When I was growing up I didn’t really understand the world. It was a strange place that I was taught to fear and stay away from. I was safe in the community my parents built for me. I went to church every Sunday, I went to a private school, I only played with kids from my church. My parents wouldn’t let me stay the night at birthday parties because they were afraid. I listened to gospel or country music. Rap was something I never even heard of until I was in at least middle school. Eminem, the Spice Girls, Snoop Dogg, I’d never heard of any of them.
In high school I discovered that there were other types of music and movies out there besides just the ones I’d grown up. I listened to Eminem for the first time and loved it. My sisters and I would play music that was forbidden at home in the truck on the way to school. We loved it but we couldn’t tell anyone. They wouldn’t understand.
When you grow up in this type of environment you don’t think for yourself. My entire concept of the world was constructed solely on what my parents and church leaders told me. While I was encouraged to think about things, I was encouraged to only think about the appropriate things. God, school, the government, they were all wrapped up in a giant ball in my head. I couldn’t fathom how these things could become separate.
Since going to college I’ve become part of a statistic. The dreaded statistic of kids who ‘leave the church’ while they go away to school. And you know what? That’s perfectly ok with me.
I didn’t like church. Well I didn’t like the churches we attended. I didn’t understand them. I wanted to talk about the hard questions. What did God think about gay relationships? What did Jesus do in his free time besides preach and turn water into wine? Why was it ok for Jesus to drink wine but my family avoided alcohol like the plague?
No one wanted to answer those questions. They wanted to sit and listen to the preacher, feel good about themselves, and then go home.
I wanted to know why things were the way they were and the only answer my elders could give me was: “It is what it is. Don’t question it.”
That was not enough for me.
Since attending college I have learned that if someone doesn’t encourage you to look outside of your beliefs then they don’t really want you to learn anything. They want you to stay inside the bubble because that is much easier than trying to get you back into the bubble.
Three years later, at the beginning of my senior year of college, I don’t know if my old classmates could handle the changes I’ve gone through.
I now identify as a feminist, a liberal, I am planning on living with my long time boyfriend next year, I haven’t been to church in almost three years, and I am completely at ease with all of these things. I no longer look to my religious or political beliefs to define me. I simply am who I am. And it makes me happy.