We were young writer party girls in college. At the time, creative nonfiction was the new, hot genre. We were asked to write essays. We understood essays. We learned that the word “essay” meant “attempt.” We attempted constantly. We attempted friendships and sophistication and reputations and all the things you can try on and discard while young and starting out. Everything felt like rebellion: against parents, expectations, systems and growing up. And it was. We couldn’t articulate it at the time, but one thing I know now is this: the most rebellious thing you can do, at any age, is be yourself.
I remember the moment the title came to me. I was sitting on a friend's black leather sofa, drinking vodka and fruit juice from an old flower vase. I was wearing a ballgown. We weren't going out that evening, but that's what we did when we stayed in. Anyway, in the moment of garish getups and pride in our own ridiculous behavior, the quick thought came to me: The Young Women's Rebellion Bible. I thought I knew something about rebellion. Dressed up for a party, but lounging on a couch was a rebellious act in my twenty-one year old mind.
Later that week, I was in a bar with Amy before our creative nonfiction workshop. I told Amy the title and before the words were completely out of my mouth, she screams, "Oh my God, we could totally do this!" We immediately started brainstorming topics. We took quick notes on napkins and then ran to class, high on possibility and buzzed on cheap beer. Amy's enthusiasm made me believe we could do it. We could write a book of instructions or stories or something that taught others about rebellion.
We liked pushing boundaries, walking edges. Although the English building was designated non-smoking, on breaks we'd find an empty classroom and lean far out the window with our lit cigarettes. We relished that rush. A little rebellion made us bold. Writing about rebellion made us rebel. Our process was born.
We enrolled others in our mission. Our creative writing teachers, the head of the English department, the owner of the restaurant where Amy worked, the bartender at our favorite haunt. Amy's enthusiasm made other people believe we could do it. And before I knew it, we were.
For several months, we wrote essays about our behavior, our rebellion, our romances and our families. We filled yellow legals pads full of ideas and ways to organize chapters. We wrote in coffee shops, bars, the library when necessary. We were relentless, but we weren't entirely clear about how it would look or what it should be. In that way, the project mirrored our lives.
In June, we graduated, flew to Greece together, and split up to go our separate ways. Amy stayed on the tiny Greek Island of Mykonos and I hopped a ferry to the mainland and spent a lot of time on trains. When we returned, seperately, to the states, we lived in different cities. We embarked on very different lives. We drifted apart. Fifteen years later, we reside in the same city, once again. And the Young Women's Rebellion Bible was reborn.
We have very different notions of rebellion, as does every woman, I believe. And our rebellion has looked very, very different from one another's over the years. Amy is married, a mother, a writer and wood toy maker. I am single, a dog owner and avid rescue supporter, a writer and part-time teacher. Amy has put down roots and I've been a wanderer. We've both embarked on creative endeavors, but nothing has had the same momentum, the same dizzy, blissful energy as the Young Women's Rebellion Bible.
A few years ago, I pulled the manuscript from the trunk where I keep sacred things and I photocopied it and sent it to Amy. I've held on to it, maybe as a way to hold on to that time with Amy, to hold on to that enthusiasm and the belief that it is possible that we do this. We're doing it now. What we knew of rebellion at twenty-one is a very different knowledge than what we know of rebellion at thirty-six and thirty-eight. With the fine partnership of The Equals Project, we'll explore that knowledge and examine its impact. To do that, we need your help.
We want to explore rebellion with you. Every week, we’ll prompt you to consider rebellion – and we challenge you to share it with us. We’d love to feature your stories and experiences as part of our exploration. Send responses and stories to Amanda at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week, we want to know:
If you had the chance today, what would you tell your teenage and/or college self about rebellion?