Did you ever get on Gretchen Rubin’s bandwagon of tendencies? This is the one where we put ourselves into one of four camps— Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel—in order to gain a better understanding of how we manage expectations, be they our own of ourselves or others of us.
Granted, this is a few personality-trait fads ago, so you’d be excused for being fuzzy on the details. I think we’re onto Sparketypes and Enneagrams now. (Yay more quizzes!) So here’s a little refresher:
Upholders respond readily to outer and inner expectations
Questioners question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense—essentially, they make all expectations into inner expectations
Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves
Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike
I am, in many ways, a Rebel. It sounds cool and all, but it’s actually a large pain in the ass. Allow me to elaborate:
I have a massive To Do list on my computer. It’s even called To Do List Master because there are off-shoot lists that can spawn from it on any given day, like errands I might run if I happen to be on the other side of the world. It’s effective in so far as I don’t have to remember all the little things I need to do. It’s ineffective in so far as I hate taking orders from a stupid list. So there!
Take, for example, the current collection of tasks: submitting insurance claims, responding to random emails, making appointments for either me, the dog, the kids, the car, or things in the house that haven’t been cleaned in a decade. I’m looking at you, once-was-cream-coloured carpet.
On the personal development side, there’s starting a photography loop on Instagram (any takers?), editing a litany of photos, and pitching to reputable magazines. Cooking soup and buying a bra also made the cut, since I’ve been eating celery and hummus for the past month and wearing the same two bras since 2016.
I had a boyfriend once who was big into To Do lists. His would even include things like shower, put on deoderant, and get dressed. At age 20, I figured these should be second nature, but I suppose it could prove useful if one needs an inflated sense of accomplishment before nine o’clock in the morning. Besides, if I put them on my list, I’d be walking around naked all day with my hair in one giant dread.
So I look at that list today and what does my rebel mind do? It conjures up the one thing that ISN’T on the list and decides to do that. Screw you and your rules, brain! I’m going my own way! Of course, I then write that thing on the list just so I can cross it off when I get it done. Then I think, hey, that would be a good thing to write about. So now the thing is on the list AND it’s not getting done. Instead, I’m doing something that wasn’t on the list. Surprise surprise.
Menu plans are another point of consternation. I will happily spend time on a Sunday perusing my beautiful cookbooks in the hopes of building a diverse and delectable meal plan for a busy family of four where one small will eat anything other than chicken—it tastes like blood—and the other needs an affidavit detailing spice levels and temperature in advance of consumption.
But when Tuesday rolls around and I see the words Fish Tacos staring back at me, I look it straight in the fishy eye and say something to the effect of, “Never get into a game of wits with a Sicilian when death is on the line! Ha ha ha ha HA!” Then I end up making grilled cheese or pasta cause I just can’t deal with another file from the complaints department.
Of course, everything on the list is eventually tackled. I do have moments of clarity where I send my inner rebel packing in an attempt to get the list down to one page. After all, carpets don’t clean themselves and one cannot avoid the orthodontist forever, especially not with our genetic flavour combo.
This is why journalism and freelance writing have been such good career choices for me. And this may be the one loophole keeping me from that 100% Pure Rebel score. It is the deadline. That beautiful, heart attack-inducing, stress bomb. The adrenaline junkie’s dream. Give me a tight deadline and I will somehow miraculously find extra hours in a day to get it done.
So, perhaps the game of wits is okay after all. We just need to put reputation, livelihood and personal brand on the line, instead. Death is just too abstract a consequence to be motivating.