My leaving home was painful, considering I was ostracized by my family (I was called the 'prodigal daughter') for leaving to 'live in sin' with my boyfriend (check out my blog post "I say this to you in LOVE" for just one example: http://www.atheistnexus.org/profiles/blogs/i-say-this-to-you-in-lov...
). I was still a Christian at the time, so I was actually planning to save myself for marriage and had never intended to move in with him. All I wanted was for my family to act like good Christians for my boyfriend's sake, who was struggling at the time in his home life (he wanted to finish school, but felt pressured to quit because of his drug addict mother who was not owning up to HER responsibilities. He was used to this lifestyle, and therefore didn't expect help from anyone- but I wanted it for him - I thought that good church-going people would care enough to help in his sort of situation).
My mom was too focused on the fact that he wasn't raised in a Christian home and that by dating, we were headed down a dangerous path that could lead to us being 'unequally yoked'. (He wasn't a Christian, but he was very idealistic - the types Christians tend to love - and open to some ideas in Christianity. He did eventually accept Jesus as his savior, but this still wasn't good enough for her.) She didn't care a thing about getting know him, and actually RARELY referred to him by his name (he was always 'that boy' to her). When he became a Christian, she was even angrier - and had concluded that it must be a lie. ("well, we shall see - by their fruits we shall know them!")
I wasn't allowed to see him outside of a church/christian activities (she hated that he was there, but there wasn't really much she could do about it) but going to church even became difficult because of the judgmental glares of many of the members. Some of them simply felt uncomfortable because they didn't know how to be around us - they didn't want to get on my mom's bad side, but they were quietly excited that he was there and interested in Christianity. Others only knew him by what my mother said (and she talked a lot, to everyone).
It was so frustrating for me - still viewing the world through Christian lenses, I was so happy that he was interested in my beliefs, but couldn't stand that these supposed 'Christians' weren't doing their part. I think it was mostly my mother's influence but to me, it was still no excuse.
This situation solidified his idea (OUR idea, at the time) that Christianity is good, but its Christians are often bad representatives. This mindset stuck around for quite some time and led me to a more liberal brand of Christianity, spiritual explorations outsides of Christianity, and eventually agnosticism.
I had never planned on moving out seriously, but did fantasize about it. Moving in with my boyfriend was out of the question (even for me at the time), but I knew I couldn't deal with the emotional stress involved in not being allowed to freely date (my mom liked all of the good little church boys who were either secretly playboys, pompous assholes, or often a mixture of the two. I had a tendency to see deeper than the surface.) My mom claimed that when I turned 18, she would no longer control me that way. I knew she'd still treat me poorly, but I figured she'd eventually mellow out once we were officially dating.
My 18th birthday came and went. Yes, I was allowed to freely date ... but she took her anger out on me full force. It got to a point where I felt that I needed to avoid home as often as possible because whenever I was there, I was made to feel like a slut (even though I was actually still a virgin - not that she believed that), a rebel, a sinner, etc etc. I dealt with that for a while, at some point, I knew that I needed an out. The guilt trips, I couldn't deal with and the gossip, I just didn't have the energy to compete with (by the time I even had a chance to tell my side of the story, others had already formed opinions. My mom is loud, opinionated and talkative; I have always been quiet and easy-going.) The last straw was when she began holding things over my head (learning to drive, my education, and various other things). This is when I was ready to admit what a part of me knew all along- that it was not going to get better. I realized I needed to either choose to a) submit completely to the life she wanted for me or to b) go my own way. There was no middle ground. Obviously, I chose 'b' - and it's the best decision I've ever made.
I felt guilty for it at first, but moving in with my boyfriend was the only option, since even though some friends wanted to help, they felt they shouldn't get involved. Living with him was a great learning experience though, as it exposed me to a lifestyle that I didn't even know existed, having lived in such a bubble all my life. His home life was the opposite extreme. I had to wise up quickly in order to survive it! Our goal then became to get out of that living situation and make a better life for ourselves. During this time, I had a whole new set of issues - so those frequent 'lifestyle-bashing' letters from family members and the 'appeals' from the church (apparently there is a such thing as 'church-court' at my church, where the elders and pastor review your 'case'. From my understanding, I would have had to repent, change my lifestyle, and then they would have decided whether or not to cancel my church membership. lol - I didn't respond to these letters.) became more annoying than anything else. It took a couple of years, but we did achieve this goal. We didn't have much, but we got out. He was able to get his GED (since he did end up dropping out of high school to get a job in order to pay the rent), moved up north, got a place with some friends ...
At this point, he was still the same 'spiritual' guy - against organized religion, and believing firmly that God exists. I, on the other hand, having had plenty of time to deal with the pain, therefore finally able to look back and reflect on what had actually happened and analyze my feelings on everything, was no longer sure. I began to embrace the more rational voice that had been suppressed for so many years (due to the negative reactions to my questioning as a child). As much as I loved my boyfriend (he truly was/is a good person) and as connected to him that I was in the sense that we had been through so much together, I realized that I had changed so much, so quickly ... and found that mentally, we were on two different wavelengths. I saw good in him, and that was the emphasis all along - but had concluded that, having been so focused on 'the fight' (the fight to be together and then the fight to have a better life together) I had little time to contemplate what I even wanted in a man (he was my first boyfriend, after all). I didn't even know myself, back then, let alone anything about personality compatibility.
Maybe for some couples, a past is enough to keep them together (ours certainly was strong enough to where that could have worked) ... but I craved too deeply to connect with to him on levels that simply weren't possible. It was hard to leave him because he always so good to me and I cared so much for him. Thankfully, it worked out for the both of us and we were able to come to a mutual understanding, both cherishing our past together and accepting where/how things had ended. For that, we have been able to remain good friends. We have also both moved on and are in new relationships (and have been for a couple years now), but keep in touch, even still, whenever we can. :) He is a father now, living the simple yet happy life that he always wanted, while I am on my quest for higher learning.
As for the pain connected to losing my family, I am pretty much over it. I have alienated myself from family due to being ostracized (although, to them, I am the heartless one who has little to do with family 'for reasons they can't comprehend'), and as painful as that was at first (losing my 'support system' - even though they never really felt like one) I am used to it and am finally at peace with it. I have like-minded friends now who are more of a 'family' then they ever were anyway, so that decreases the little desire there might have been to go back, having experienced for myself what healthy relationships are supposed to be like. My aunt (whom I was rarely allowed to associate with during childhood since she was not religious) contacted me after she found out that I left home and has been there for me emotionally ever since. Basically, I have all the friends and family I need. So, negative feelings connected to loss of community have *mostly* faded. There are shadows every once in a while (does one ever truly get over their own mother not liking them?) but I am fine where it counts.
My current issue is that I want to get into a good school, and have wanted to for quite some time. I've been forced to put it off, all for reasons connected to my parents. I don't want to be angry - I know it doesn't do any good. Sometimes I am okay, but when I struggle, I think of why and it sets me off.
First is that since my parents home-schooled me (they took me out of public school before I would have started high school), I have not been properly educated. I have come to realize how much I have missed, having been taught from a curriculum based on the Christian world-view. Even with the subjects that you can't really go wrong on (like math), apparently I wasn't taught all that I should have been (I don't think my mother was technically qualified to teach a high school student).
I now have to work extra hard to catch myself up JUST so that I'll be able to get a decent score on the SAT (I was never required to take it in home school).
Second is the fact that my education has been held over my head. According to FAFSA, I am considered dependent on my father's income, even though I do not and have not lived with them in years, until the age of 24. Since my dad makes A LOT, this means I will not qualify for the financial aid that, in reality, I desperately need. My mom knows this, but doesn't care. In her mind, it's my 'bad decisions' that have made things difficult.
This one doesn't make me as angry anymore, considering the waiting has been useful in the sense that I have time to prepare my brain.
Third is the fact that learning to drive has been such a hassle. When I lived at home, my parents were teaching me to drive, until I met my boyfriend. My mom held that, as well as certain other freedoms, over my head as one of her many attempts to manipulate me. My learners permit eventually expired and I had no way of getting a new one. When I moved in with my boyfriend, no one in his family even owned a car, so it didn't really matter anymore. Not to mention, I had more important concerns. When we moved out of state (in a more rural area where we NEEDED a car), he was able to obtain a license, but since we both had to work a lot to get by, I never got around to getting one myself. He drove us wherever we needed to go. I got my learners, and he took me out driving when we had the time, but that was as far as I got with it.
Since we have separated, my current boyfriend has been teaching me to drive. I should be taking my road test soon, it's just a matter of finding the time (again, we both work a lot, and different hours most of the time).
It's so hard to get started in life without help from family. I witness normal families on a daily basis ... and I see mothers excited for their kids' visits home from college ... mothers taking daughters out driving, wishing them luck on their road test ....fathers helping sons pay for their first car ... basically, families being supportive. It all reminds me of how cheated I was.
I know I need to get over it and just accept that I chose a difficult path. I KNEW going into it that it wouldn't be easy. It's just hard - I am not where I want to be, and even getting where I am (which is pretty far from where I started) took A LOT of work. I appreciate everything my ex boyfriend, current boyfriend and friends have done and are doing to help me ... but I feel like such a burden to them for needing so much ... and when the guilt over that takes over, it leads me to the angry source. Everyone that knows the situation says that I have a right to be angry. I don't like being angry though (what purpose does it serve?) ... but I have yet to see how exactly NOT to be. :-/ Sometimes I'm okay, but when it hits ... it hits hard!