In the past, I have mentioned that I grew up in a home that was religious, but not particularly spiritual. My father was a Baptist minister (hence the PK in the title – I was a Preacher’s Kid) and everything we did revolved around the church. When I was very young, the house we lived in was basically in the church parking lot. Our living room was used for Sunday School classes and people had no hesitation dropping in if my dad wasn’t in the church office.
My Junior High years were spent in Tacoma, WA where my dad took a job as a fundraiser for the local Seminary. This meant he preached in a different church every Sunday all while raising money for the school. If he was speaking in a church close by, we all went with him. Which meant a new church with new people pretty much every week. My brother and I hated it. We would beg to just sit in the car and have our own church. We promised to sing hymns, read the Bible and even take up an offering – just so we didn’t have to face a new set of kids in a strange Sunday School class. As a 13 year old this was particularly horrible – Jr High…well, they aren’t always the most friendly group.
This was also the time that we attended Tacoma Baptist Schools, a particularly rigid institution where free thinking was STRICTLY FORBIDDEN. I actually thrived in the rigid setting because I am great at taking in information and spitting it back out. Don’t ask me to analyze it or come up with an opinion though, that gives me great stress.
During this time, I remember driving many miles to go see a movie – “Return of the Jedi” I believe it was. We couldn’t risk being seen by anyone we knew…..movies were a big no-no.
We moved to California when I started High School, and I went to the local public school, but 98% of my friends were from church and I stayed far far away from trouble.
When it came time to choose a college, I received information from schools all over the country. There was a school in Maine that intrigued me, but I really wanted to go to UCLA. My parents just assumed that I would go to The Master’s College, a school in Los Angeles formerly named Los Angeles Baptist College. And even though it wasn’t my first choice, because of who I was, I didn’t want to make waves or disappoint them so I never said different, and off I went. It probably suited my personality best, the small school with the code of conduct, discouraging outside the box thinking, but sometimes I wonder how far I could have gone if I went to a place with more opportunities.
This is the box I grew up in. The religious box, never drifting from what you were taught. Never questioning, just believing. Never thinking for yourself, but blindly following what your minister, teachers or parents told you was right.
It took me a long time to even realize there was a box, and even longer still to pop my head out of it. And still to this day I spend a lot of time in the box…forgetting that I can have my own opinions about things. I can believe in evolution AND creation. I don’t have to choose. i can know that Jesus is real and so is global warming! I can go to church because I want to, not because it’s required by my parents, or by the school that I chose to attend.
Peeking out of the box is exhilarating and scary…and the feelings change minute by minute. The one thing I am sure of, and it’s true for everyone, is that you aren’t really living if you are trapped in a box someone else has created for you. It could be a religious box, not allowing you the freedom to question what you believe because you are afraid that you might change your beliefs. It could be a gender box. ”Girls don’t wash the car.” was a frequent comment I heard growing up when I wanted to help with that chore. It could be a marriage and family box. You might feel pressured to get married and have kids when you have no desire for that. (I have friends who are constantly talking about their grown daughter and how “her life would be complete” if she found a man and got married. It drives me crazy!) It doesn’t matter what you believe or want or wish for, just make sure it’s yours and not another’s.
I frequently feel saddened because I spent so long in a box and not really living.
What opportunities did I miss? There was a time I wanted desperately to be a veterinarian. I think my choice of college and my fear of challenging the box that was created for me caused me to miss that opportunity. I loved playing music, but again, my fear of doing anything that would put me out there for people to see caused me to put away my trumpet and give up.
Living with those regrets isn’t living either. I can’t change the past. I have to decide from today to really live….taking each minute as a gift and not squandering any more of the precious life I have. Now, I’m not saying that I have never jumped outside this box. I have done things that have been at odds with those who wanted me to stay in the box. I’ve taken chances and done what I wanted to do instead of what I was expected to do. As I look back, those decisions made (and in most cases continue to make) me very happy. They were the right decisions. But unfortunately, I hopped back in the box – never daring to venture out for long (even to give an opinion). Until now….
That is my quest for the future. Hopefully there will be many more blog posts about my journey as I climb from the box. Expect to hear the struggles and joys and hopefully find encouragement to peek out of the box you might be hiding in – the real world is a great place!