If you looked up the word "controlling" in the dictionary, you'd find full-page pictures of my parents.
A few nights ago, I went to the gym, which has a policy against the use of cell phones. That's why I often leave my phone in my locker or in my car. I engaged in a longer workout than usual, because I was lifting weights in addition to my cardio exercises.
It takes longer to lift weights, because some muscleheads at the gym (there are jerks like this at every gym) hog all the machines. They use several machines at the same time, meaning they'll work in reps, alternating among the different machines. If you dare to sit down at one of the machines in between one of their reps, they'll be on you in a heartbeat, insisting that they're "still using" it, even though they're also using three others. If you ever see a story about a woman in a small Southern town who got kicked out of her gym for "accidentally" dropping barbells on obnoxious lunkheads, that just might describe me someday.
Anyway, when I got back to my car, I found not one, not two, but more than half a dozen missed calls and irate messages from my parents. I was worried at first that something was wrong, like maybe one of them was in the hospital or one of their dogs had gotten hurt. But once I called them and they started yelling at me, I soon realized that they were worried that something was wrong with me.
Why, you might ask? Because I didn't answer my phone at 9:30 at night.
Although I am thirty-four years old, have a full-time job (and a part-time job), have three degrees, and have not lived with my parents since I was eighteen years old, they still act like I don't know what the hell I'm doing with anything, so they believe that they still call the shots on my life.
My mother and father actually called the police in Small Town twice, because they wanted the cops to go to my apartment and make sure I was okay. The police declined to do so, and they told my mother (I kid you not), "Ma'am, I'm sure she's all right. She's probably at Walmart or the gym, because those are pretty much the only places that are open right now." (They were right, seeing as how I was at the gym.)
I was (and still am) angry that they called the police just because they couldn't reach me for more than an hour. They think that I shouldn't go out at all at night, because "it's not safe." If I can survive Chicago, I can survive in a small town.
I live in an apartment building full of students, including some of my own students. What if they had seen the cops show up at my door? This is a small town, and everyone knows how quickly gossip travels in a small town. Even if I tried to clear things up later with the truth, some people might still hold on to their false speculations.
I could just see my face plastered all over the local evening news, and the news anchor saying something like, "A local college teacher was questioned by police and will most likely NEVER TEACH AGAIN! In other news, there are no news! And now, on to the weather!" I'm still relatively new here, and I'm anxious to make a good impression on my employers, especially because I want them to renew my contract. I can't have gossip about the cops showing up at my door spreading all over the school where I teach. I mean, seriously!
My parents have always been controlling, but ever since I turned eighteen, I started standing up to them more and more. I first rebelled by choosing a major and career that I wanted, not the ones they wanted for me. To this day, if I dare to talk about a problem I'm facing as a teacher, my mother will say, "Well, you chose that career, so..."
I didn't back down to my parents when they got mad at me this time, either. I told them that they couldn't expect me to be at their beck and call, and that I had a right to go out whenever I wanted. I know that they truly believe that they were just looking out for me. But why are they so worried now, yet they didn't show me any sympathy when I was in the EMERGENCY ROOM last year, and acted like it was my fault that I suffered from serious health problems (which I still haven't fully recovered from)?
I'm all grown up now. I'm not going to follow their "rules" for my life. After all, what are they going to do if I refuse to obey them? Ground me and make me go to bed early without any dessert?
But one thing I'm still learning to accept is that they will never change. I heard or read somewhere that the only thing that I can change about people like them is the way I respond to them. So it's one thing if they keep trying to control my life every chance they get. That doesn't mean I have to let them. And I never will.
What about you? Have you ever struggled for control over your life, your work, or something else?
Interview with… Adam Byatt - Today it’s the turn of Adam Byatt to sit down and share his writing with us. This is my 13th interview, and there are still some wonderful authors to come!...
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