"As a child, I looked upon Dema with wonder, today, I am wrought with frustration, as I spend each day squinting for a glimpse of the top of the looming wall that has kept us here. It was upon my ninth year that I learned that Dema wasn’t my home. This village, after all of this time, was my trap."
We each grow up in our own little Dema. Our own little city that we think has everything to offer, but then we finally look up and realize there is so much more out there. So much more to experience.
I am here to share my genuine experience of escaping my own Dema. If this is going to upset you, then do not read it. I have zero desire to have people cry to me about being real about what I went through.
It started with my body positivity obsession. Getting back from my mission I realized a lot of my ED behaviors and thoughts came from the way women were portrayed in the media. How women are objectified and their worth is thought of as how good they look. Not only did the world's perception of a woman interfere with the way I thought of myself, but also the way women are portrayed in the church I associated with every piece of my identity. I grew up preparing to be a mother in zion and a great wife. Every lesson in Young Women’s was geared toward how to develop motherly attributes. I had just accepted in my mind that I was going to go to college, but never would use my degree because I was going to be a stay at home mom. I was afraid to even think of anything different for fear of not fulfilling my role as a woman. Do not get me wrong, I am not hating on anyone who decides to live this way. It was just that I had never contemplated that there could be more ways to live.
Lean in by Sheryl Sandberg also changed my life. She talked about how women lean back to sacrifice for their families that they may not even have yet. She talked about how women need to stand up and fight for a place at the table because it is not going to be given to us on our own. How we need to fight for equality not only in the world but also in our families and with our significant others. I loved this. I loved hearing I was just as qualified and capable as any male coworker or classmate. I started applying this in my life. When asked if I wanted to interview for the assistant supervisor position after working at New Haven for two weeks, I said yes. Despite feeling under-qualified I had faith in myself and my abilities to rise up to the occasion. Not only did I rise to the occasion of being an assistant supervisor but I was also offered the position of shift supervisor a couple of months later. For the first time in my life, I had found a job that I got fulfillment from. I felt the joy of climbing the ladder and the success of doing well in my job. I realized that I do not want to give this up, and despite what I was told growing up that did not make me selfish but as selfful (helpful to myself).
It was really difficult for me to fight for equality at school, work, and every area of my life but then have to go to church and sit with my legs crossed in silence. I started asking questions as to why women cannot have the priesthood and why I have to meet with a middle-aged white man if I do something wrong. Why disciplinary councils are only men. One thing I loved about my job was that I had the power to see what things I did not agree with and give feedback about it. Things were not always changed, but the feedback was always taken well and appreciated. I felt like I actually could make a difference for once in my life. But when I walked into church settings I was silenced. I asked questions and was told to pray about it. When I told people that I did pray about it and that my answer was not in line with the doctrines of the church, people would tell me to try again and to be sure not to confuse the devil with the Lord. I was compared to a family member of mine who “started out where I was” and eventually made a series of bad choices until he had an affair. People shared doctrine and scripture with me to show me why I was wrong and try to shove me back into my box. Back into my Dema.
It was too late though. Despite everyone trying to force me to keep looking down and going with the flow, I had looked up and seen what was out there.
I decided to take my life into my own hands. If I did not want to live my LDS lifestyle anymore, I was not going to. Simple as that. I was going to break out of Dema. At first, it was more an experiment to see if the life of a wayward soul really is so miserable, but I have discovered so much about myself in the past year. I am learning to love myself and to not feel shame about my body. The freedom to be able to wear what I want and not being accountable for other people's thoughts. The freedom to think about what I want and say what I want without the fear of going against the church. I am me. I am Kayla.
Everyone has their own path in life, I honestly believe that with every fiber of my being. The church makes some people really happy, good for them. But I
just want to make sure that everyone looks up. That everyone explores the idea that there could be more to life for them, a different way for them to live. For some people, it may be as simple as accepting that they do not want to be a lawyer when their family has pushed that on them their whole life. Either way, finding your way out of Dema will make it so you can find the path you are meant to be on.