My good friend and student Lisa Marie Selow has been sharing like mad about her new book, A Rebel Chick Mystic’s Guide: Healing Your Spirit with Positive Rebellion, and I thought I should jump in on the sharing madness, because she was nothing less than a living embodiment of this book in my voice studio: She overcame all sorts of negative cultural programming about what a female singer “should” be so that she could just free her voice and enjoy herself as a singer. I figured her work has got to have some value for me, if it made this much of a difference for her.
And all I have to say is, when I was only halfway through the book I saw a new self emerge from my reading of it. I’ve discovered a part of myself that I had been suppressing for years, who is now about to get some serious air time: the Smart Girl.
You see, there was a point where I was advised to dismiss my Smart Girl persona because apparently it alienated people. I went to good schools and did well in them; I got two Masters degrees and an induction into Phi Beta Kappa; I liked to talk about Aristotle and Beethoven. But after I left school, my new peers had some advice for me: If I spoke proper English with plenty of ten-dollar words (not SAT level vocabulary, but close enough), I was making others feel dumb. It was ego. I wasn’t relating to them like a human being, and maybe I should ask myself if I do this just to mask my own insecurity.
I figured, “Well, I’m not in school anymore; I suppose I can just talk about normal things with normal people from now on.”
So I let all that slide. I got rid of my glasses and put in contact lenses. I gave away all my college books and a good hunk of my classical music collection. I downplayed my education and even regretted whole hunks of it – why in the hell did I take Latin? And then the recession hit, and soon enough, a message spread all over the blogosphere that college degrees were useless – especially advanced degrees. I had two in the Humanities, for gods’ sake, which made me a TOTAL loser. A potential employer flat-out told me, “I don’t want to hire Einstein to do this job.” There seemed to be no value in being a woman of letters anymore.
It was a perfect recipe for self-loathing.
Fortunately, my escape from Corporate America and foray into private music teaching put some new life in me, and in my second year of this journey, here comes Lisa and A Rebel Chick Mystic’s Guide on top of a generous portion of Joseph Campbell, whose amazing-amazing-amazing book The Masks of God: Creative Mythology brought me back “in accord,” as he would say, with what it means to be an authentic human being:
“The Grail [says Campbell]…is the symbol of supreme spiritual value. It is attained, however, not by renouncing the world or even current social custom, but on the contrary, by participation with every ounce of one’s force in the century’s order of life in the way or ways dictated by one’s own uncorrupted heart: what the mystics call the Inner Voice….the moral initiative in the field of time is of man…not of man as species, or as member of some divinely ordained consensus, but of each one separately, as an individual, self-moved in self-consistent action. That is the meaning in our West of the term ‘Free Will.'” – p. 564
The knight in pursuit of the Holy Grail of an authentic life is Lisa’s model of the positive rebel; it’s a call not to resist the authority of the world, but to stop resisting the authority of your own self. This is exactly the mode of the Rebel Chick Mystic:
“Instead of rebelling against the idea of authority [says Lisa], you honor your own inner authority….You may start to know your own personal truth that lives in your heart. And when you practice positive rebellion on a continual basis, you’ll notice that you are no longer willing to stay stuck or buy into negative or limiting beliefs, ideas, or situations. As you make changes, fear and conformity let go of their hold on you more and more.” – p.2
After a few exercises and journal entries, I decided to drop the notion that I was “too smart for my own good,” that my education was without value, and that I had to pre-digest everything I said so as to not offend less intelligent ears – for that alienates people just as much as a huge vocabulary can. I put my glasses back on and didn’t worry about looking too serious or severe – my attempts to look like an under-18 vintage hottie in 4-inch heels weren’t going anywhere. I realized I was trying to dress, talk, act and conduct business in a way that would attract as many people as possible to me. But we all know what happens with that: I was trying to be everything to everybody and only ended up being nothing for nobody.
Ugh. Time to throw that away; I’m tired of it. It’s not that I miss the academic life or think I’m smarter than anyone else, because, um, “no” and “no.” I just want to embrace my nerdy side again, because the alternative is just wearing on me.
So I’m joining the ranks of the Rebel Chick Mystics in the cause of Positive Rebellion by saying I’m proud to be smart and educated, a Marian the Librarian, a Professor, a Woman of Letters. And you know what? This idea of living the authentic life is nothing new, though Lisa’s book gives women a fresh look at it. The quest for authenticity has been around for thousands of years with Aristotle, Plato, Homer, Dante, Eisenbach, Galileo, and the rest of them – all those moldy-oldies we tried not to read about in college. Well, guess what: They believed in following your heart, too. They’re not that different from us. Go to the library and find out.