There are some things I’ve had to teach myself, some things I’ve had to learn — and then there are the things that have been a part of me from my very first breath. It takes time to comprehend Honor, or to build up Courage. It takes experience to practice Kindness or Loyalty.
But Defiance has defined me longer than anything else.
It was a friend in college who put words around that aspect of my personality. She gave me a CD mix waaaaaay back almost 15 years ago. And she called it “Willful Defiance of the Box.” When I asked her about it, she told me that’s how she sees what I do. It’s not just defying the box. It’s willful. It’s looking at that box and not just saying “no;” it’s saying “HELL NO.”
One of the formative books from my childhood is called Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach. I was first introduced to the story when I was 10 years old, and it explained something I had always understood for myself — I learn nothing by doing what others do. I only learn, I only live, by doing things my way, in my own time, even if and when I do them alone. No one learns to fly by huddling on the ground with the flock.
You have to trust your wings, alone, strike out into the sky, prepare to fall, and dare yourself to soar.
You have to believe in “Defying Gravity,” Wicked-style:
So if you care to find me
Look to the western sky!
As someone told me lately:
“Everyone deserves the chance to fly!”
And if I’m flying solo
At least I’m flying free
To those who ground me
Take a message back from me:
Tell them how I’m defying gravity!
Defiance doesn’t mean I break rules; I’m not an anarchist. I respect the institutions of governance and follow laws because that’s part of the social contract that holds a nation together. But there are laws, and then there are the rules of society.
And the latter? Yeah, I break those.
I don’t wear makeup or high heels even though I’m a ciswoman. But I’m not butch or femme, either, even though I’m in a lesbian marriage. I challenge people in discussions rather than quietly keeping the peace when that challenge needs to be levied (yeah, I’m that person who points out when someone is being casually disrespectful or bigoted. Fucking deal with it, folks.). I talk openly about things like depression and mental health, even though apparently that’s still stigmatized? Not around me. I like cartoons even though I’m a grown woman. I write fanfic. I dance in my living room in my PJs. I run errands in sweatpants.
There are these ideas that a grown person does certain things and does not do certain things. And if there’s no good reason to abide by those ideas, well, feel the WOOOOOSH of me throwing them out the window.
Because I am myself. I won’t be less than that.
And anything asking me to step back and deny myself the truth of being myself, fully, joyfully, unapologetically, can go fuck itself with a rusty spork.
That “anything” can come from inside me, too.
When depression speaks up and tries to break me down, sometimes the only thing that shouts louder is my Defiance. When everything, everything, everything else gives way, sometimes the step back from the edge is nothing but pure obstinance on my part. If I let myself believe I can’t do something, that usually becomes the point at which I do it the hell anyway.
Defiance demands an exceptionally high level of self-accountability. Defiance isn’t just refusing to budge for no good reason — it demands the BEST reason. I don’t take random dares just to prove myself. That’s not what Defiance is about.
“Go play chicken with a train! I bet you won’t!”
Yeah, you’re right. I won’t. Even if you dare me. Even if you impugn my Honor or my sense of pride. I’m not an IDIOT. This isn’t me emulating Marty McFly and his pathological inability to stand down from a challenge per BTTF3.
Defiance means I know EXACTLY what I’m doing, and I’ve chosen it as the best, the ONLY course of action which is true to myself. I’ll steal another line from “Defying Gravity:”
You can still be with the wizard
What you’ve worked and waited for
You can have all you ever wanted
But I don’t want it
I can’t want it anymore
Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I’m through with playing by the rules
Of someone else’s game
Defiance means knowing that some things are better than others. And it’s easy to say “freedom is better than slavery” but what if “freedom” means social isolation due to being different, setting oneself deliberately apart, and “slavery” means the easier path of going along with the others? Defiance is the spark of eager fire that screams from inside my soul.
BE DIFFERENT. BE FIERCE. IT WILL BE WORTH IT.
And you know what? It is.
It’s the “two roads diverged in a wood” thing. But that scenario is misleading, because there is no one watching the traveler, no one whose opinion can weigh in on the outcome of which road gets chosen. I know for certain that I have not gotten at least one job because I showed up to the interview without makeup. I wore a suit, I was capable, I spoke well, but I didn’t fit the expectation of my gender — and that’s not what they wanted.
It’s really true that when people don’t want you the way you are, you probably don’t want them, either.
The best relationships I have are those when I can be the absolute most myself. When I can be whatever I am, unfiltered, unguarded. Defiance is bringing that truth out from the safety of my closest people and wearing it like a badge of pride.
I spent most of high school alone. I was never popular. I was bullied. I had few friends. I could go a whole week with minimal interaction with my peers that was at all positive. And did the silence and the unkindness claw at me? Yes, it did. But I chose to sacrifice all that for the gain of not having to sacrifice myself. And I’ve never regretted it.
Defiance isn’t just choosing to be an outcast. It’s finding glee in being outcast, because that is the truest affirmation of self.
It’s finding wholeness in the refusal to step back. It’s understanding that victory may hurt more than surrender, but surrender is untenable. Surrender is not death — it is UNMAKING.
And I won’t be unmade. By anything.
I never met an expectation I didn’t enjoy breaking. People look at me and expect me to be soft; I turn around and show them my badass side. People think I’m quiet because I don’t choose to gather with the others; I lift my head up and laugh knowing that I’m having more fun with my own company than I could ever have with them. I’m weird and wild, unconventional and proud of it. I don’t fit in lunchroom discussions of fashion and pop culture and trash TV. I don’t fit, and I love myself better for not trying to fit.
I don’t actually know if this happens to other people. I only know me.
Do you ever look up at a moon, or stars, or a glorious sunset, or a violent storm, and feel yourself burst? Feel like what is held inside your chest making your heart pump faster and faster cannot possibly fit inside your body? That within you lives a soul that doesn’t shout or sing — it SCREAMS. It BELLOWS. And the world roars back like a salute. WE SEE YOU. YOU ARE ALIVE.
Not a song, but poetry this time:
I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric YAWP over the roofs of the world.
Defiance is honoring the star that was born inside my heart, the fire that never goes out. Defiance is looking at a black and white world and refusing to give up on dreams of the rainbow. Defiance is spreading wings and taking to the air, even when I fly alone. Defiance is being myself because anything less is not worth the cost.
Because I would rather be myself, just the way I am, and be alone in that, then stand in a crowd. The crowd offers safety, a place to rest, acceptance, and ease.
But why do things the easy way, the safe way, the restful way, when I can do them by myself, for myself, in my own way?
Of all the decisions I’ve made, and the things I’ve done that weren’t really decisions, to be Defiant was never really a choice at all. It was a necessity. It was breathing.
Because if I can’t be myself, then who the hell am I? And what the fuck is the point of it all?
If I gave up on me, I wouldn’t BE me. I would die off, and some doppelganger would take my place with my skin and my hands and my scars, but none of my spark. We are all, every single one of us, an endangered species. There is only one of any of us in the world.
I’m not going to let the world hunt me to extinction for its convenience. I’m not going to let society silence the song inside me. I’m not going to let my inner fire be quenched. Not by well-meaning friends, and not by antagonistic opponents. Not by those I love, and not by the voices inside me.
I Defy the boxes. I Defy the rules. I Defy the darkness inside me and I burn with light against it. I Defy the assumptions of others and I Defy my own assumptions. I Defy, because I am alive.
And I am stronger for my Defiance. I am proud. I am free. I have no regrets.
So I’ll get a dozen more rejections on the novel. I’ll lose friends, or pass by opportunities. I’ll get weird looks in the grocery store. I’ll make mistakes and hate myself for them.
But I will stand up again.
I will lift up my head and I will grin at the moon.
I will REFUSE TO BACK DOWN.
It doesn’t matter how much it hurts. It doesn’t matter if I stand alone. It doesn’t matter if it tears me to nothing. It doesn’t matter what I lose.
I would rather keep what I have and gain more. Because it will be TRUE. It will be MINE.
And if I succeed at LITERALLY NOTHING in this world, then I will succeed at BEING MYSELF.
No matter what anyone has to say about it. No matter what it costs me.
I stand in Defiance.
Hear my YAWP and tremble.