Choosing Self-Preservation over Socio-Cultural Expectations

I’m halfway done with the first draft of a new AlmaMia Cienfuegos short story (that is creeping into novella-land *sigh*). And while glaring at the satisfied smirk of a stockade, I revisited comments and feelings shared by readers. Sometimes, looking at a storyline through someone else’s eyes allows me to see important bits I didn’t know were there.

About three years ago, someone said, “I love AlmaMia’s ‘can’t care less’ attitude. If I was strong enough to turn my back on some people my life would be better.” The reader quoted the following scene, from the first tale of AlmaMia Cienfuegos and Other Stories, to support the comment: 

AlmaMia looked at the scratches on her sister’s face. Soledad’s eyes were full of tears, her lips and chest trembled.

“I am really sorry, Mia.” Soledad dropped to her knees. “Forgive me, little sister.”

Looking into the eyes of the girl kneeling in front of her, AlmaMia shook her head and spat in the mud. “My sister… died,” she said, before walking away.

I encountered the barrier mentioned in the first paragraph, while developing a scene where AlmaMia has to make a very difficult decision concerning Mamabuela, her grandmother. I completed the scene. It felt good to me… It felt logical to me… So much so, that after examining the action a time or thirteen, I was sure the details of the decision reflected my life experiences and not AlmaMia’s heart.

Of all my child characters, AlmaMia possesses the most moral fiber; Maelynn del Monte, the main character of “Regret” and “Heat”, might give her a run for her money. One of the factors that make AlmaMia and Maelynn so strong and daring is their age.

The first girl is nine and the other is thirteen. Those ages come accompanied with a level of fierceness, often fueled by a high concentration of don’t-give-a-shit-ness, which will almost always nudge a heart to choose self-preservation over socio-cultural expectations. 

I believe that when we are younger, our decisions are brewed in wells fairly free of society’s influential paws. We might get in trouble for it. But if we are lucky, we might grow up to make decisions where our id, our experiences and our critical thinking dance as one. What about you, my Wicked Luvs; what are your thoughts on the matter?

Earthy, by Tom Fedro

27 comments:

  1. It's an interesting, because as a mother, remembering the child I was ages (and ages and ages) ago it comes back to me that part of my job is to help them hear what it is their hearts are asking for. I'm not always perfect about it. Goodness knows I have my own hopes and expectations of what they can be. But I make it a point to shut up regularly and listen to what it is that sets them on fire so they know that I have their back when it comes time to make the choice that make their hearts dance, whatever the hell else society thinks.There's a certain level of give-a-shitness that is healthy to foster IMHO

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    1. If every child's mother thought like you, my dearest Rommy, the world would be a happier and saner place. Not to mention one in which fewer people would go around wondering if strangulation is truly such a bad idea...

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  2. I grew up with the knowledge that being nice didn't mean you had to be a doormat for those maybe not so nice, and I raised my kids to be the same. I hope it keeps them strong through their adult lives, and gives them the strength to challenge situations they don't agree with. Social "rules" are generally made by those with the biggest mouths and loudest voices. Not necessarily by those with your best interest at heart. :D XXX

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    1. That last sentence says it all...

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  3. Ok I'll hold my hands up and admit that most of that post when whoosh over my head, I'm having a foggy day but I think I got the general gist of what you're getting at Magaly is that sometimes you have to ignore social convention in order to preserver yourself?

    I'm very good at ignoring social convention but I can't say it's for self preservation reasons or that I'm any sort of social rebel. I really don't have such a good reason, with me it's generally by sheer accident. I've just never understood social conventions and it's only when I've said something or done something that's resulted in frowned looks or sharp intakes of breath from those around me that I realised I've put my foot through another social norm, the worst part is when I still can't quiet work out what I've done wrong, which means what ever it was I'm quite likely to do it again. :(

    Children don't come with a filter fitted on what not to say or do in social situations, it's as people get older the filter gets fitted. I think I missed the fitting day.

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    1. I think you got a lot of it just fine, Jane; especially with your last sentence. Children act the way the do, most of the time, because it feels good and it makes them happy. Some children "grow" a lot faster than others (AlmaMia feels to me like such a child), and they going against the norm not just to satisfy instinct, but because their short but terrible life experiences teaches them that to do other wise would put them in danger.

      As adults, even by accident, we tend to consider certain things, methinks.

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  4. I am trying to mitigate peer pressure by teaching all three grands that school is a job. It's their work. As they graduate to high school, to college, those are promotions. The only thing they need worry about is to meet work requirements (graduate) & to be civil to their co-workers. As they get older & develop hobbies/interests, then they can work on relationships within the smaller subset.

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    1. That's a very practical approach!

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    2. It will reduce many of those little horrors that can make school such a nightmare for some children. And if they do really well, then they are being exceptional at their job and eventually get paid for it. Practical, indeed.

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  5. I've contemplated what you wrote and I've come to a startling (not) conclusion about myself. I have lived my social interaction life like Benjamin Buttons. When young, I was forced to abide by all the rules that my parents and the situations they got me into, doled out. The older I have gotten the less that is the case. Leaving people that wound me in my dust is easiest now, but I would have been terrified to have been like Alma Mia in anyone's eyes as a child.
    I think that is why my grands have fascinated me especially GK. This is a human who has her shit together and did so from moment one. Now as a high school kid, she has a terrific feel for who she is and who she will allow to share moments of her life.
    Social convention be damned. Be kind, be the best you can be and be fierce in your heart and if someone doesn't get you............so be it.

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    1. I think GK and AlmaMia have some things in common: brains, strong will, and a grandmother who will support them (and guide them) no matter what. Those things, especially the latter, make a child invincible. I know. ♥

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  6. I'll think about this some more, I'm sure, but for now I'll just say that at those ages, I was terrified. Alma Mia is about a million times stronger than I was, and I really like that about her.

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    1. The more I read the comments left on this post, the more I realized how much we learn when we share our thoughts. I'm starting to think that my theories on children's general fierceness, due to little care for the norms, might need a bit of revision...

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  7. Yeah, when I was a kid i was pretty much a 'good girl' by the time I was 4, totally indoctrinated. I think SOME kids can make decisions that aren't affected by social pressure, certainly more now than in my day.

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    1. It's so sad that young minds are often forced to settle so early in development...

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  8. Very interesting thoughts. I will have to mull over them. My current thought is as kids we don' t understand expectations, later they catch and trip us, they stomp all over us. If we are lucky when we get older we stop giving a f@#k! Or start the process anyhow. And moving back towards what is best for us.

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    1. Ah, those blissful years of not "understand[ing] expectations" and going with our hearts (ready or not). Those blissful years...

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  9. Lines and expectations are drawn at a certain age. You bring up a good point, but when we write we tangle our thoughts, our lives become stitched in the pages. I think when it is more authentic and real-we want to read this~ I am excited for you!

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    1. Authenticity does indeed, intrigue the curious mind...

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  10. I find this really interesting, Magaly. Looking back at some of the decisions that I made at those ages, I can see the clear impetus toward self-preservation. Perhaps, I should be a little more forgiving of my "mistakes" at that age.

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    1. I LOVE what you said! If we look at the past with the eyes of I-was-following-heart-and-instinct, maybe some of us would be less harsh on ourselves, and focus on leading and happier and healthier present and view of the future.

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  11. If I'd had the benefit, as a younger person, of tapping into what I have, now, been taught by the years, I would in all likelihood have ignored it.

    Conversely, the stricture of decades of "experience", makes it very difficult to give in to "don’t-give-a-shit-ness" - no matter how enticing.

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    1. Indeed. Experience (and having lived a decade or three) bring many variables to the equation, the most important being that people we love (and who deserve our love) are affected by our behavior. It's difficult to embrace the chaotic art of don't-give-a-shit-ness" when we know we'll break a heart we love.

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  12. Thinking either I haven't grown up, or was born grown up ;)

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  13. I was a good girl, a wild teenager, and onto my 20's, and now, it's time to trust my heart again ;o) It's been too boring! LOL!

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    1. You know, now that I think about it... I've always been sort of the same. Yep, Shelle and I were born bad to the bone!

      And you are not boring!

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