“Taking the Road Less Traveled"
College Writing 1, Dr. Pramod Mishra
When I first started writing this piece, I expected to have a hard time expressing my feelings on this part of my life that had such a large impact. But as I began writing, the words and emotions seemed to just flow right out of my body. As a result of this piece, my family as well as myself, have a deeper and greater understanding of who I am and what has most impacted me as a person.
Excerpt from “Taking the Road Less Traveled”
“From this point, my life changed so much, so fast. At first, it was really rough because my relationship with mom had begun to change. The religion was something that really brought us together, perhaps the only thing that brought us together. But now that we didn’t have that, what would be the foundation of our relationship? Every time I looked at her I could see how disappointed she was in me. Although this chapter of my life was hard, I finally felt like I could be myself. I felt like I could be the person that I was supposed to be; I didn’t have to pretend anymore. I also had the support of my family and friends, which made getting through this time in my life so much easier.”
Taking the Road Less Traveled
by Zoie Chiarella
When I think about my life and where I am right now, many things pop into my head. There are numerous aspects of life that affect where we end up. Ever since I was little, my dad has always told me that there are an endless number of roads in life to take. Depending on the decisions you make, you could end up in so many different places. At this age, we’ve had to make a handful of decisions that are going to determine the rest of our lives, taking us down certain paths. When I carefully analyze my life and who I am today, there are only a few things and decisions I’ve made that have seriously changed my life. The two most crucial things that have impacted the person I’ve become are the people with whom I’ve surrounded myself with and religion.
Focusing on the family aspect, my home life has been unique from the very beginning. My parents were divorced when I was very young, so I grew up in two very different households that shared different beliefs. At a young age, this was especially difficult for me because I was learning two different ways of life in two different homes. Not only this, but I was always one of those kids that wanted to make everybody happy which made it extra hard. It was nearly impossible to do this when both parents held such different views. On one side I had my mom telling me one thing and then on the other side I had my dad telling me another. Because of this, I never really made decisions for myself. I was always worried about making other people happy instead of making the decision that I knew would’ve made me happy. For instance, my dad always encouraged me to be involved in extracurriculars at school as well as activities in the community, yet he never put pressure on me. Because of his influence, several years of my childhood were invested in ballet and gymnastics at the rec center. Then, when I was a bit older, I participated in cross country and track during middle school which I was so passionate about. However, my mom discouraged me from participating in these activities because they exposed me to “bad association”. Eventually, I gave into my mom’s wishes and quit the activities I was involved in despite the influence of my dad. As much as I would have loved to continue taking part in these things, it was more important for me to please my mom because she placed so much pressure on me to do so. As shown through this experience, most of the time I sided with my mom because I believed that what I was doing was what God wanted, even though in reality, it wasn’t making ME happy. Even though this was hard for me, both households were still very loving and supportive which made going through tough times easier. Because of family’s role in my life, both good and bad, is why I’ve become the person I am today. Although my family played a huge role in my development, religion played an even more important role in my life.
I grew up in a religion that was very different from the rest, a religion that was very excluded from the rest of the world. Although there were definitely some negative aspects that I saw, there were a lot of good things that came from it as well. I was always taught important values, most of which my mom shared with me from the bible. By being involved in this organization for so many years, it definitely instilled in me a great deal of morals and values. I was taught to “love your neighbor as yourself”, which I always though was such a beautiful message, to treat all individuals equally no matter what differences may exist. I was also encouraged from a young age to “obey my parents”, which was an idea that was engrained in my head. This helped me to stay out of trouble in my youth and focus on the more important things in my life. Not only did religion manifest in me some of these important principles, but it also gave me a sense of belonging. One thing I will never forget was the sense of community, togetherness, and love that I was overwhelmed with when we would all meet together. I knew that no matter what, someone would always be there for me. If I was struggling with something spiritually or even in school, there was always someone I could talk to. But even though I had this family, there were definitely still some things that I struggled with as being a part of the congregation. This includes expressing my thoughts on certain topics when we would meet together, as well as sharing with others in the public our beliefs. However, by being exposed to public speaking since I was young, allowed me to feel more comfortable when presenting projects and reading papers in front of a class. So, it definitely helped me get over this fear of mine and prepare me for some of the more professional presentations I would experience later in life. Overall, I’m very grateful that I was raised in a religious community that was so loving and caring. However, not everything was all sunshine and rainbows.
There was also a great deal of drawbacks that I experienced, such as being discouraged from participating in extracurricular activities at school and in my community, hanging out with my friends from school, and even pursuing a higher education. Not only this, but there were also a number of teachings that I always questioned and didn’t agree with from a moral standpoint. In my dad’s household, I was taught to accept everybody the way they are and that differences were a beautiful thing. They proved to me that they felt this way based on how they spoke about and interacted with other people. At my mom’s though, she told me the same thing, that we should show love to everyone we interact with. The only difference here is that at my mom’s, they taught me this, but didn’t show it. They would tell me to respect everyone, but would make disrespectful and unkind remarks, for example, about an individual’s sexual orientation. This was one of the biggest problems that I faced. I always felt that everyone should be loved and deserving of love no matter who it may be with. Yet another aspect that was challenging to accept was the role of men and women in the congregation. Just like in many religions, men were given the more important role of teaching while woman were given the role of supporting the men. I have always felt the need for things to be fair, and this was not fair at all to me. Women are just as capable and intelligent as men to carry out these same tasks successfully. Within the household, the man was supposed to be the head and be in charge. But in my experience with this, the man let all the power go to his head and he felt like he had full and complete authority over the women. Absolutely not! We are all equals. We all have the ability to reason for ourselves. Lastly, the aspect that I perhaps had the most difficulty with, was how they treated those who have “sinned”. Several members of my family were “kicked out” because of something they were accused of doing something, which some did not even do. But because they were “kicked out”, no one in the organization could associate with them until they returned to God. Which means that their own family couldn’t talk to them or associate with them. This means that if I were to fully dedicate myself to this organization, it would be frowned upon if I were to associate with family members. I’ve seen firsthand the effects that this can have on a person, and it is completely devastating. One of my family members even went as far to say they felt like these people who are avoiding contact with them were dead because they have been so absent from their life. This could be the only life we have and you are choosing to avoid someone you love? I could never, ever do this to one of my family members. All of these aspects combined pushed me to a breaking point. I had to begin asking questions and receiving answers that made sense to me. But the most common answer I would receive was, “because that’s what God says”. Shortly after I had begun questioning its teachings, I knew that I could never really come to accept them because an answer like that wasn’t enough. I was raised to believe that this was the only true religion and if I didn’t agree with something, I either had to ignore it or just accept it. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t come to terms with either of these options. After years of trying to suppress my feelings and doubts, I finally made the personal decision to leave. At first, I kept this decision to myself. Before I took any action, I had to plan things out. I had to think about how I would break the news and the lasting effects that it could have on my relationships with others. This was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make because I knew that my family members, others within the organization, and especially my mom would be so disappointed in me and my choices. I’m not sure if I ever would have mustered up enough courage if one day my mom hadn’t asked me out of the blue. She asked me if participating in the religion was something that I could continue to see myself doing in the future. I was completely caught off guard and all I could do was just sit there and shrug my shoulders. Despite my indirect response, she immediately knew that I was holding back what I really wanted to express.
From this point, my life changed so much, so fast. At first, it was really rough because my relationship with mom had begun to change. The religion was something that really brought us together, perhaps the only thing that brought us together. But now that we didn’t have that, what would be the foundation of our relationship? Every time I looked at her I could see how disappointed she was in me. Although this chapter of my life was hard, I finally felt like I could be myself. I felt like I could be the person that I was supposed to be, I didn’t have to pretend anymore. I also had the support of my family and friends, which made getting through this time in my life so much easier. Now that I had left, I was able to experience so many different opportunities. In my senior year of high school, I participated in drama which allowed me to come out of my shell a little bit and make some new friends. I was also able to spend more time with friends from school which helped me to let off some steam from the stress that I was experiencing from school and home life. Perhaps one of the most relevant changes is that I decided to pursue a higher education and attend Lewis instead of JJC. Because I made the decision to leave the organization, my whole life had been affected. I am forever grateful for the fact that I was taught to be kind, compassionate, obedient, responsible, and so many other important values that are vital to have in the real world. Ultimately, by making this decision for myself and for nobody else, I have truly been able to find myself and who I am. It has made me such a strong and confident individual, which I am so grateful for. For these reasons, religion and family have had the biggest impact on my personal growth.