Mostly, because it is extremely revealing into my true character.
I prefer to lead, not follow. I am passionate about causes I value and appreciate. I am a good motivator (my recruits were not always easy sells) and I can be blinded by ambitions.
I share this deeply introspective quip not to boast, but to explain. Introspection is important and it is a HUGE part of this blog forum. For me. For you. For my contributors. For, if we are blind to our own inner workings, we risk not being good. Good people know themselves. They know their truth. They learn from it and they grow. I do not shy away from my own journey in continuously refining that truth as added life experiences alter my perspectives.
Hence, what this club taught me: Being Good and Doing Good are not always enough. It is not always conducive to others’ ambitions and actions. One would think my deep-seated commitment to leading others in the pursuit of Justice and Peace would be a common thread throughout my life. Here is the blog as proof: age 6 to age 30. I always did good, right?
Sure, there were Lemonade Stands and Bake Sales I organized. There was Girl Scouts and leadership roles at school, but those experiences began to fade away as I grew older and my life spiraled out of control. The mini control freak met her match: Divorce and its aftermath. I didn’t see that coming. That was NOT good. So I gave up my quest, for awhile. I settled into being NOT good, for a change. I could still control that. Any my parents deserved it, in my opinion at the time.
So, at age 12, I made the life-defining decision to be “bad” for a bit. I didn’t lose my interest or passion. I lost my confidence. And being bad seemed like a great way to get it back. Bad Gals always got attention. They knew what to say and do. They were cool. Without a solid family unit to validate my adolescent self, at the time, I looked to the Bad Gals. We got Bad together (their families were divorcing too…) We validated each other in our Badness and gave each other the confidence all 12 year old girls need to get from somewhere.
They were just always so much BETTER at it than me! My confidence was NOT natural. It was very forced. Being Bad was not natural for me. It was suffocating.
It is difficult to pinpoint one altercation or event responsible for the shift. Rather, a myriad of changing life experiences all contributed to the painfully slow death of Kendra the Brave and Mighty Champion of the People of the Playground. I became a follower. A sheep. A Baaaaaaaahdd Sheep (with a pension for baaaaaaahd jokes and puns…so not Bad Girl). I learned it was easier to conform to what others were doing and saying. I took the out. I let my peers decide for me, for awhile.
The authentic Kendra still creeped through, though. I was smart and determined. I had good people around me. Especially my family and teachers. My parents might be my current targets, but I had great grandparents and aunts and uncles.
But, largely, my lofty idealism shored up in protest against my father. My loving heart got a bit less loving in protest against my mother. My choices became selfish in protest against all those I helped and supported, including my brothers, my family, and friends. Look where being good got me!
The problem: I still REALLY cared. Stuffing that part of me deep down inside did nothing but mask my true identity from the world. A world full of good that I loved deeply.
My good deeds became more and more secretive, like some dirty secret. Bad Girls didn’t care about world hunger, the plight of the nerd class, or discriminatory homework and attendance policies at our middle school. It became some dirty secret to have intellect and principles. To care more about my soul than my reputation and popularity.
So, for every accomplishment I EARNED, I also self-sabotaged. Very Bad Girl, obviously. I self-sabotaged for the benefit of others. What THEY thought about me. What THEY thought I should be and what I should do and say.
Looking back, the success I knew I was capable of, even at age 6, was scary. I don’t know that I ever fully realized what I was capable of back then (or now, for that matter), but I knew I had something special in me. People told me constantly that I did. And that felt like a ton of pressure. To be Good. So I was Bad.
So my fear took over and a pattern of self-sabotage began. I am still breaking that pattern, today. My fear of failure held me back. I am still scared of it. But I am learning to deal. I need to deal.
Being unauthentic never works. The only true path to success if being yourself; Letting your inner Good shine through!
THE TAKE AWAY:
Allow yourself to see you as others do, truly. The good stuff, anyway. If people say nice things about you, to you, then LISTEN TO THEM! TRUST THEM! Those compliments can be life altering and those people are your people for life!
But, they won’t complete you. You also have to know yourself. And then it is your DUTY to be a good version of that. “Whatever You are, Be a Good One!”
The funny thing is this: I really SUCKED at being bad. At being a follower. It was not natural. I hated the bullying. I hated the Bad/Mean Girls. I always went around apologizing for our behavior to our victims, after, in secret. I usually hung out with the grown-ups or the boys/men because Bad/Mean Girls SUCK. And I was not a good Bad/Mean Girl. My dang conscious kept kicking in. I complained constantly to my mom and grandma about my friends, but I never did one thing to change my situation. I was stuck in the Bad. I allowed people to treat me badly and I, in turn, treated others badly. I spent many years cleaning up after the messes I created in my selfish pursuits of getting right with my soul.
Please don’t do that people! It takes years to undo the damage.
I will be 31 next week. I remember that 6 year old. I still feel her inside. She is still determined to save the earth. I am still her. Luckily, she has grown-up a ton.
And I can cross all the streets now!
Dedicated to all my “Bad Girl” friends who were really just going through their own internal shit right there with me. People don’t just become Bad…they are hiding their Good for their own reasons. I am blessed by these Good Bad Girls, still, because we rediscovered the Good together.
Also dedicated to all those I hurt, myself included. The people that wanted to help me save the earth. The people I threw under the bus to prove my Badness. I apologize.
Mostly dedicated to my parents…it wasn’t and isn’t your fault. You are both GOOD PEOPLE. It is who I get it from. And Daddus, thanks for your lofty ideals! They carry me through often. Mom, thanks for the reminders about who I am. You know us well.