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I'm grateful for my teenage rebellion.

Updated: Oct 12, 2021

Without my rebellion, who am I?

If I don’t loudly share that I don’t like something, or do what I want in spite of someone, will people think I’m a pushover? Weak? Someone they can take advantage of or hurt?

I have hidden behind rebellion for most of my life.

I hate writing that because it makes me feel like all of the shitty adults in my life who said “tell me how you really feel, Rachel” to me when I was a teenager (happened ALL THE TIME) were actually right. That I WAS being dramatic and attention-seeking, and that my emotions weren’t actually valid.

Here’s what’s circling in my head: “Hidden behind rebellion, ohhh I get it.” “Ah, yes, so that rebellion WAS pointless!” “I knew she was just a weak idiot hiding behind delusions of grandeur and phony anger” “Man, she was a tough kid--no wonder!”

But here’s the thing. It’s possible that I BOTH hid behind rebellion AND was angry for good reason.

Early on, I felt alienated and disgusted by what I was learning and experiencing in the mormon church. There was a LOT of misogyny embedded into the teachings and homophobia ran rampant. I also had a lot of negative experiences with the members of the church. I was regularly made fun of, excluded, and otherwise hurt by the girls in the church, adults in the church made up nasty rumors about me when I was a kid--basically, I didn't really fit in, and it sucked. It felt like shit to be there, and it took up so much of my life!

It’s not surprising then, that someone who doesn’t like the religion they’re being raised in, would rebel against it. That rebellion became a big part of my identity.

By hearing “tell me how you really feel” and being told I was being dramatic or acting like a “little girl,” I internalized the idea that something was wrong with me and that my feelings, emotions, and experience were invalid, incorrect, and inappropriate. I was fucking angry that I had no control over any of my life, or even my “eternal life.” It was all mapped out, and in order to go to the highest tier of heaven, you had to obey. But no, I said fuck that.

I liked that rebellion was a part of my identity. It made me feel like a little bit of a badass, and it felt like the only way I was seen as an individual, the only way I got focused attention, and made me feel like I had some power and control over my life. It also felt like righteous, feminist anger. I can be MORE than just a wife and a mother if I want to. I can be whatever I fucking want to be! I don’t have to follow your rules!

Rebellion was my way of maintaining an illusion of control over my own life. It helped me understand what I didn’t like. It helped me see what wasn’t working in my life, and how I’d do better for myself and my own potential future children.

Going against my parents and their religion was necessary for me to follow my own path. I had to first recognize what didn’t work, what I didn’t like, what felt bad or harmful, before I could figure out what I did want, who I was, and what I wanted my life to look like.

I don’t fault little Rachel for rebelling. She stayed strong so I could have time to figure out who I am. Without her, I’d be miserable.

She deserved, and deserves gratitude for sticking it out when it would have been much easier to give in and give up.

Letter to little Rachel:

You aren’t weak for making decisions your parents wouldn’t, simply because they wouldn’t. You aren’t lame for being a contrarian. You’re also not lame for letting this rebellion go. There are plenty of good fights out there that need your attention, and going “against” your parents isn’t one of them.

Their opinion of your life is irrelevant. Anyone’s opinion of your life is irrelevant. You make choices for you. You make choices for your own family, for Matt and Henry. And you can make choices you’re proud of, and stand tall in your truth and your power.

It was important for you to rebel, and I am so grateful that you did. Without your righteous rage and anger, I wouldn’t have remembered what hurt, remembered what caused harm, or remembered what I wanted to do differently. But now, thanks to you, I do.

I know what I can do differently, and I’m doing it. I’m finally making space to figure out what I do like instead of existing in a state of reaction against something else.

You can relax now, Rachel. We’re finding peace, and we’re doing it for ourselves and our own family. We don’t need to rebel. We need to save that energy for big things that really matter, so we can fight against the real evils of the world that are actively causing harm to so many people.

I’m proud of you. You stayed strong and angry when it would have been easier and more socially acceptable to go with the flow and shut the fuck up. You’re a fucking badass and I will forever be grateful to you.

Thank you.

Rachel, 31.

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