I remember learning about conjunctions in my second grade classroom. After watching the famed Schoolhouse Rock classic, “Conjunction Junction,” my teacher passed out a list of conjunctions for us to memorize for an upcoming test. This was back when tests and homework were exciting, when, to an eight year old nerd like me, any extra work to be done outside of the classroom was considered a major bonus. Yes, I would cheer, I get to learn even more! Those were the days before term papers and theses and annotated bibliographies and endlessly monotonous lectures only slightly more painful than a drip to the dentist.
But I digress.
I learned my conjunctions quickly, and subsequently learned their uses. A sentence could not start with and, or, or but. That was forbidden. To do so, would to be to break a grammar rule as old as my native language itself. I remember feeling enlightened by this information. I had never before thought about what words I had started my sentences with, and all of a sudden, there was this new rule by which I had to abide. I took it very seriously.
And then one day, I was disillusioned. I was reading a book out of my favorite series during silent reading hour when I noticed a capital A followed by an n and a d. And. At the beginning of the sentence? Had no one edited this trash? Had I been deceived in the second grade or had the author of The Babysitters’ Club merely neglected the formative rules of writing? I rushed up to show my teacher the massive error, proud to have found something so important in published literature. She shook her head and laughed. “Published authors can do that.”
I was enraged. How could they, adults, get away with writing improperly, when I, a little second grader, had to go through endless worksheets and identify the errors these
Similar to writing, we need to learn the rules of life in order to break them.
And we can only break them by living.
In your first relationship, you’re concerned with doing everything right. Sending the right text message, arriving at your dates the appropriate amount of minutes late, holding hands at the right time and allowing the other person the right amount of space. Everything is textbook. Everything is learned via magazines or gossip or late night chats with best friends or by avoiding mistakes you’re too afraid to make.
In your first year of college you learn that you don't actually have to do all the reading, that something you've once done automatically is all at once unnecessary and nearly impossible.
In your first apartment you're not always going to have back up toilet paper, a light is going to go out and you won't be able to fix the lightbulb. You'll prop the door open even though you know it could be dangerous, but it's just for a second while you take out the trash, why bother finding the keys? You'll scuff the wall and blame a previous tenant.
And suddenly you’ve made mistakes, by attempting to do everything perfectly, and that once perfect thing doesn’t exist any more.
And it’s all ok.
You learn. You learn to put ands and buts and ors at the beginnings of sentences, at the beginning of paragraphs, essays even. You learn that not everything has to be perfect, that it’s an impossible goal.
You learn that you can text someone you just met four times in a row, and they probably won’t hate you, that’s not a real rule.
You learn that you can choose hanging out with your friends over going on a date, because they’re the ones that matter.
And ironically enough, while you're figuring it all out, you can write it all down, using whatever grammar pleases you best.
You learn that you can be yourself, write your own rulebook, because at the end of the day, even if your eight-year-old self would criticize it, you’ve got to do you!