This post has accumulated through a few random triggers and memories, I wonder what my life might have been like if I had never studied with the witnesses way back when I was 9 or 10 years old. My mother was disfellowshipped and the congregation she attended occasionally, had observant elders who suggested that a regular pioneer study with me. I declined at first, I had no interest in spending an hour every week ‘studying the Bible’, well it was the ‘knowledge book’ first and then we did … (oh wow, I’ve forgotten, how about that?) An elder who had known my mother since she was a little girl insisted I agree to the study, and that is when my formal indoctrination began. I was already well on my way anyway with my mother teaching me so this was a step up. Well, we did two whole books and then it was time that I made a decision. I had to start doing field service. I absolutely completely HATED it. Not being able to open my mouth to preach was why I didn’t progress to baptism. I ‘lost’ my unbaptised publisher status and stopped going to the meetings. I was ‘out’ for about two years between the ages of 16 and 17. Enormous pressure was placed on me from many angles to get ‘right again’. An elder yelled at me at my door because I wasn’t doing what he thought I was supposed to, sending me into floods of tears. My mother complained to that same regular pioneer and was told it was because this elder cared so much about me, that is why he yelled. The regular pioneer visited VERY regularly, I realise now it was also easy time for her field service constantly checking on me. Fast forward a little and I was in my last year of high school and since I was so depressed and feeling like such a failure it appeared like being a good witness would make my life better.
Up until then I had been ‘a sort of’ witness. I didn’t do any of the nice things ‘worldly’ kids could do but I also didn’t have any of ‘love bombing’ or support that witness friends may have given me. It took me years before I actually made a witness friend. To explain I was an incredibly shy child, painfully shy in fact. Most of this was due to the abuse I experienced in my childhood making me very withdrawn and frightened of just about everything. I didn’t do after school activities, I didn’t really excel in any of my school work besides history because I was afraid I may get noticed and perhaps get a bursary for further education. To avoid that I just made sure I was dead average about almost everything, sometimes less than average, my maths scores were really poor regardless :).
I got baptised at 18 years old and it seemed as if my life was finally on the right track. I forced myself to speak at the door, and it was like I was being blessed by Jehovah. Things were working out, I was auxiliary pioneering and though I was a bit older than some of the others in the congregation ‘on my level’ I was finally accepted. I belonged somewhere. Funny that, I finally belonged somewhere and it made me an exile from the entire world. I had pretty much being taught that I was an inconvenience from birth so just coasting through life and staying under the radar seemed a good idea. The less chance I had to fail, the less I would fail. I required very little of myself because my self esteem was less than zero. Being a Witness, achieving anything at all in the world wasn’t on the agenda so I wasn’t challenged to do anything.
In primary school all the kids had to run a certain distance and the first 20 who got back could be in the cross country team. I immediately got my mother to write a letter to get me out of it because I took what she had taught me so seriously. The PT teacher was angry with me and said I couldn’t excuse myself from everything. Wanna bet? Go a few years back and another teacher said I wouldn’t amount to anything because I got out of being on the scholar patrol. The scholar patrol would do the salute to the flag every morning and I couldn’t obviously. My whole life seemed to be a list of failures and I hadn’t even reached twenty, I was one foot in with the witnesses and one foot in the world, and neither of them cared for me. I chose the witnesses as I genuinely thought it was the right thing to do, did I have any other information to compare to? No, my mother had taught me and my father was a non-practising Mormon.
Even though I became more deeply depressed as the years went by being a Witness I would have still stuck with it because it was all I knew. It took something earth shattering like falling in love to change the direction of my thinking. There is still a great deal of my ‘old thinking’ that I’m still having to deal with. I made a great deal of progress and done a lot of healing in therapy but as always its the day to day that really teaches me. I should require more of myself, my morality is not dictated by the Governing Body, I can reach out and help anyone I want to. I can write that novel and finish it, I can register to run a race and pitch up and finish that too. Yes, I walked almost the entire way, but I still got the first medal I ever received and though everyone else got one too, that medal is super important to me.
When you have been encased in glass for years, watching everyone else LIVE and you finally get out and breathe in the free air – you owe it to yourself to live too. Do those things that excite you, that you’ve always wanted to, even if its something silly and childish. It doesn’t matter, being a kid for awhile isn’t a bad thing every once in awhile. Run that race, help that charity, study further, write your memoir, tell others that listening to the witnesses will not enrich their lives, it will only darkened it. Witnesses live in a permanent state of suspense, waiting for their actual lives to begin. Your life is right now, at this minute, so require more of yourself and live your life and expand your joy and happiness.