I've never really taken the time to properly sit down and walk through my life and give others that opportunity to view my de-conversion process before. Perhaps some who view it might see that I, just like many others, have shared the same struggles and some, who might be still struggling, might find something of value in it that might pull them through.
I was not born into a religious house. The religious fervor that was pushed on me didn't take place until years later. It was never really established what my mother's beliefs were in her early years however I think she had mentioned once she was a Buddhist. As I do recall there was a statue of Buddha that would sit on the second to the last shelf on our entertainment center in our old tiny house in Michigan. Mom had married young and had me in her early 20's. My dad was a great guy for the most part, primarily working as a lumber cutter, until he started drinking heavily and it became a source of great contention with my mother. My dad became abusive, and my mom eventually became fearful and took me away to live with her mother for a while. There was a time where she would meet with him, perhaps to talk about things, but when she had dropped me off to stay with him, that's when he had sexually abused me. The last images of him I remember was when I was going to visit, but the house was filled with paramedics because he had drank so much that he passed out and couldn't be revived. After that, I never saw him again (he did survive that however). At some point, she got a divorce, and shortly after she began to date my step-dad. Later they married and are still together today.
It's hard to say at what point the religious shift occurred. All I remember was one time I was in the bathroom getting ready to brush my teeth and my mother and I were talking. I was probably around 8 or 9 or so, and I remember getting frustrated over something and saying "Oh God". Almost immediately she scolded me for taking the Lord's name in vain. It was funny because I followed that up with, "Jesus Christ" and got in trouble again (I've always been taking the good Lord's name in vain or swearing though). There were many other groups or activities that I had been enrolled in as a child, one that I remember was Awanas. The family also began to attend church and I went to Sunday school. The events themselves were fun in terms of the games we played, however, when it came to having to study the Bible Verses, I found myself even at that age finding that rather boring and pointless. It won you nice rewards to pin to your vests, but in terms of understanding why we were doing this or what purpose it served I didn't quite grasp it. The family ended up moving from Michigan around the time I entered the 4th grade. My mom's side of the family made a mass exodus to Colorado after visitations to my uncle, who had had been stationed in Buckley and lived in the Denver area. Property was bought in a small town north of Colorado Springs, a new house constructed, and my parent's prepared to settle in in order to raise our growing family. It was at this point, shortly after we moved, that I accepted Jesus Christ as my Saviour and Lord. During this time we still attended church however we bounced back and forth from many different denominations.
As a kid, I really didn't notice too much of a difference or question why we changed around so much. I was too swept up with all the songs and games to be played, or going to the youth camps where we would stay up late, playing games like capture the flag. I remember one night event where the adults got to participate too. The adults would climb up into the trees and they had a spotter down below. Us kids ran around and tried to capture the adults flags but if we got caught, we had to sit out. As I got older, the events that provided games and crafts began to diminish and were replaced with heavy scripture reading. With puberty around the corner, the Sunday School teachers began to focus on us kids and our roles once we hit adulthood. They focused on passages about responsibility, being spokesmen for our faith, and eventually talking about things like marriage and sexuality. All of this at the time I absorbed like a sponge. Don't have sex before marriage. Marriage is between one man and one woman. Magic is of the devil and society has many evil things being influenced by Satan. The notion now seems so silly to me, but back in my impressionable youth, I took every word seriously even if I found myself being bored of having to sit and study the material.
This next paragraph is going to hit some areas perhaps that border on the TMI scale but I think these are pretty important. About the time I had got my first period I began to notice the verbal abuses more often that came from my mother. I knew that I was growing up and eventually I would be starting my period, but I wasn't prepared for it when the day finally came. As I recall, I was visiting a friend of mine and we had gone for a walk along a park trail that day. Before my mom came and picked me up, I had to hit the bathroom and lo and behold, a sea of red blotched my clothing. I was mortified. Even more, my mother, upon telling her this, began yelling at me that I ruined my clothes and didn't believe me when I told her I had no idea that I was going to start that day. She was under the belief that I had to have had cramps. But I didn't, so I went on my day oblivious to what was happening. After this, I think she pretty much doubted everything I said. She soon began doing fishing expeditions in my room to see if I had anything 'ungodly' in there. For the most part, there wasn't anything that she could find. It wasn't until much later that I started sneaking items in the house that I knew my parent's would find unacceptable.
Now, allow me to make a brief segway here. Ungodly to my parent's pretty much meant anything outside the Bible was unacceptable. I am a huge lover of all things fantasy. I find mythology of ancient cultures completely fascinating to read, and the imagery of their creatures and monsters excited me. So I would find myself drawing things like unicorns, dragons, gorgons, pegasus, sphynx's etc. I had drawn dragons and unicorns since I was a child. I even remember making paper dragon wings when I was a kid, pinning them to my clothes, then running around the house acting like I was a dragon. Anyway, the drawings became a source of much grief for me because my parent's didn't approve. At some point, I began writing a fantasy story (thankfully this went undiscovered) but I was so upset over the fact I had to keep my fun projects such a secret to my parent's. I knew that they would just tell me how it wasn't glorifying God and we'd spend hours arguing and fighting.
Once I had hit my teens, the seed of religious disenchantment had been planted within me. A lot of it had to do with my feelings of anti-authority, but I was still torn up over all the things I had been brought up to believe. I felt miserable about not feeling like I was a 'good' Christian because all the fights I had with my parent's over my choice of activities. As the eldest child, there was also a lot of pressure put on me to be the best and set the example for my siblings. Something that I was always struggling to do especially in school. Tried as I might, some classes I just didn't excel in even with tutoring. Again, this would also lead to a lot of fighting, insulting, and belittling of me. Eventually I got tired of getting shouted over during these fights, so I simply stopped fighting back. I also realized at this time that trying to explain emotional problems I had to my parent's because that too only ended up in arguing. I literally had no one to talk to about anything and I felt caged in. Living in Monument back then also didn't afford to many escapes if I needed to get out of the house. There were only a few joints in town that I could go to but I had no money and no car so the most I could do was go for walks. Very long ones. This put me in the best shape of my life even though my internal battles waged on horribly.
I'll continue the teen years and beyond in the Part II.
(UPDATE from previous entry)
Friday I made a return to the restaurant. It was fairly late when I was there, not many patrons in the lobby, but the guy I have a colossal crush on was working. As I was standing in line waiting, I noticed he came out from behind the counter and approach me (my heart rate increased to the point I thought it would explode out of my chest and hit the guy making my burrito) then he slid behind me as if he was on break and going to have something made up for him. Mentally I knew that wasn't the case. He takes in a shaky breath and at that point I sort of knew we both were struggling with this. I started talking with him though, but with my food having been made and I needed to pay, mentally I was wrestling with giving him my number then and there but my nerves were shot.
I ended up leaving again without giving him my number. *facepalm*
However I ended up calling my friend that night and chatting with her (I was getting tickets to see the King Tut exhibit in Denver before it left and invited her to go) and we talked about this ordeal I'm going through. Thankfully she was totally supportive and encouraged me.
So the following afternoon before I headed up to Denver, I made the snap decision to swing by the restaurant and I gave him my number. It was a tough and I was shaking like a leaf. But I did it. Now it's the waiting game. o.o I was a nervous wreck all day Saturday. Between getting that one steel nerve to hand over my number and going through the most EPIC museum experience ever, it wasn't until I had a beer in the evening that felt relaxed. XD