As I sat in front of my computer watching a movie the other night, I was a bird sitting in a tree outside someone’s window. What I mean by that is that I was witnessing (but not fully) a difficult struggle in another person’s life. It made me sad. None of the details are known to me, but I gathered that this person is struggling with a decision and is torn about how they and others feel about it and about them based on the decision that gets made. I only bring this up because it vividly brought back memories from my own life.
(I am the one in white)
As a teenager I suffered like I believe most others did, so don’t think I tell this story thinking I am in some way special or different, because I am not. My junior year in high school was particularly hard for me. It was the first time I found myself trying to change to fit in somewhere. Up until that point I was who I was and I did not really apologize for it. Junior year I was more than one person. I was straight A student, busy soccer player, Stage Manager, girlfriend, church youth group participate, etc. My dilemma was that I had to be one thing to be what I thought was the girlfriend that my boyfriend wanted, another thing for school/sports Heidi, and yet something very different for church.
I did not expect anything from boyfriend, or school/sports, but I did expect something from church, something I never got. Growing up in what I felt was a strict church was hard for me, not only because “me” was not what my church saw as acceptable, but also because we lived 30 minutes away and I was busy with sports so youth group time was very limited. As usual, it was me on the outside, looking in. I still have the scowls ingrained in my brain from when I would dare to change into my soccer uniform before the church service had ended because we were rushing off to a game after that!
My story and list could be very long if I went into great detail, but the bottom line is that I jumped through hoops to be the church goer that my youth group would accept and love. You know what? It worked. I played the game that year, pretending to be something I am not. I went on a missions trip to Arizona and after that trip was actually voted by my youth group into leadership for the next one! So here is my problem, they loved and accepted the version of me that fit for them, they had never loved or accepted the real version of me.
The real version of me was not a bible reading, “word” spreading, church attending teenager. As much as I loved the idea and the feeling of inclusion and acceptance, it was killing me because I could not find that for the real me. The real me was struggling in a not so fantastic relationship with the boy she gave her virginity to, feeling stripped of my identity to fit in with him on one side and my church on the other (as if just being a teenager isn’t difficult enough). The real version of me finally won out and decided to “tell the truth” to our youth pastor and back out of leadership as I felt I was not the right person to fill that role.
Now, that process was a chore all it’s own! If I remember correctly it was the youth pastor’s job (at least part of it) to schedule time twice a year to have one on one time with each of us. Not once did I ever in my years of youth group, have him ever schedule to visit with me. Then it was like putting him out when I asked him to come and meet me for breakfast because I needed to talk to him. You see, I still wasn’t in his “inner circle” of youth. When I told him all of what I was struggling with and the decision I had made, he offered no support or encouragement. Just a matter of fact alright we will choose someone else kind of response. Boy eyes wide open with this one! Clearly I mattered most when I fit into the mold, not so much when I turned out to be something else! Never had I had felt more slighted than I did that day! So when people wonder why I cringe at the talk of religion and God, we could start the story with the horrible examples of Godly people that I grew up around in Junior and Senior High.
Now comes the good part. I learned that no matter what anyone says or thinks, I will be me. I call it like I see it, I am who I am. Very little do I make excuses or try to hide my flaws from others. Love me for me, or hate me for me, but what you see is what you get! I have lived that way for most of my life and I will take that to the hypocrisy of fitting in to that mold any day! I still struggle with being happy in my own skin and at peace with the choices that I make, but in the end I do what I think is best, I am open and honest, and I can look myself in the mirror and feel good about that. So right or wrong, I choose me, and what I can live with over anything else. I hope that this person I know who is struggling will at some point be able to make the choices that are right for them, and learn to be comfortable with that, and let the world think what they will think.
As I just read in another blog about bad things happening to people “Bad things happen. They happen in strict, religious families. They happen in open-minded, open communication families. They happen when parents stay married and when they divorce. They happen whether our kids are troublemakers or the ones who sit still and listen. THEY HAPPEN. It’s horrifying. It’s almost too scary to contemplate. But even the best advice is looking at families in hindsight and there are no crystal balls when it comes to raising kids. For every family whose child is proof that THIS is the way or THAT is a mistake, there’s another family ready to prove just the opposite. ”
So do what you will with your life, chose to live it in a manner that you can be proud of and whatever the rest will be, will be.