Entitlement.

My therapist gave me a questionnaire this week in session. She wanted to evaluate which “life traps” I’m struggling with. She thinks that entitlement is a real problem because I answered the question “Rules don’t apply to me” with “Yeah that’s mostly true.” She shook her head and looked stern. Let’s look at this though. Is it entitlement?

From when I was a tiny child I went from place to place. Everywhere had different rules. Don’t eat unless it is this time of day and you are standing in this place. Don’t read this book without permission. Don’t get food without permission. You have to take this test before you are allowed to go into that class.

I have found that I have slipped sideways through life. Is it entitlement or is it that I have never been embedded in a society/group? If you are moving from group to group rapidly… it becomes really obvious which rules are arbitrary or exist to make a particular person feel comfortable. I don’t need to follow most of those rules, sorry.

But when I walk into someplace like a museum I carefully read the rules, talk to my children about the rules, and relay harshly what will happen if these rules are broken. I am sometimes incredibly rule bound. It depends on the circumstance.

I decide which rules apply to me and when. Like, lots of people told me I MUST TAKE THE SATs AND THE GREs. Nope. Went to college and grad school never taking a big standardized test. No one asked me to? It wasn’t actually important? It may be a thing that most people on that path just do… but no one cared if I did.

Is that entitlement?

My life has not been standard. It isn’t that I always get my way (I don’t) and it isn’t that I refuse to ever behave (I’m very situation dependent) but I evaluate how I fit into each system.

Like: when I was a teacher there was a firm school rule that no food should be in classrooms. Guess what? I had a closet full of sealed foods. Because I had a lot of hungry students who couldn’t concentrate on what I was trying to teach them. I had long, obnoxiously pointed conversations with my students about the fact that such rules exist to protect the integrity of the building from pests and to ease the load on the overworked janitorial staff. If we can understand why the rule exists we can follow practices to ensure that the spirit of the rule is followed. We can scrupulously pick up after ourselves so that no pests appear and the janitorial staff has no idea we are making messes they never see. Everyone is happy. The kids who need food do better in class and I’m not wrecking something that doesn’t belong to me or making other people slave after my bad habits.

To me that seems like a win? Is it entitlement?

I listen to people talk about their religions. None of those rules apply to me because I do not share your faith.

I listen to people talk about the “rules” they have internalized about books or music or art… I don’t need to follow those rules.

The fucking guy in the tile store told me I couldn’t buy all these weird mismatched tiles because it would look stupid. He said I couldn’t make something interesting with so much different tile. Guess what, motherfucker? I made a goddamn gorgeous piece of art. As he told me I couldn’t. Because that isn’t done.

Is that entitlement?

I was told I had to honor my mother and father. Instead I pressed charges against my father and abandoned my mother. Is that entitlement?

I think it is funny. Sometimes when my children want to sliiiiiiide on a rule I respond with such hostility. “Oh, you think you’re above the rules?” Because it depends on which rules we are talking about. When someone says, “Don’t touch me” I act like that rule is carved in granite and anyone who violates it deserves to be flayed.

But when someone tells me I’m not allowed to eat I evaluate if I am going to be able to function in the ways required of me without eating. My body doesn’t do so hot with sudden gaps in when my body feels it needs food. I completely flip out. It’s emotional more than physical but I get pretty crazy. I’m not manageable. People want me to be to robotically perform even when they randomly and arbitrarily cut off my right to take care of my body. I can’t do that. Is that entitlement?

I don’t think I’m entitled to more than other people. I’m just aware that different people have different needs and mine are rigid in ways that other peoples needs aren’t.

If someone who is blind turns down an electric wheelchair because it isn’t an accommodation they need is that entitlement? Are they entitled if they insist on getting their god damn cane back?

I rigorously follow customs laws when I’m moving between countries. I don’t try to squeak anything by. I follow airline rules… mostly. Except for the few times I’ve managed to get two people into a bathroom for antics no one saw anyway. WHERE’S THE PROBLEM?

Public sex. That’s supposed to be totally not ok. I evaluate if anyone will walk up on me or not. Sometimes it really is ok to fuck like a wild animal in the woods. Even though people tell me that it isn’t. Whatever.

I’ve never understood why blind rule following is supposed to be some kind of exalted life level? Doesn’t that make you a lemming?

In most places if they have rules I don’t want to follow I just stop going. Is that entitlement? I can’t be bothered to try to conform to community standards that won’t apply to me in a few weeks or months. That sounds like a lot of god damn work for basically no reward. So I can make other people feel like their rules are So Valid. Errr, no. I don’t care.

Some people have a super firm rule about no feet on furniture. In my house I do whatever the fuck I want and in other peoples houses I’m paranoid about not being the reason they have to spend money. If I don’t explicitly follow the rules I follow the spirit of not-being-the-reason-people-have-to-fix-shit. Is that entitlement?

I don’t want to make your life harder. I try really hard to watch the edges of what I need and keep it away from other people. But I’ll evaluate how I fit into your rule system–not you.

I feel like the origins of this were partially getting yelled at in kindergarden because I was not physically capable of coloring inside the lines. I can’t follow your fucking rules. Shut up. Leave me the fuck alone. I am not fucking bad.

I’ve had people tell me I “can’t” do with paint what I do. Fuck you. Watch me.

Rules exist to tell you what you can’t do and what you can’t be. They exist to shave people down for the sake of easing interactions. I’m not really of a size and shape that is interested in being shaved down. I am what I am. I can do what I can do. I can’t do what I can’t do. I’m very aware of my limits.

I’m not going to pretend my limits are your limits to make you happy. I can’t; I will fail.

Sometimes I’m told that I “have” to send my kids to school. Oh really? I do? I HAVE TO? No, no I don’t. I have to educate them. That means… gosh that is broad and non specific. There are no fucking regulations on every kid in a private school in my state… none of them do what public schools do. So why in the fuck should I try that hard to match the public school experience when thousands or millions of kids already don’t? Why are they allowed to do what their teacher feels is acceptable but I’m supposed to mindlessly follow the public school curriculum? Nope.

Is that entitlement? I don’t home school my kids because they are special. I do it because public education has become a weapon in this country not a tool to help people. Is that fair? No. When I hear kids talk about the problems they are having I feel like my most common response is: “Don’t conform. Don’t try to be who they are telling you to be that is in conflict with who you are and it is causing you distress. Stop trying to conform. Just be who you need to be.”

Schools want you to conform because that makes it easier to shove you through the system. Like how I’m fascist about how my plates line up because I want them to get as clean as possible in the dishwasher.

The thing is, children are not plates who need to be sprayed off. Every child shows up in school with a specific set of skills and deficits that isn’t like anyone else. We don’t help each kid figure out their own needs. We say, “You are in grade x so you will be taught y.”

It isn’t evil, I hope. I’ve been a teacher. I understand the need to streamline the system when you have 150 students and you only have 7 hours in a day so how in the hell do you cater to each kid? I get it.

I just don’t want to send my kids to be part of it.

Yeah, that’s probably entitlement.

I live right near the California School for the Deaf. We toured their facilities with our homeschool group. If every school worked like that my kids would be enrolled tomorrow and would never be permitted to skip a day of school. Why? Because each student has a teacher they know super well. Because class sizes are usually around 6 kids per teacher because otherwise sign language conversations are too complicated. Goodness that is an ideal teaching environment.

Hell yes. I’d sign my kids up for that. That is effective, useful, wonderful teaching.

I want every student in America to have that experience. If someone high up in government were to put out an all-call to people to start teaching so we can lower class sizes… I’d go back to teaching. I’d put my kids in school.

If someone in government announced a cap of 20 kids per classroom in elementary through high schools I’d fast track a teaching credential (mine is expired) as quickly as humanly possible. I’d want to be part of that so bad.

I don’t really want to be part of abusing 150 kids a day though. When you pay as little attention as I had to pay… you are neglecting people. There are problems I missed that I should have helped with.

But I wasn’t physically capable of helping that many people in that amount of time. I’m a failure at that task. It is absolutely true. There might be people who can be successful given those parameters, that person is not me.

I’ve been abused enough in my life that I won’t consent to more abuse just for the sake of “following the rules”. Is that entitlement?

Ok. I guess I’m entitled.

2 thoughts on “Entitlement.

  1. Michelle

    Reading this makes me feel a little less guilty about my failures as a teacher. I did the best I could with the tools I had in a broken system.

    Reply

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