To most people I’ve met since starting college, I’m just the girl with the crazy background. I’m the girl with a million siblings, the girl who had a weird upbringing, the girl who doesn’t quite fit in. People are nice about it and all, but they don’t understand. How could they? It’s not part of their world.
But then there are the people you run into randomly who do understand, and meeting them is like a drink of cold water in the desert. It’s like a breath of fresh air in a stagnant room. It’s like living in a foreign country and meeting someone from your home state; you’ve never met before, but there’s an instant connection, an instant understanding.
I met the first several years ago, and we have since become best friends though we live far apart. She was, like me, homeschooled by conservative religious parents, and like me, she had left her parents beliefs, and not without tension. Like me, she had flirted with Catholicism on her way to leaving religion altogether. We had grown up on the same messages, read the same magazines, gone to the same sorts of seminars, and met the same leaders. When I spoke, she understood. When she spoke, I understood. We had a common cultural currency, and meeting her was like finding a soul mate. I could finally really let my hair down. We laughed together, we cried together – it meant so much to me.
I have met others since then.
There was the girl I knew growing up but had since lost track of whose facebook page I suddenly realized was devoid of any mention of God. I messaged her delicately, she replied just as delicately, and suddenly the floodgates opened and we learned of our common experiences. On her way out of evangelicalism, she had tried out Episcopalianism before leaving religion. She talked of her parents’ reaction, of their fear, their anger, their rejection. We connected in that moment; we understood each other.
There’s the guy I’ve met this semester who grew up Baptist and is today agnostic. He came out as gay in college, and his parents and pastor ran interventions and tried to fix him. He, too, became Catholic before leaving religion altogether. We talked and talked and talked, comparing experiences. Amazingly, he had actually heard of Quiverfull and knew what it was. He understands me.
Then there are those I have met through blogging, and one blogger in particular (you know who you are!). We compare experiences, we compare hopes and dreams, we compare fear and concerns. Our backgrounds are so similar that we actually realized we were once at the same camp, though we did not know each other then. She understands me.
Those moments of understanding mean something. Those moments of finding someone else who has walked a similar path, someone who actually really understands you and your experiences, are priceless. In a world where I am sometimes I afraid I will never really fit in, those moments give me hope.