People do strange things when they’re judged all the time instead of being loved. ~ 3.24.13 Californication
I heard this and immediately wanted to write about it. I wanted to say something about it because it’s a thought I’ve had but never put into words. And you should get your thoughts out of your head and onto paper. That’s what writers do. And I’m working towards being a writer.
I was born with an idea in my parents’ heads of who I should become. Parents should always want the best for their child. But I also believe they should be open to all the different outcomes that could come in. I was born to be a naïve, Christian girl. It was a path laid out for me. So, as good children do, I tried to honor my parents and make them proud. I memorized verses, I finished 12 years of AWANA. I was a Christian Camp counselor. I taught Sunday school. I went on missions trips. I was the holy grail when it came to sheltered Christian kids.
I didn’t curse, I didn’t smoke, I didn’t experiment with drugs or alcohol. I didn’t get piercings or tattoos. I didn’t date older guys. I didn’t date guys at all. I never watched a “R” rated movie. I was top tier Christian girl. It doesn’t get much more pure than that. I gave the Virgin Mary a run for her money. If I had lived back then, maybe that could have been me. I was a virgin, after all.
But after high school, I went away to college. A Christian college, mind you, but I went away nonetheless. And space was all I needed to find out who I was. I already knew who I was supposed to be. But I didn’t know who I was. The space away from my family and my church allowed me to just be. Not to be my parents’ daughter or the good church girl – just to be.
It was in college where I learned what I liked. I hadn’t heard much music besides Point of Grace, so I finally listened to and picked music I enjoyed. I found out what kind of people I gravitate towards. I discovered what it is I really love to do. In college, I wrote. And the more I wrote, the more myself I felt. And the more myself I became, the less churchy I became.
I morphed from overly judgmental to more accepting. I began to think for myself. I believed in what I thought, rather than what I was told. I learned I have a sense of humor. I guess I didn’t know that before. Before, I had always felt like a caricature – that sheltered, homeschooled, church girl that didn’t know who Pee Wee Herman was. I had been a spectacle – not one of a group, I was the outsider. But once I became myself, I found friends who accepted me.
Through this transformation, I learned about the world around me – something I had completely missed until then. And in this transformation, my naivety waned. I was excited about turning into myself finally. But when I acted like myself in front of my parents, the excitement wasn’t returned. There were questions about what I was doing and assumptions I was doing things wrong. I immediately felt judged. I felt that I had to shut myself down and revert back to acting the way they wanted me to act.
I kept this charade up as much as I could stand it – it was just for holidays and some weekends after all, it couldn’t be that hard. But being someone and acting like someone else is exhausting. And it didn’t last all the way through college, anyway, because it was my senior year in college when I got pregnant. I remember so vividly the reaction I got from the people who had known me for so long – the blatant disappointment. People do strange things when they’re judged instead of loved.
So I moved away again. I moved back to Nebraska – the place where I had transformed into myself a few years before. I moved to where I felt loved. I moved away from the judgment and disappointment because although I knew it still existed, the distance made it sting a bit less. And when I moved here, my friends were here. They didn’t hold any grudges against me for getting pregnant. They accepted me for who I was and what I had done. If they were disappointed, I didn’t know it. I felt loved again.
I am a mom now. I have a daughter being raised by wonderful parents. I have a son I try every day to raise to be a good person. I have been married nearly seven years. I have a good job. We are only 15 years away from owning this home we live in. I don’t have any vices. The people I love, I love furiously. I don’t purposefully hurt people. I work every day to improve myself and become a better person. And I still don’t feel like that is good enough. I feel like if only I had turned out the way I was planned to, if only I could ignore myself and be someone else’s paper doll of myself, maybe that would be enough.
Because despite my accomplishments and the person I am, I don’t go to church. I watch rated R movies. I make raunchy jokes. I drink on occasion. I curse recreationally. I had sex before I was married. And because of that, I will always be thought of as lesser than someone who didn’t do these things. I see this over and over again with children of religious upbringings. I see judgment. I hear lectures. I feel the disappointment. And I just want to shout that all of that is clogging up spaces where love could be.
Love people for who they are. Don’t expect them to be someone else. Just because someone didn’t turn out the way you expected them to doesn’t mean they didn’t turn into someone great. People come in different versions. We have different stories with different endings. We don’t all have to be the same. Embrace the person. When you do, you’ll see more of them, hear more from them, and become a larger fixture in their life. People want to be around people where they feel love, not judgment. We all want to be loved and accepted. It’s time we start doing to others as we would have them do to us.