15 August 2012

Terms





In my mind I am a Bedouin. Or a queen.

That must be it.

It runs in my blood—I descend from Brits, Scots, Irish, French, Native Americans, Turks, Persians, Russians, Egyptians and Vikings (and the list goes on). Peoples (the Vikings especially) who traveled wildly and didn't like to be tied down to one place (evidently; I mean, I come from all over the world). Kings and Conquerors, Pharaohs and Shahs who did not bow to terms but made them instead. And these tendencies flow freely in my DNA, centuries later.

So it would explain why yesterday, when I went apartment hunting and realized I would actually have to commit myself to signing a contract, I had a silent anxiety attack. It didn't help, either, that the contract I (tentatively) wanted needed to be filled within 24 hours (don't they all?).

I only partly understood the problem; I'd done this before as an undergrad student and had survived. So what was wrong with me? I tried to talk myself out of the settling-down shivers. All afternoon. All evening. All night. All this morning.

It's dramatic, but I almost felt akin to Sidney Carton. The choice was his, but that didn't make Madame
Guillotine any prettier.

All day today as I coordinated with potential roommates and potential manager, some part of me kept pulling me back, demanded that I not agree to any terms because that part of me just doesn't deal in terms. It stands above contracts, agreements, responsibilities to anyone but self, obligations and limitations (what awful words). It sticks its nose up at them, runs away from them, remembers ancient deserts and trailblazing, the feel of a camel or horse underneath you, the wind in your face and defiance of convention. Palaces and royal seals (and armies to back them up) that interpreted convention for everyone else. The independence that comes from taking life on your own terms—or making terms to combat whatever someone else holds in your face.

But this is the 21st century. And, supposedly, humanity is more civilized and has a greater responsibility to promote peace and live in harmony with everyone else, to bow to convention for the sake of these. There are few places in America for Bedouins anymore. And, of course, I wear no tiara.

When the time came to sign the contract, I winced my entire way through it and paused an agonizing number of seconds at the "Signature" box. Then, when I'd finally signed my name on the last page, I hit "send" before that other part of me could register what I was doing.

Funny thing. I payed the deposit five minutes afterward and didn't even mind it.

So I must be a Bedouin. Money means little compared to actually seeing my name on a piece of paper, agreeing to do something for a specified party and (and usually very long-seeming amount of) time. Either that or my DNA still thinks I'm made of money and/or just can't get over the fact that for centuries my people signed their own terms and not someone else's.

Adults call this tendency of mine lack of responsibility. Maybe they're right. They call it silly. It certainly doesn't feel that way when you suddenly confront it and have to size it up.

It's a problem, yes, in today's society (in any society, I suppose; termsmakers are not appreciated unless they wear the hat to back their demands). But it makes me who I am too. It gives me imagination and spontaneity, independence, and allows me to pull myself away from the wolfpack tendencies of humanity and be okay with it. It means I don't give in to peer pressure (as easily) because I only want to do what I feel true to, not what somebody else tries to obligate me with. It gives me a penchant for taking charge when I see that something needs to be done.

The thing is, when I am committed to something, I tend to be a little staunch in my convictions; I'm also descended from three worldwide religions that have long and bloody histories of enthusiasm, even fanaticism. (But don't worry; that last tendency has been watered down over the centuries.) So I'm careful about commitment. Maybe sometimes too careful (as the episode yesterday clearly showed. Comparing a condo contract to the French Revolution?).

It's something I need to train a little better (or I'll never hold a long-term job, and that means I'll be living from hand-to-mouth for the rest of my life. With apologies to my Bedouin side, the royal side of me is not prepared to undertake that lifestyle.) It's something I work at training; I even fight it sometimes when I feel that commitment could be beneficial—or when the commitment unfortunately makes perfect, civilized sense. (Perhaps I have a hyperactive sense of responsibility too, but I don't know where in the genes that comes from.)

But I'll never give up that part of me. I'd sooner suffocate (I'm sure I would). Call me spoiled or shiftless. I stand by it though. Suffer with it, I will; listen to it, I will; train it, I will; but never give it up.

Now that the contract's signed, that part of me has ceased its flaming tantrum; maybe it's giving me the silent treatment. It knew it wouldn't win in the first place. We both know, even before going into the argument, what the outcome will be. But the fight must go on.

Maybe I inherit that penchant for conflict too. My ancestors were at each other's throats over the Holy Land for centuries. And, you know...Vikings?



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2 comments:

  1. Sounds like you have a streak of Welsh stubbornness, too ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh if only that were true! I keep hoping, but none of that Welsh awesomeness has appeared in the genealogy lines yet. You're superiorly lucky in that regard.

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