I have spent my life just Being Julie and have never been short of expectations.
Lily Tomlin said, “I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific.” When I was little and friends of my parents would ask, “Julie, what do you want to be when you grow up?” I would answer honestly and earnestly, over and over again, “I just want to be happy.” Happy is sweet but not very actionable.
Why did I choose ‘happy’ over registered nurse, fashion model or any of Barbie’s other fabulous careers? I don’t remember thinking that I needed to grow up to be happy. I remember being happy. Not over the top, Pollyanna-let’s-play-the-glad-game, happy but I was secure that life would turn out as expected. I would go to school, get good grades, go to college, work, but probably only until I married and had children, be a mother and be happy.
My story started in the middle of the 20th century. Smack dab in the middle of the baby boom. In the middle of the country. It’s no wonder I didn’t get married until mid-life. Like Lily Tomlin, I guess I didn’t put much thinking into the specifics of the expectations I would face from society and family or from myself. I didn’t think about how I might meet, exceed or fall short of them. How they might change. How I might change.
I was too young to be in the forefront of any “anti-establishment movement.” That wasn’t my style anyway. I liked structure and rules. I liked my school and its conventions. I even liked church. I wrote meek papers about the Generation Gap reflecting the rather mundane issues around drinking and hemlines that existed in my own home. I did not take to the streets promoting a sex, drugs and rock-n-roll lifestyle, although I should thank those who did. When the rumored bra burnings were supposedly happening I was enthralled with finally needing to wear one.
I walked a few steps behind the changes in expectations and explosion of choice. I could decide whether I wanted to grow up to be a stay-at-home mom or a working mother. To accept my fiancé’s name as my own or hold tight to the only identity I had ever known. To get close to the glass ceiling, maybe even break it. To actively seek to be a single mother or not be a mother at all. To question and sidestep expectations.
I was raised to be a good girl, follow the rules and to exercise self-control during a time when the rules were changing, good girls were going out of style and the world was spinning to a new beat. I discovered, that like nice guys, good girls were often overlooked. It was every man, woman, guy and good girl for herself. So, the best thing this good girl could do was keep up with these changing times.