When I was 13 my brother (who was then 18) and his girlfriend (now my sister-in-law) came up pregnant. It was a Big Deal in the small church, in the family, and it felt like in the whole town. Of course, in reality it wasn’t nearly as startling as all that, but at the time – a scant 3 years after my parent’s separation – I felt like it was all anyone was talking about. Once again, the church was talking about us – but this time, something was different. And what was different, was me.
They wanted to get married, and the church wouldn’t marry them.
These two, great, beautiful people who had grown up in the church, who loved each other, and also happened to be about to have a baby, wanted to get married. . .and the church wouldn’t perform the ceremony because of the pregnancy. It was the first time that I became acutely aware of the hidden hypocrisy within the church, and I became angry and then cynical. Where was the Grace? Where was the Love? Why didn’t this line up with the Jesus that I read about in my Bible? And I let that cynicism grow up around me and become my shield. I never let go of my belief in God – but I quickly let go of my belief in organized religion.
I still went to church, because I still lived with my mother, and if you lived with my mother church was NOT OPTIONAL. But I went with a hesitant and cold heart, primarily focused on uncovering the behaviors within the people there that reinforced my views.
High school happened, and for whatever reason, it was easier on me than middle school. I had developed some coping mechanisms, I was rarely self-harming, and I used my hard, crusty cynicism I had found at church and spread it around liberally to apply to just about everyone. In my mind, everyone had an ulterior motive, and it was best to just acknowledge that on the upfront. It definitely wasn’t the healthiest of mindsets, but it worked in some ways.
I did well academically, and was super focused on getting good grades, to go to a good college, get the heck out of town, and get a job that paid real money. I was tired of being lower middle-class, and was going to use my perfectionist tendencies to fuel my path out of here. I joined the band, I had good friends, and I dated a bit.
Not that my depression and anxiety didn’t show up at all. I wrote dark, crappy poetry. I was prone to hope that I wouldn’t wake up the next morning after a rough day. I took everything personally. And so very seriously.
I was still a straight up good girl, still out of fear of God and fear of getting caught, but it kept me out of trouble for the most part. I basically never did anything that was outside the standard, good girl, Christian, academic-focused box. And then came James.
James and I had known each other since Kindergarten, but had always moved in different circles. And then one day a mutual friend set us up, and it was all over for me. At the time, I didn’t believe in love, didn’t believe in monogamy, didn’t believe in commitment. And then came James.
I tried to keep it cool, keep the cynical façade intact, and I failed miserably. Within 3 months I was 100% sure that this was The One, I was changing my “get out of Dodge” plans in favor of staying close to him, and all my talk of love being a lie changed to a standard, sappy, teenage love affair.
Except that our standard, sappy, teenage love affair stuck. I changed my plans and went to college locally, he took a job and went to school part time. . . and we got married. On the winter break between 1st and 2nd semester of my freshman year of college, at the ripe old age of 18, I married a long haired, rebel-at-heart, gem of a guy, and settled into married life.