When I was with my boyfriend who turned out to be not very nice, I didn’t make many decisions. Oh, he said he wanted me to make decisions, but the choices I made more often than not turned out to be the wrong ones. It was just less complicated to go along with whatever he wanted.
When I left him, I suddenly was able to decide for myself. No one tried to influence my decisions. No one tried to subtly (or not so subtly) manipulate me. No one told me I was wrong.
When I hit the road with the traveling kids (Mr. Carolina, Sweet L, the Fighting Couple), I was typically happy to do whatever the rest of the group wanted to do. No one was proposing anything I was opposed to, so it was easy to agree. Mr. Carolina, however, always made sure to ask in his Southern drawl, What do you want to do, Blaize? I could tell he truly wanted to know, too. He was honestly interested in what I thought. He really wanted to make sure I had a say in what happened next. He really wanted me to get my needs met.
Sometimes I’d assure him I was happy to go along with whatever proposition was on the table. Sometimes I shared what I thought was a better idea. Always, his question gave me permission to stop and really think about what I wanted to do. His question allowed me to decide if I really wanted to go along with what everyone else wanted. His question kept me from agreeing to do something simply because that’s what all the cool kids were doing.
Having someone ask me what I wanted and taking my response into account was a heady new experience. At some point, in response to Mr. Carolina’s question, What do you want to do, Blaize? the answer that popped out of my mouth was Whatever the fuck I want! It was sort of a joke, but it was also a declaration of my independence.
After I said it the first time, I said it more and more. We’d be doing something–puttering down the interstate in the van, cooking breakfast, lying in the dark waiting to fall asleep–and randomly I would say, Hey, Mr. Carolina, you know what I’m doing right now?
He’d always ask, What? even after I’d asked the question so many times we both knew what was coming next.
What? he’d ask, and I would answer Whatever the fuck I want!
I felt then–and still feel today–blessed–not to mention liberated–to know that most minutes of most hours of most day, I’m doing just what I want to do.