|15 year old self.|
It's year nine, I'm fourteen years old and it's January. It's my friend's birthday party and it's a sleepover, but I'm not sleeping over because it's a Saturday night and I'm going to church the next morning. And that's the whole point. I'm not sleeping over because I'm going to church in the morning. And I'm happy with that choice. But it's not widely understood by my friends at the party. They don't understand why I can't just miss one Sunday.
It's the same night. Same age, same party, same friends. Everyone is drinking a brightly coloured, sweet smelling alco-pop. I'm not. Even though "if you just drink this last mouthful there's not even that much alcohol in it!" They're my friends so they all know that I don't drink, but I've explained it again anyway. I'm happy that I've stuck to a choice that I've already made long before the party even started. It's not widely understood by my friends at the party. (But this time most of them don't mind so much because it means that there's a free alco-pop up for grabs.)
It's year eleven. I'm fifteen years old, at school in my GCSE history class. We're learning about the American West during the time of the big immigration. Part of the syllabus is the Mormons. ("Does anyone know the proper name of the Mormon church?" "Yes Sir, it's The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." The boy sat next to turns and ask "how the heck do you know that?" "I am one.") The history teacher is great. He tells loads of stories peppered with character voices, hyperbole and dramatics that captivate the class and genuinely make them interested in history. But some of his stories about the early Mormons in the American West aren't quite accurate and aren't quite as respectful as they might have been. The accuracy has nothing to do with the teacher, he only knows what is in the curriculum and he only knows about Mormons from a historical persepective, not a religious perspective. The slightly lacking respect however, was all him. My whole class knows that I'm a Mormon. They ask me questions about what they've been taught in our history class and I gladly answer them and sometimes correct their misunderstandings. Eventually the history teacher is told that I'm a Mormon and he apologises to me. I'm happy with my choice to talk about my faith with some of my classmates, but mostly they don't understand why I believe what I believe and most of them think that I'm a bit strange.
It's my first year of A-levels. I'm sixteen years old and in my second ever psychology class. My class has two teachers and this is the first time that I'm meeting my second teacher. Straight away she is very open about her sexuality and her atheist beliefs. She is very different from any teacher I've ever had before. We call her by her first name and she freely expresses her (extreme) opinions on God and religion. She asks if anyone in the class is religious. I look around. I raise my hand. I am the only one. She hones in on me and pelts me with questions. Are you a Christian? Which church? What do you believe in? Why? I was happy to answer her questions, but I was so aware of everyone staring at me and the slight tone of ridicule in her voice. I was happy to share my beliefs and I intended in time to make everyone in the class aware of them and my church membership. Eventually. But I want them to know me as Becky - the Mormon first, not 'The Mormon - oh, whats her name again?" I'm happy with my choice to raise my hand and answer the teachers questions, to declare my Mormonism to the whole class before I even know all of their names, but these strangers that were my classmates and my teacher didn't really understand my faith or why I believe.
I'm now in my third year of university. I've had more experiences like these, where I've explained to people about my faith, my beliefs, my religion. I'm happy with the choices that I've made to do this, my faith is a large, nay huge, nay massive part of who I am, but sometimes, because of my choices I've singled myself out, drawn a big red arrow above my head that points out that I'm different. And I'm happy with that.
On Friday I go to France. I'll be there for a month with 11 other girls from my primary education course. I don't know any of these girls especially well and this is the first time that I'll have spent a lot of time with and lived with people that aren't Mormons too. They're nice girls, I know this for sure, so in this coming month I'm sure that I'm going to have many more opportunities to be with happy with choices to explain what being a Mormon is, what I believe and why I believe it.
Here's to choices that we're happy with. Ching ching.