That’s how I have often described myself. Early this morning when I mentally started writing this that’s what I thought this would be about. But after a whole lot of thought that would be such a simple description but humans are not so simply described. Humans are more complex than either/or. I have always seemed to be a person who went from one extreme to another and spent a lot of mental energy dragging myself to the middle. I wonder now why I did that – why did I feel i could not feel and act on all my interests, desire, passions. I’m not talking about anything irrational here.
For whatever reason I spent the first part of my life craving stability while harboring a deep need/want to kick everything over and just go; just be. I stayed in residences too long, I stayed in jobs too long, I stayed in relationships too long.
And all the while I wanted to be the girl in this song. It was the 60’s and a part of me wanted this life and to be that girl.
But my need for stability and certainty kept me tethered to other people’s expectation of how to live and who to be. Except – that was only the public me. It looked like I was following the middle line albeit in a slightly rebellious way.
I didn’t have the opportunity to go to college full time after high school so I worked the 9-5 and went to school at night. Maybe it was a working class thing, or maybe it was an Italian thing, maybe it was just time times (remember I was born in 1946) but my father alway said “Girl’s don’t need an education” and yet he was always educating me. My parents never knew I was taking what y’all call college prep courses in high school; they never knew I applied to college.
As soon as I could I moved out of my parents home into my own apartment and LIVED ALONE! Holy crap you have no idea what a hell storm that kicked up. The only way an Italian-American girl left their parent’s home was in a wedding gown or a coffin. Me, I left by bus. 1967 – it was a very good year.
The living alone thing was also shocking to most people – even the more liberal minded folks. Lots of girls my age flocked to NYC in those years, chasing a little fun and a husband. They lived 3 and 4 to a 2 bedroom apartment in Manhattan. Me, I was chasing freedom. And other things. A studio apartment in Queens was more than good enough for how I wanted to live.
So I was, at the same time, the good girl and the bad girl. More often than not the good girl is who people saw (despite my living arrangements; time normalized that.) It was the good girl who stayed too long and tried to look all even and level and middle of the road. It was the good girl who was just a little afraid of giving up what little security and stability she had.
I spent 20 years being the woman who could sing this song. I remember the time a gentleman of my acquaintance said to me, very seriously, because I was known to run in those circles, or at least on the perimeter, “I didn’t know you knew Billy Joel”. I said “I don’t know Billy Joel, why do you say that?” He replied “I would have sworn his new song is about you” And that song was this one. I didn’t know quite to make of that so I asked several other gentlemen of my acquaintance what they thought. They all agreed – that song was very much about me.
I had become, to a certain degree, the person in those earlier songs who I admired. I can’t say that I did it consciously. I just was being me, the real me. The only thing missing was the wandering. The moving from here to there. The wanderlust was tamped down. Stability won the day in the practical but the freedom loving, no strings, risk taking, confident bad girl, she lived too.
And she still lives, but only in the recesses of my mind. I have physically lived in so many, many places these past 30 years and learned that there is no place called home. Wherever I am that is my home until I move on to the next. I’ve learned that I love that. I crave that.
But, now it is not the need for stability and security that holds me back but rather responsibility that holds me down. Being the good girl keeps me where I don’t want to be. Keeps me being who I don’t want to be.
But there’s the trick, I am the wild child and I am the responsible child; I am both but I have to tell ya, I miss that wild child. Oddly enough it is the responsible me that has caused me more grief and pain (and money!) than the wild child every did. And all the regrets are laid to the door of the responsible one.
The wild child, the bad girl, she regrets nothing. Only that she let the responsible child win. That she regrets.