My identity used to be made up mainly of three areas. Grades, health, and the Church.
The most obvious one was the health obsession. This is the one that most people, including myself, clearly saw and knew I needed help with. Originally, I thought it was my only problem. Thanks to therapy and other a lot of self reflection, I have since realized this is not true.
Not too long after working on my health obsession I noticed the trap getting perfect A’s had built for me. Finally, I got my first A- I had gotten since the first quarter of 6th grade and I felt so much freedom when I had broken my perfect 4.0 GPA. One less part of me pretending to be perfect.
The one that took longer for me to realize was the church. Due to some rough experiences I had throughout my mission, I questioned if the church was for me when I got back. I quickly hushed my doubts due to fear of doubting the church. Fear of what will happen to me if I decide it does not make me happy.
Throughout the course of the next year I slowly worked on my black and white thinking. The more I let go of impossible standards the more free I felt and the happier I was. It was still hard for me to challenge these rules I had written for myself in Middle School and held myself to ever since then. But I learned different skills and coping mechanisms to help when the same person who tricked my old self would start to take over.
Something was still missing though. Something was still keeping me in my black and white mentality. Something was keeping me feeling trapped and troubled. Something else.
One of the main reasons I finally allowed myself to investigate more on this subject was because of my therapist here in Utah County. I started talking to him about how trapped I felt in the church, like I was in too far before I realized what I was getting into. He asked me what I wanted most in my life, and I told him I wanted to be free. As soon as I said it I knew it really was what I wanted most at that time. Freedom to choose my own life without pressure of society, church, people, or anything else. Freedom to be me. Freedom to drink tea at a tea plantation in China without feeling guilt. Freedom to support the LGBTQ community and feminism without feeling like I am not allowed to. Freedom to wear shorts if I want to. Freedom to not be ashamed of my body. Freedom to think however I please. Freedom to find my own path to happiness.
Realizing my desire for this freedom was exhilarating while traumatizing at this same time. I went through a lot of ups and downs, a lot of tears, moments of happiness, frustration, anger, and relief while deciding what to do with this information I discovered about myself. I thought about all the judgement I would get from people. I know that people look down on return missionaries who “go astray” more than almost anything.
I decided to give up the expectations I felt from the Church and explore if this REALLY was true. It made me scared at first, the picture always painted in my head is that without the church I would turn into this crazy sex obsessed drug head that can’t control myself. Turns out that was wrong, surprising right? Actually, I am still me. I am still McKayla. I am still a good person, with good intentions, and good desires. I know it may seem to some people that I have been led away by the devil, but I actually feel really close to God. I still know that I am a beloved daughter of God. I still know that Jesus Christ is my Savior, and I still feel them leading my life. People can say this isn’t true, but that doesn’t matter to me. Because I know and they know and that is all that matters. God has guided me to each piece that helped me realize that the church is not for me at this time in my life.
But you just transferred to BYU, right? What about that? I didn’t want to bail out again on this school and thought I would just fake it until I make it. Go to church, pretend I am the perfect girl I have always pretended to be, get my ecclesiastical endorsements, graduate, and move out of state to go to graduate school and finally be myself. Remember how I am still McKayla? I still want to be true to myself, others, and God. It still goes against everything I believe in to walk around pretending someone I am not. Wearing garments when I go to church and to visit my family but nowhere else. Pretending that the reason I am happier is not because I have decided to let go of my identity as a Mormon.
I decided I am going to be authentic, despite the consequences. It made me sad to think that although I am still me, just a happier, care-free version of me, people will still treat me differently. People will see me differently. People will look down on me and pretend to be nice to my face while judging me and talking crap behind my back. And don’t tell me this won’t happen, because I have been on the other side and I can ASSURE you it does happen and I will be no exception.
Sometimes I look at pictures of my past McKayla and I just mourn for her. Feeling like I had to pretend to perfect on the outside while so much turmoil was going on in the inside. For the poor little girl who always thought there was something wrong with her for being so unhappy, anxious, and afraid of what everyone else thought of her. Thinking that if I just read my scriptures longer and more sincerely, went to the temple more, listened to better music, I would be happy like they promise in church. I mourn for the girl who hated herself more than anything and tried everyday to be someone she was not to make up for it. Do not get me wrong, I was a happy child who loved my life. There just was a lot going on underneath what everyone else saw.
Now, I know this sounds depressing. And I am full aware that my life was and is so much more fortunate than most people (it's all relative). I am not complaining, I am just hoping that people can take my experience and use it in their own lives or other's lives.I am so grateful for my life and all I have been through. It has made me who I am and has led me to find some of my biggest passions in my life. I don’t blame anyone, I don’t hate the church, I just don’t want to have anything to do with it. At least for now. I am taking things one day at a time. I am a firm believer that everyone has their own unique path to happiness, and I am just working on finding mine.
Oh, to answer your question about BYU, great school. Not for me. I am transferring, I applied to the U, but am still not sure what I want to do. I am not worried though, I will figure it out because I always do.