Although I wasn't technically "born in the truth" since my parents were barely studying at the time of my birth, I basically was since my dad was familiar with it from his upbringing and instituted many of the JWs doctrine. My mother wasn't entirely enthusiastic about the whole thing, but she loved my father and figured it to be harmless. Still, she took me on occasion to the church she grew up in, as well as had my picture taken with the Easter bunny. I also had a few wonderful, fully photographed, Christmases that left my adolescent self longing for toddlerhood.
Around the time I start to actually have memories was when my family decided to actually do something about "the truth". Some of my earliest memories involve sitting in my red rocking chair in the living room, listening to my parents and the married couple that came over weekly to study with them, while pretending to follow along in the big yellow book full of Bible stories. Soon, we started going to all of the meetings. I was a relatively well behaved child, and would sit quietly 'reading a book', or fall asleep. Everything seemed perfect to me. There was an answer for everything my childish mind could think to ask. I remember once begging for a dog, and being told that I couldn't have one, but as long as I loved Jehovah, in the new order I could have as many pets as I wanted. In my mind, that seemed fair, so I scurried off to play some sort of pretend game where I was riding my pet lion.
Before I started school, I had a younger brother that was born prematurely. He was misdiagnosed by the pediatrician, and when his real sickness was discovered, it was too late. After a lot of commotion, the doctors decided that he needed a blood transfusion. My parents of course refused, but one was forced on him anyway. He went into a state of shock because of it, and died. My family could have taken legal action, but instead decided to move on, focus on Jehovah, and await the resurrection. I was confused as to why someone could live such a short tragic life, only to be brought back again. This was the start of hefty questions on my list of things that didn't make sense to me.
Once I entered school, things started to change. There weren't very many children my age in my congregation, and the older children had no use for me. With no one but my younger brother to play with, I was ecstatic when it was time for me to start Kindergarten. I knew there were people that didn't believe in "the truth" but for some reason I thought that school was a safe place, and I would have tons of new friends to play with. Not quite the case. I was the only witness in my grade, so I was often alone when the class would do holiday or birthday oriented things. When I was in first grade, my teacher felt sorry for me, so she kept a supply of goodies for me to eat alone in the class room when the other children went to the playground to indulge in birthday treats. I took them eagerly, however when my mother found out about it, she told me to decline the next time. So, I was left to my cross words and word searches, while everyone else had fun. I wasn't necessarily bitter about it at the time. Sure, I was sad, but I often consoled myself with the thought that I'd have forever to eat cake and have Jehovah approved parties in Paradise.
I was very precocious, and knew how to read long before I even entered school, and as a result was in advanced classes all throughout school. I was also on the Ministry School and a Publisher in my early Elementary school days. I was known in the congregation as "the girl that makes good comments". I did make good comments. I loved attention, and knowing that everyone had their eyes and ears on me, and I would be darned if I didn't give them a show. My ministry school talks were impeccable (I always got the highest marks) and I was often used in little skits performed at the meetings. I hated not going to sleepovers and not having a best friend. I was so jealous that other kids got to be in plays and in chorus, but I just threw myself into Kingdom Hall duties to try and forget.
When I was in second grade I was placed in the same class as one of my cousins. I tried to 'witness' her about birthday parties, and why the next time someone had one she should abstain. She assured me that she would. However, the next time one rolled around she didn't. Full of emotions (betrayal, anger, and fear for her life at Armageddon) I penned a letter to her mother encouraging her to think twice about allowing her to celebrate birthdays and salute the flag. Needless to say, that did not go over well. I got into a lot of trouble with my teacher (she was a witch that shouldn't be allowed around children) when word got back to the school. My parents were informed, and they went over to my cousin's house to do some damage control. Oddly enough, I didn't get anything at home for it. My father simply had a conversation with me about being tactful and told me to lay low for a while.
I got in trouble for everything else. It seemed like I was always getting spanked or being put on punishment for something. I'm not saying I was abused, but my father was no Mr. Cleaver. I lived in fear of him more so than anything. Not so much his punishment, but his disappointment. Until fairly recently I was a Daddy's girl, so having my father angry at me was not favorable. Even though I often had done nothing wrong, I would take my punishment, seethe about it for a while, and then get over it. His bad temper was just part of his imperfections, right?
Things started to change when I got to the fifth grade. My family decided to go into business for itself. My father owned a profitable computer repair business for years, but had made some investments and decided to open up a boutique. Evening meetings weren't a problem. However, somebody had to work on Saturdays, or what would be the point? For a while, one parent would work while the other took my brother and me out in service, but we eventually stopped going altogether. We were still going to the meetings though, so my family and I would write in random numbers on our time slips so we wouldn't be deemed inactive, and kept on truckin.
Around this time, I saw for the first time just how problem ridden my parent's marriage was. My father started out having a business relationship with a lady who sold wares in the same location as us, but that eventually turned into more. I didn't really see it at first. I was smitten with her. She was young, she gave me 'big girl' magazines to read, and would constantly hand down purses and jewelry to me that she'd grown tired of. It was like having a big sister. However, I started to notice how my mom would look whenever she was around, and the way her voice would change when she talked about her. I was far too old for my age and started picking up on cues around the house that escaped my brother's notice. By the age of 12 or 13 we'd pretty much stopped going to the meetings, and my father wouldn't come home at night. My mother would cry. I knew why, but I dared not say.
Despite only going to the memorial and to meetings while visiting with my grandmother, my father still enforced JW law on everyone but himself. However, due to his frequent absences, I was able to get away with more. I participated in chorus, and band. My favorites were the school plays, especially the musicals. My father would often comment on how the time I spent doing these things could be better spent on the Ministry. However, after countless arguments and groundings, I simply accepted that I was going to have to take his crap for as long as I lived there.
For years I’d been depressed. I longed to go to a counselor, but was scared to ask about it. I’d often thought about suicide. For some reason I thought, “Well maybe if I kill myself before I sin too badly, that I’ll be fine. If the JWs are right, maybe I’ll be resurrected. If the Catholics are right, I’ll just have some purgatory to put up with, and if everyone else that I’ve looked up is right, I’ll be forgiven, and taken into the arms of the Father. If no one is right…then I’ll never know.”
Thankfully I didn’t live there much longer. The summer after the big high school musical, my mother had enough. She packed us up, and moved up about 5 hours away. It was only supposed to be a temporary separation, with him coming to live with us after he sold his shop and tied up affairs (no pun intended) back home, but he later 'forgot' that he ever agreed to this.
Anyway…my junior and senior years of high school were great. At 16, I finally had a chance to do things that my peers had been doing for years. I went to movies, talked to boys on the phone, and I even exchanged and received Christmas gifts. It was a brand new place so I didn’t have the JW reputation to get in the way of my happiness. Aside from a memorial or two and a couple random meetings, I was free, at least technically. On a basic level, I wasn’t. Every time I asked to do something, instead of saying something sensibly strict to forbid me from it, my mom would say, “You know how you were raised! The organization says….” I knew that if I kept badgering here, that she would cave in, and murmur something about hoping my father wouldn’t find out.
My senior year, I applied to schools all over the world. Literally. I wanted to get away so badly, it was slightly unhealthy. However, my dream school, the school I’d wanted to attend since I was 10 was NYU. I filled out my application, worked on my essay religiously, signed up for SAT subject tests, and waited to get the tax records I needed from my father. My mother didn’t want me to go so far away to school, but she wasn’t necessarily opposed. Her worries of college were like any parent. My father however refused to send me the tax info I needed for my FAFSA, so I could not get it filled out until much past the deadline for financial aid. My father insisted on switching between telling me that I was too stupid for college and telling me that I was the smartest person I knew and that I should use it to spread “the Word”. It was so hypocritical; I hardly took notice of it. He didn’t talk to me for a while after that, but I didn’t really mind. He only called to tell me how much of a failure I was anyway.
There was no way I could afford NYU without aid, so I put away my essay and application, saving them for another year. I’d gotten in to every where I applied to though, so I was only limited by money. As much as I hated to, I ended up staying instate and going to a school a couple hours away.
My mother didn’t come see me once after she brought me there to move in. Granted, it was impossible for a few months since my father had taken the vehicle she had been using (it was in both of their names) and she couldn’t even get to work. However, all the other times…it was as if she wanted to discourage me with out doing it out rightly. She knew I would not respond at all favorably to that. I went home on holiday though, and cringed often. My mother had started going back to the meetings on a decent basis. Her two jobs often stopped her, but when she wasn’t working she was at the Hall. I came home in November to literature spread out on the table, and I was given a revised copy of that DUMB Young People Ask book. I read it cover to cover and saw that it was the same crap in a shinier package and put it in her closet. I didn’t want it near me. She spoke of taking me to the meeting, but I told her that I had nothing appropriate to wear, so she backed off. Right before I left for break, I’d posted an ad on CL as a joke with my roomies on the personals section. I got a lot of wacko responses, which was what I was going for, but a few thoughtful ones that made me want to ditch the party girl life that I was growing tired of in school. So, I made arrangements to meet a guy (in a public, well populated place) that responded and happened to live back home. As far as dates go, this one sucked. We ended up at a bar that I couldn’t drink at, so I watched him chug and listened to his story while I nursed a bottle of water and sneakily watched the soccer game playing over his head. After that night was over, I had to sneak back in my house, and called my friends up to tell them how bad of a night it was. But that horrible date was amazing. I was learning things about myself. I also learned that just because a guy is 25 doesn’t mean he acts like an adult..but that’s another story.
Anyway... I ended up meeting a guy. An amazing guy. Our first date was perfect, and every one there after. He took me to his church during our first week of dating. I was terrified. I’d gone to mass at a Catholic church before, but nothing prepared me for this….Christian rock playing, Pentecostal influenced singing, dancing, praising, non-denominational, loving place. I didn’t agree with everything being taught (I don’t think I’ll ever find a place that teaches EXACTLY what I feel) but it was little things. The important things fit. They fit like nothing had ever fit before. No one had to convince me of it. I didn’t have to read books, and highlight answers to find the truth, and feel enlightened. I heard the truth, and I knew it, just like the early Christians.
My mom found out about him after a month through some careful questions and mother’s intuition. To my knowledge my father is not aware. My mother surprisingly let him sleep over at our house while I was staying at home during summer vacation. Separate rooms of course. She’s under the impression that as long as she doesn’t condemn me, I will stop rebelling, and come to see the error of my ways.
At this moment in time I find myself with a dilemma. I am so thankful I wasn’t forced into baptism like others, so I at least won’t have to face the pain of disfellowshipping. Still, most of my family is still in the organization, and very active. Lots of my cousins that were raised JW became inactive after they reached adulthood, but as long as they weren’t disfellowshipped, they were still treated warmly. Only one family member was ever disfellowshipped, but her family is pretty much a big deal in their circuit so she was only out a few months. If her ‘sin’ hadn’t been so public, it probably wouldn’t have been publicly addressed at all.
I need to confess to my family though. Many things. Not in a ‘my conscience is bothering me’ way, but in a ‘this is my family and I want to be able to tell them about my life’ way. That amazing guy wants to marry me in the near future and we would love to tell my family. His family pretty much knows for the most part, but now it is time for mine. Not only do I have the engagement news to tell, they also will invariably have to be told about my position on the Society. I know, without a doubt, that the whole unevenly yoked thing is going to come up, and I’m going to have to reveal all of my revelations and then be called an apostate by my own flesh and blood. No matter how many times I go over it in my head…there seem like no right words to say. I’ve tried talking to my friends, but since none of them know how JWs operate, they think I’m exaggerating and offer no practical advice.
Any words of wisdom would be greatly appreciated. To those of you that got through this whole thing- I wish I could give you a cookie.