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Intrusive Thoughts and My Love for Rules

Writing by Freya Bennett // illustration by Ciel Chen

Having come of age in the 90s, one might assume I’d be laissez-faire when it comes to safety and rules. I adored those early morning road trips with Mum, where the backseat of our Volkswagen Beetle transformed into a snug nest, cocooning me in blissful dreams. Little did I know, as the car gently rocked me into a slumber, that I, sans seatbelt, was careening along the Hume Highway, just a truck driver’s sneeze away from total disaster!

Growing up, I attended a mixture of home-school groups and Steiner schools, and as a result, desperately craved rules. I found myself paralysed by the lack of guidelines and due dates, fretting at the blank page and my ability to write without the comforting presence of lines. The few rules that were imposed seemed arbitrary and whimsical such as not drawing faces on people and not learning to read till my grown-up teeth had come through (I assume Rudolph Steiner was having a laugh). But they were rules and so I clung to them like Tom Hanks to Wilson.

As a young adult, I used to be slightly more robust in my risk-taking and rule breaking endeavours. But after a reckless sprint down a train station staircase and subsequent broken ankle, a looming fear of everyday life descended upon me. Suddenly, I could see accidents at every turn, visions became my superpower and I felt it was my duty to intervene or else catastrophe would strike. And while I won’t take full credit for the safety announcements at Flinders St Station, I do have a sense of pride in the regular warnings discouraging the public from running down staircases as it did seem to coincide rather closely with my unfortunate incident (you’re welcome).

As a mother of two small children, intrusive thoughts have only exacerbated my love for rules and safety. If I could bubble wrap my children, keep them on a leash or in a safety pen, I absolutely would but unfortunately, it’s not socially acceptable and the only thing trumping my love for safety, is my desperate need to be accepted by society.

Since a recent move to the country, I’ve discovered a delightful addition to my daily school run—a cheerful yellow and black traffic sign alerting drivers to the frequent crossings of ducks. Twice now, I’ve had to stop for ducks, my humanity restored as a queue of cars idle, collectively watching Mama Duck and her mini quack pack waddle across. But here’s the thing: ducks are small, they tend to blend in with the colour of the road and I lose sleep over the thought of accidentally squishing these cute little waterfowls on a groggy morning. My proposal? A duck crossing guard! Now, I’m not suggesting child labour is the answer, however, I’m not not suggesting that a crossing guard for ducks wouldn’t be even cuter with a small child brandishing a stop sign. Alternatively, a less exploitative option would be to have a mini set of traffic lights, activated by quack (quacktivated!), alerting early morning commuters to the imminent cuteness crossing. More rules aren’t always boring, they can be adorable too!

I want to be clear that I’m not advocating for us to escalate the scale of all rules (please let us enjoy the unpasteurized cheese like true French fromagers), but I do think we could up the ante on safety. Helmets yes, seatbelts obviously, but what about life jackets for riverside strolls? Or knee pads for those impromptu tram sprints? And yes, I should probably see someone about my intrusive thoughts but as the ancient proverb states ¿por qué no los dos? (Old El Paso, 2006). So while I save for the high cost of seeing a therapist, please cocoon me with rules.  

Freya Bennett

Freya Bennett is the Co-Founder and Director of Ramona Magazine. She is a writer and editor from Dja Dja Wurrung Country who loves grey days, libraries and dandelion tea. You can follow her on Instagram @freya___bennett

Ciel Chen

Ciel Chen is a New York based illustrator and cel animator from China. Most of Ciel’s works depict images of female characters, showcasing their inner emotions and relationships with the outside world. She enjoys telling stories about people’s inner feelings. With a passion for visual narrative, Ciel approaches each project with enthusiasm and dedication. She is always looking to explore new opportunities and apply herself to new challenges.



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