Choosing Paganism and Processing Regret

I’m 30 and it’s hitting me hard. Older folks may chuckle at that, but I think we all have birthdays that hit us hard at different points of our life.

Sad pug is sad.

My life today is not what I would have predicted or hoped it to be, in more ways than one. When I was 14 I would have said that by 30 I would be married to an Evangelical man, be a housewife and have at least 5 children. When I was 18 I would have said I would be living in London, working in a research library and married to a professor. When I was 25 I would have said I would at least have my own place and a boyfriend.

While it’s true that my desires changed over the years and unforseen circumstances changed my life, I can’t deny that converting to Paganism changed my life in ways I could not have understood when I was 17. For all the benefits of being Pagan, I can’t help but be aware that it has limited my life, made it more difficult and left me more isolated than I would have been otherwise.

Had I remained a Christian, I would have found an abundance of spiritual communities to choose from, rather than a small handful, and the support provided by those communities would be available on at least a weekly basis and through various programs.

Had I remained a Christian, my participation in my spiritual community would be a mark of distinction that would recommend me professionally and socially.

Had I remained Christian, dating, marriage and creating a family would not only be easier, but it would be a supported goal of my spiritual community.

Had I remained a Christian, I would never have felt that twinge of fear or irritation at having to explain my beliefs.

Had I remained a Christian, public expressions of faith (jewelry, desk calendar, bumpersticker) would be accepted without comment.

My life could have been easier. I certainly could have been more prosperous. Marriage and children would have been far more probable. I would have had less stress in my life for sure.

As I grapple with turning 30, I’m dealing with regrets. Part of that process is dealing with the realization that the moment I found Paganism and committed to it, I made a decision that my life was going to be harder. Living out my soul’s truth has limited and inhibited my life.

I also have realized that I have tried to modify my desires according to what is possible as an openly Pagan woman in my region. I have put some of my dreams away, and now I find myself looking back in regret at what could have been.

It is not the fault of my religion that my life is not all I dreamed it would be. Partly circumstances, partly the economy, and partly my own quirks, my life is the result of choices that seemed good and necessary at the time. Yet I can’t be blind to the cost that I have paid for my spiritual life. I can’t be blind to this cost and sacrifice because in 1o years I will be 40, and 10 years beyond that I will be 50.

I think I should be able to have my dreams and my religion as well. I don’t know how to do that today, but I’m thinking hard about it. I don’t want the next decade to be full of the same compromises and sacrifices that filled the last decade of my life.

What have you given up by being Pagan? How do you feel about the compromises you’ve made for your spirituality? What is one thing you would reclaim if you could do it and not give up your religious identity and practice?

About Star Foster

Polytheistic Wiccan initiated into the Ravenwood tradition, she has many opinions. Some of them are actually useful.

  • Will

    “Had I remained a Christian”….you would probably be banging your head against a brick wall every day.

    Being born into an evangelical family and being gay is a little like becoming pagan–I’ve already got one thing going that separates me from my family of birth, and which they won’t tolerate.  Being pagan (or being openly gay), I’m being honest with myself and my life is honestly more enjoyable because it is authentic.  

    Sure, I could have kept going to church and nodding along whenever the pastor said something entirely erroneous (my degree is in history and religion, and that’s part of why I can’t be a Christian), just like I could have stayed in the closet. But why? To maintain the love and favor of people whose affections depend on me toeing the line and presenting a facade to make them feel better?  No, I’m good, thanks :)

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

       I agree it’s wrong to live a lie, but you can’t deny that the loss of your family, even if your family is horrible, is a real loss.

      • Dscarron

         True, but don’t blame the victim – their estrangement is their choice not yours. 

        • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

           I’m not blaming anyone. I’m saying that even if your life is better for embracing who you really are, you can’t deny that losing family and friends over that isn’t a real loss.

          • Will

            I squared myself with that loss a *long* time ago.  Now I actively look for ways to cut ties, just so I don’t get caught up in their crazy, racist, homophobic, birther, islamophobic, red-scare, young-earth creationist paranoid delusions. The only reason I hang around is because I’m pretty sure my little brother is gay too, and I try to counteract the BS my family teaches him, so that he can grow up a sane, happy person.

  • Michelle Bryant

    Though I never really looked at them like regrets, I too have had many of these thoughts. I was raised Christian and had all the privileges that came with it. I had the possibility of a husband and family when I was 18, but I chose the Craft and left that all behind. Now that I am staring hard at 28, I realize that I have little to show for my life; I haven’t even finished college. It has taken me a few years to see that these were all necessary steps along my path and that path will lead me to where I need to be. I may not be married before I’m 30 or have kids on the way, but I think my life has more happiness and fulfillment than it would have if I had remained in the Baptist church.  

  • A_Luloff

    I find some of your comments interesting, because I think you are seeing the grass greener on the other side of the fence. For instance more communities to choose from. Most of the Christians I know stick with one. the one they grew up in or moved next too. Not exactly a spiritual choice, deeply made . As far as a mark of distinction professionally, wherever you are religion should not be a large factor in jobs, although  I know that it can be is some areas. Dating and marriage, I know lots of Christians in bad marriages who feel they can’t leave because of their faith, who married “a good christian partner” not who they loved, and had children because they  “had” too. Not a recipe that I would care to follow… Christians often face ridicule for professing their beliefs and feel prosecuted for them, even though we see them as the majority, they feel threatened. Less stress? Giving total charge of your life to a church that offers you no voice, tells you how to live each moment, and ridicules other religions. The stress may be different than yours but still there, hidden under depression more often than not because they are not allowed to voice unhappiness. So I hope you enjoy your cup half full and don’t pay to much attention to the cup half empty, except as a place for all the good things that are waiting to come into your life.

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

       I think you seem to be equating Christianity in general with abusive churches.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dsalisbury David Salisbury

    For me, the part about our level of involvement being a mark of distinction really hit hard. I had never thought of that before, but it totally makes sense. The Christians who are as involved as us usually are doing something like running megachurches or preaching all over the world.

    However, I will counter my comment by also saying that Paganism for me as opened up huge possibilities that I never had thought imaginable. I started practicing Wicca when I was 12 so  there never really was a conscious thought of “Im making a change in my life, right now”. Maybe that made it a little easier on me? 

    I do know that having the practice of Witchcraft as a resource and tool growing up helped me avoid some really awful things. Addiction, dropout, and poverty are all things that run in parts of my family that I feel Witchcraft empowered me enough to help me avoid. Its the shadow work that Witchcraft insists upon that brought me a self-awareness that I used to not fall into bad practices that put others from my background in bad life situations. Its the Witches work ethic that made me work hard and find paths that opened me up to good internships, good jobs, prosperity, love etc. In terms of magick, things have happened for me that I cant explain away by anything else. Ive felt its gift constantly in these pre-25 yrs old years.  What a wonderful blessing.

  • Dscarron

    No one said that Paganism was easy.  IMHO the whole point is the path of mindfulness and truth.  That’s hard.  Asatru is the religion of homework, challenging oneself and finding our place in Midgard.  We have no simple answers. 

    And those are good things because we have battled and fought to get everything that we have.  You should be proud of your efforts and scars.  Christianity will take you always but being pagan is not just work it’s a vocation.   

  • http://twitter.com/LWMag LittleWitchMagazine

    Being Pagan didn’t limit my life more than being gay has already done. In fact, I feel more held back by my sexual orientation than my religion.  I was never Christian. I found Paganism at a young age and it has shaped my life accordingly. Part of that became the ability to adapt to where I am now and not look ahead to where I want to be in X years. I have goals, sure! A steady job, a child (I have a steady partner), getting my second and third Degrees and paying part of the rent with Pagan related affairs. I just never put a deadline on those. I think that what I took away from Paganism most is the fact that humans don’t have an expiration date. We are as valuable as crones as were are as maidens. We have our own parts to play in life. My goals will still be as valid when I’m sixty as they are now (I am turning 27 in a few months). I am in no hurry, I’m Pagan.

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

       All well and good, but your fertility does have an expiration date as a woman. Its a scientific fact, and the risk of birth defects by carrying a child as an older woman or through IVF are something to consider.

      • Harmonyfb

        ‘Expiration date’? Well, sure, once you’re post-menopausal.

        But I had my first child at 30, and my
        last at 42, and met one woman at the Midwife’s office who had her
        first baby at 46.

        • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

           Most women have a sharp drop in fertility once they hit 35. Having a
          child in your 40′s has a greater risk for birth defects than children
          born of incest. Exceptions don’t make the rule, and this feminist idea
          that our uteruses can produce forever is damaging because it is untrue.

          • Harmonyfb

            Having a
            child in your 40′s has a greater risk for birth defects

            Somewhat, sure. But since we don’t have to guess at outcomes (hello, science! Yay, sonograms! Yay, amniocentisis!), it’s not as dramatic a problem as it once was.

            I’m hardly unique – there’s lots of women waiting til later to marry and/or have children.

            this feminist idea
            that our uteruses can produce forever

            The feminist idea is that we can make our own choices about childbearing (whether that choice is to bear or not.) Because feminism is about the freedom to make choices. It’s not a dirty word, hon.

            It’s a biological fact that our uteruses will produce until we are post-menopausal. I don’t know where you get the idea that it’s “damaging” (my husband’s folks were in their 40s when he was born. My mother-in-law liked to say that he ‘kept them young’. My own “damaging” birth at 42 produced a perfectly beautiful child with no health problems.)

          • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

             It’s damaging to women who aren’t as lucky as you. Women who wait until it’s too late for their own bodies.

            Your having a good experience doesn’t equate to a good experience for all women.

            Hon, I am a feminist. Doesn’t mean I drink the Kool-Aid.

  • CSuchawitch

    Happy Birthday! Having regrets in life goes beyond just our spiritual choices; choosing not to move to a particular area for work, or not taking a certain job offer, even choosing not to date a person sets our lives on an individual path. Although we who celebrate our Pagan path do not always share the freedom of religious expression that others enjoy; we find joy and satisfaction in what is around us that others ignore or take for granted. That is something you can take to the spiritual bank! I wish you much success, joy and most of all love for your future.

    Yours under the sacred Oaks,
    /|

  • Kristy

    My first thought is that you reminded me that in 17 months I will also turn 30. I’m nowhere at the place I wanted to be when I was 17

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

       Don’t you feel your younger self judging you at times? it’s creepy!

      • Freeman Presson

        “It gets better”: I used to do that, but sometime in my early 50s, just dropped it. I have a bitchslap for the first person to claim it’s because I don’t remember my younger self any more ;-)

      • Harmonyfb

        Why on earth would I listen to what any 17 year old had to say about my life choices (including 17-year-old me)?

        • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

           Let me know when you’re done dismissing me. I have other things to do today.

  • sunfell

    Had I remained Christian, I am sure that by now, 32 years on, I would be either dead, or dying. I walked away from it in 1980- two years before your birth. And I could not be happier. I walked away from being a second-class citizen- good only for the male children I would bear (no choice! Children were mandantory!). I walked away from being condemned for thinking, speaking, and being- and especially questioning. I walked away from stifling obligations, endless toil, imposed silence, and a butt-ton of imposed guilt heaped upon me for the sin of being born female.

    No Path worth following is without its difficulties. 20 years ago, I learned that lesson first-hand, when my military career ended because I dared to poke my head out of the broom-closet. I may have lost a personal battle, but what I and my colleagues did now permits military Pagans to be properly respected and cared for while they serve. And military Pagan veterans will also rest in peace, knowing they will have their beliefs respected in death.

    All Paths mix light and shadow. But we can choose which Path- and which shadows to interact with. The light I have found in my journey is much better for me, and I can bask in it with the full knowledge that I am validated as a human being- no matter what my gender, and that my words and actions count for as much as the next sojourner.

    I chose the road less traveled, opted to eschew having a family, and have found myself finally thriving as the plans I have laid out and the methods I have used have borne fruit. Stepping out from the dogmatic shadow of the scripture-bound has freed me to experience divinity directly.

    Some people, heck, most people- prefer mediated mysticism. That is fine for them. But for me, I prefer no intermediaries. And I have no regrets.

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

       Yeah, I have no love for the Christian religion or doctrine, which some folks seem to be missing. But that identity does make life easier in this country, and following that faith lends you more support in your endeavors. It’s just the truth.

      • sunfell

        I would rather be true to myself than be part of a flock. And everyone knows what eventually happens to sheep.

        • Will

          Sweaters for everyone!!! :P

  • http://johnfranc.blogspot.com/ John Beckett

    At the risk of sounding like the old man I’m getting uncomfortably close to being, I remember a very similar conversation with myself when I turned 30.  I had achieved some success by then, but nowhere near as much as I thought I “should” have achieved.  It took me until my late 30s before I realized that what I really wanted from life and what I thought I wanted were two very different things, and that I had to go through what I had to go through to get to where I really wanted to be.

    I don’t know how similar your situation is to mine so I won’t attempt to offer advice.  I will offer this observation:  if you had remained Christian, things would be different.  Not better, but different. 

    And I wish it hadn’t taken me so long to learn to be who I am instead of who I thought I was supposed to be.

  • Melanie

    My life has been nothing but enriched by my Paganism. Beautiful family, community, and enriching work.
    I am sorry you are not finding what you want in this religion. If that which thou seekest thou findest not within thee, thou shalt never find it without thee.

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

       That wasn’t condescending at all.

      • Melanie

        I did not mean to come off as condescending; I do not think I am better than you.
        I meant to defend the worth
        of my religion.

        • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

           I know you didn’t. I shouldn’t have reacted like that. That phrase from the Charge of the Goddess just rubbed me the wrong way.

          At PSG I will give you booze and vegan food, because you are awesome!

          • Melanie

            I look forward to stumbling drunk but full from your tent back to my post at raffle.

  • Ursyl

    Other than having to know when to consider caution in public and the harsh loss of a friend who “couldn’t be friends with someone of such different beliefs” (after 14 years of friendship and being all but an adopted grandmother to the kids), I can’t think of any negatives to having followed logic and my heart to Paganism.

    I have the say that the internal integrity I have found would be worth all though. I am not one of those who can sit in a pew and nod while disagreeing with what’s being taught or finding it unbelievable.

    Maybe a change of location? not that that is easy or casually to be done. I got lucky to meet and bond with a intelligent thinking agnostic fellow who acknowledges a spiritual side to life, but questions everything (sometimes to an annoying level). Folks like that of all genders are out there.

    One thing that has helped immensely in the last 9 years was when our local UU congregation settled into a building in our town. They have become the beloved community that I was missing from my Catholic childhood in which our parish was also involved in local social justice and similar issues. I disagree with most of that faith now, but that aspect of supportive community and doing for others, was valuable.

    Keep your eyes open, and open again. You might be surprised where you are in those next 10 years and the 10 after.

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

       Where I might be at 40 is terrifying. I could be working at the Pagan version of NPR!

      • http://www.facebook.com/EdAHubbard Ed Hubbard

         or a CEO of a major Pagan Media Company. You are a amazing woman Star, and I will say this, because I live my life by this:

        We all overestimate what we can do in a year, and underestimate what we can do in a decade.

        I think the same is true for you as well. I think you could be a absolute gamechanger.

        • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

           I will never be CEO of anything. Not in my skill set. But thanks.

          • Jason Hatter

            Thats the amazing thing about skillsets – you can add to them.

      • sunfell

        Considering that we have a major Pagan reporting with NPR (Margot Adler, author of “Drawing Down the Moon”) I would say we’re well on our way!

        • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

           Right, but with the exception of the Bonewits obit, she doesn’t report on Paganism through NPR. Which is a shame.

          • sunfell

            The thing is, she doesn’t have to. She’s an NPR reporter who happens to be Pagan. That’s a wonderful thing.

          • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

             My understanding is it’s the opposite. NPR considers it a conflict of interest. The exception was made for Bonewits obit because it was her supervisor’s idea.

          • Ursyl

            Do they consider other employees’ faiths to be conflicts of interest too?

          • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

             No idea.

      • Ursyl

        That would be a good thing, I think.

        Found/remembered the name of that campground: Four Quarters, in Artemis PA.

        Friend of mine who’s been there returns annually for a couple of their big events.

  • blackpagan

    Hey happy birthday, Pisces! (It’s my birthday too!) I hope amidst all the soul-searching — and you’ve raised some very good questions — you also find a way to enjoy a bit of the day. Another turn around the sun! Congrats. :-)

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

       Happy Birthday! My birthday was actually a little over a week ago, but it’s just now sinking in.

  • http://www.facebook.com/irene.jericho Irene Jericho

    So interesting to read.  I grew up in a Secular Humanist household–I never had the spiritual community you did while I was growing up.  Thing is, I ~did~ have a vibrant community.  My family was and is very into the arts.  We would work together with community theater companies, local ballet companies, classical music groups…that group of artists became our community.  And being atheists didn’t matter there because of our shared values within the realm of creative expression. 

    Although a spiritual group is one way to meet social needs, there are many others.  My mother found her second husband through the Contra Dance community.  I know a couple who met and fell in love because of their mutual love of Mountain Biking.  It might make sense to allow yourself to explore some other social avenues given the admittedly challenging social environment our faith is often subject to.

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

       Totally. I could find someone amazing by going to gaming conventions. But while mountain biking is something you might give up or hide for someone you love, faith isn’t. There is a huge difference.

  • Hecate_Demetersdatter

    Oddly, a few days away from turning 56, I’ve been doing a bit of  a similar retrospective.  (Thirty wasn’t too difficult for me; we all seem to hit different milestones in different ways.  I turned forty away from home on business and didn’t hardly notice.  I threw myself a big party at the Ritz when I turned fifty; I’d just a few days before become a Nonna and I was ecstatic.)  

    The one difficult thing for me vis-a-vis Paganism is that, due to my career (which I love), I have to be in the closet about my religion.    This week, my boss said at a meeting, “So, Hecate, you’re off Thursday through Monday.  Where are you going?”  It was a nice question; people often discuss their vacations and he was just trying to show interest.  But I’m going to Sacred Space.  So I smiled and said, “Oh, I’m going up to Northern Maryland to hang out with some friends.”  I didn’t say, “I’m going to a religious conference where I hope for one of the few times every year to be surrounded by people who share my beliefs.” 

    I’d say that, net, being Pagan has given me more than it’s cost.  Finding out that there was a NAME for what I was (which happened to me in my late 30s) was such a blessing.  And finding Pagan community (itchy and prickly as we magic-workers seriously are) has been one of the joys of my life.  

    Star, I wouldn’t underestimate what this bad economy has cost you and members of your generation.  It’s easy to blame ourselves for not being exactly where we’d hoped to be by a given date, but I do think that you all have had to deal with something unparalleled since the days when my grandparents were starting out.   

    Here’s a sincere wish that you’ll turn 56 as happy with your life as I am with mine.  In the end, the love we take . . . . 

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

       …is equal to the love we make. So Mote It Be!

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    I think the biggest thing I’ve given up in having become Pagan, and having remained so for the past 20 years, is the ability to hide from parts of myself, including my deepest desires (whether they are good things or bad things)–I cannot not be honest about them with myself; I still have the option of keeping them to myself, but I can’t avoid them the way that I think Christians often can, do, and feel they “have to” within their religious framework and communities.  And, that’s not a bad thing at all, I think…

  • http://www.facebook.com/kyttenn Kyttenn Hall

     I gave up my family (mother, father, sister, brother), for a
    time. I’ve always felt so different. Then, I found Paganism, and felt
    even more different; so I separated myself from my family to allow
    myself time to figure it all out.

    I still wrangle with the money part.  While it has never really appealed to me to have lots of money and I feel money can certainly be a detriment; it doesn’t escape me that being Pagan doesn’t mean I have to be poor.  lol I just haven’t figured out how to change that for myself.  lol

    How do I feel about it? I’m ecstatic.  I have never been happier.  It was like a huge weight being lifted from me when I found Paganism.
    Reclaim anything? I don’t do
    that…. reclaim to me in this insistence  is equivalent to regretting or wishing things were different in some way and I just don’t do that. 

    I am who I
    am today because of my choices.  I have my kids because of
    those choices. Changing things might mean I wouldn’t have my kids; I would never
    change that for anything.

    Plus, I truly feel my choices are because this is where I am supposed to be to fulfill my path in this lifetime.   To me, wishing  it were different, is a slap in the face of the Goddess.  She put me here, in this lifetime, for a reason. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1217749426 Maria Meyer

    I can honestly say that I have never been made to feel like I have had to give up or compromise on anything because of my beliefs/spirituality..But then I feel very lucky and grateful for the fact that I come from a large, accepting and very diverse family who, despite being predominately Catholic, always taught their children to question and seek out their own truth even if it meant being different.

    • http://www.facebook.com/kyttenn Kyttenn Hall

       That’s awesome, Maria!  I wish  more parents realized that when raising their children.

      Even after I found Paganism, I encouraged my kids to attend church when they asked.  I didn’t send them myself, mind you, but I did encourage it when they asked on their own.

      As they got older and realized that I was letting them attend a Christian church while being Pagan, they asked me why.   I told them and still believe that everyone should be educated so when it comes time for them to make that decision, they know what the hell they are talking about.

  • Micheleg

    I guess I’m really lucky. Rather than feeling like I gave anything up by being Pagan, I feel as if my Paganism has enriched my life in so many more ways than Christianity ever did.

    I may not have a large selection of spiritual communities to choose from, but I have the ONE spiritual community that I am lucky and proud to be a part of.  I am extremely lucky to also live in an area that I can see at least some part of that community on a regular, even weekly basis.

    It may have taken me longer to meet the right man (I was 32), but the one I did finally meet had a quality that really mattered to me…being open minded enough to embrace all of me, including my faith.

    I may get strange looks occasionally for my choice in jewelry, but if anyone comments, I see it as an opportunity to show them that Pagans are just like everyone else, and that this Pagan is essentially a good person.

    Some people in my life did not accept my Paganism at first, and some still delude themselves as to what that means (One friend told her daughter that I wasn’t practicing witchcraft, I just liked to hug trees…if that’s what she needs to think, ok), but the people who truly loved me stuck around long enough to realize that who I am inside never changed.

    Believe me, I’m not trying to negate anyone else’s experiences in any way. I know that some people lose a lot when they choose Paganism… I know so many who’s family has completely deserted them. Mine did not.  Eventually, I was even able to convince my Catholic mother that this was more than just a stage I was going through (it only took about 20 years).

    Maybe I did lose certain options, but to me, what I have gained has been so much greater than anything I could have lost, that I don’t even see it.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FCM62LRWJYSJZAWCXGUA62L7B4 nothing

    I agree with Micheleg…No regrets here either and I’m almost 60. Becoming Pagan freed me…I feel I belong now. I never felt that when I was Christian. I’ve never been happier than I am now. If you have regrets my opinion is that it’s not really what you wanted or that it’s not the right fit for you.  It took me years to “find” myself but once I found where I belonged it’s been wonderful. I’m not married…been divorced for years but not because of religion…I’m single but that’s a personal choice not because I’m Pagan. Life is what you make of it…slap on a happy face and meet people…there are nice people out there who don’t give a rats behind what religion you are. And I live in the Bible Belt, there are still a lot of haters but there are more people who are loving and accepting.  I’m much happier than when I was Christian. I must add that I didn’t follow anyone into the religion, I came into in on my own, my own free will. I don’t know how you came to be Pagan but if you did it for someone else that will cause a lot of stress (like when someone converts in order to get married.) that’s my two cents for the day. Have a great week…cheer up and just enjoy where you are right now!

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

       From most of the comments, the consensus seems to be I have the wrong religion, which I find fascinating.

      • http://twitter.com/Fernwise Fern Miller

        Sheesh.  Every time you make any choice or take any action by definition you rule out taking some other choices or actions.  This may be because you have finite amounts of time and money or patience or whatever, or for other reasons – but it’s a fact of life.

        As Mame said – Life is a banquet.   However your stomach has a limited capacity.  Everything has trade offs. 

        Which is why some folks become paralyzed when faced with making decisions.  They don’t want to have to turn down one (or more) of the options before them.  The only advantage to that is that they MIGHT be able to blame those who ended up deciding for them, and they can only do that by denying that they chose to not choose.

        But I say that taking into account the limits inherent in making decisions is just a part of adulthood.

        • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

           That was helpful.

      • Micheleg

        I wouldn’t call it a consensus… majority maybe, but I don’t think that at all… Whatever path we choose has its challenges, and we each face different ones. You were simply stating what yours have been. While I did say I haven’t faced the same ones you have, I don’t feel that just because you are thinking of what you might be missing out on that you are on the wrong path… If you don’t first recognize your personal challenges, then you will never face them. It takes insight and courage to look as deeply at what is missing in your life as you have here. It takes even more courage to do something to change it… And because of what I have already read from you (both in this post and others), I have no doubt that you will face your challenges head on.

      • Will

        Even though I know I am far happier than I ever could have been had I remained a Christian (or in the closet, which to me are almost linked), I do think about what might have been. How much easier life would have been, not having my family preaching at me every opportunity that life will be terrible unless I rely on Jesus (when things are going swimmingly, actually), being able to get married–I’m in Texas–and having kids the drunk, old-fashioned way. 

        Life *is* harder this way; at the same time, it’s more enjoyable and thus easier because I know it’s authentic.  I don’t think you’re on the wrong path, I just think you (like all of us here) are still on the path to wherever it is you’re going.

        I ask myself WWDD–what would Dionysus do? I smile, take a drink, and find out how to break whatever bonds are chaining me down at the moment, whether it’s money or family or personal doubts and recriminations. I’ve found that focusing on the solutions to a particular problem helps ignore the pains of the problem itself, *and* alleviates the problem that much more quickly :) 

        I notice that most of your “Had I remained a Christian…” hypotheticals suffer from the same problem–you’re focusing too much on other people’s opinions. As the great RuPaul says, “What other people think of me is none of my business.”  It’s a hard ethic to develop, but it sure is a fun one.

      • Ursyl

        I think even if you had stayed Christian, you’d be having similar retrospective thoughts.

        And I don’t think having those indicates that one is one the wrong path.

        No matter what path you choose, there will be others that you would have seen at that time and rejected, and might wonder about occasionally. It’s all part of being a thinking person, I think.

  • Bagiera25

    Honestly I’ve only been a pagan a couple years I wish I would of began my path a lot sooner. I’m a somewhat loner by nature and never depended on religion for much. I was raised in a Christian religion but gladly my parents have always been open minded. My mom didn’t quite understand my choice of being a pagan but she accepts me for me.

    My husband isn’t pagan but he supports me as well he doesn’t tell me I’m going to hell, which I don’t believe in any way. Most my friends know my beliefs and they don’t ridicule for them. I really don’t regret choosing to follow the Lady and Lord. So at this time in my life, which I’m 33 and never focus on that either, is fine with no regret of walking away from Christian beliefs.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Lamyka-L/649965363 Lamyka L.

    I was engaged to (what turned out to be) a horrible person; my Pagan heritage actually saved me. I lost the intended marriage but gained my freedom. I had always grown up with a sense of pride and duty that my heritage brings and all those who attempt to bar my way be damned. However that pride and love for my people as well as the Greater Pagan Community cannot mask the loss I feel with how active members are treated.

    For Hawaiians, if someone has knowledge and wisdom with regards to our culture, language, faith, etc. they are raised up, exalted, and greatly respected. In the Greater Pagan Community I’ve been kicked in the teeth and seen others trod upon for the work they try to do, while the ‘all smiles’ crazies prance around for glory. There are some days I feel that being Pagan I have given up self-care in order to make a difference. There are even some days I know I can help but just plain don’t because it isn’t worth the barrage of back seat drivers who never seem to have gas money.

    I’ve read and heard a lot of derisive comments about Christians (since so many seem to have come from that I guess) and how they don’t ‘practice what they preach’ but maybe Pagans–maybe you should be asking yourselves just how much you live what you claim. How much have we all?

  • Limnaia

    I was raised Anglican, which if you know anything about the Church of England, means that it barely qualifies as a religion. :p

    I jest. Even if I hadn’t been pagan, I had too many problems with the Church and with Christianity to stay there. When I left I was an atheist – and that’s the one that came with losses when I left it, for me.

    By choosing paganism over atheism, I’ve lost is the ability to be silent when all my friends /people I meet in my day to day life (90% of whom are atheists) criticise all religion everywhere.

    I get into more arguments. I can’t just let that stand. It’s uncomfortable sometimes – especially given one of my partners is militantly atheist and more than a little bit of a martyr with it. He  thinks that religious people are actively against him as a person because he isn’t religious and that I essentially have a brain defect which makes me religious. Especially when I’d previously been an atheist and known the ‘truth’. 

    It also means I get my Mum telling me that my faith isn’t ‘real’ and refusing to acknowledge it. It’s not like I’m under her roof anymore, but it’d be nice if she credited her firstborn with enough of a brain to make a legitimate choice about religion.

    Losing the Anglican church was no loss to me. Losing my godlessness was, in a way.

  • Anna Kkorn

    This blog is a mark of distinction that recommends you professionally and socially. I think living in the Bible belt limits you far more than being a Pagan. I didn’t marry until I was in my forties, so if that is a goal, there is still time…less so if kids are part of the plan. I feel enriched, not limited by being Pagan.

  • http://www.themonthebard.org/ Themon the Bard

    I’ll turn 56 this year, and I’ve been through many of the transitions and regrets you’re describing. I think it comes down to the old saying that “Life is what happens while you’re making other plans.” 

    I didn’t get into Paganism until my 40′s, after churchgoing, marriage, three children (two surviving), a gay spouse coming out, and divorce. It was a somewhat unusually traumatic “normal” life, so by the time I started considering Paganism, that “normal” soil was pretty much sown, reaped, burned, and salted for me.

    So in direct answer to your question about what I’ve given up by being Pagan, I’d say not much, if anything at all. I’d already given it all up through the process of living.

    I’m trying to emotionally turn the clock back to 30, when I was still enfolded in “normalcy,” and what I mostly remember was kicking against the constraints of it. I worked for a big corporation (and hated that,) lived in a big city (and hated that,) went to church every Sunday (and was on my way to hating that.) My marriage — to a gay woman still in the closet even in her own mind — was rocky, and I hated that, too. That time wasn’t quite as bad as adolescence, but it wasn’t a lot of fun.

    I will say it was pretty steady improvement from there, and my 50′s have been fabulous. There are some downsides, but after 40 — mid-life for most of us — you start to come to real terms with the fact that you don’t have enough time left to be an astronaut, a cowboy, a fireman, and the president. You never did. You realize that your whole life has been a process of triage, and that in a world of seven billion people, you are never going to amount to much. And that’s perfectly fine. It was never about “success” in the first place. That’s very freeing.

    I doubt that makes any emotional sense to you at 30, and that’s also perfectly fine. But don’t waste a lot of your time on regrets over things that might-have-been. You will feel that way, from time to time, and sometimes it seems crushing. But they really are only might-have-beens — trains that already left the station. You’ve got lots of might-be’s in front of you. Focus on those, and don’t put more than normal prudence into picking one, because — frankly — you aren’t going to be able to predict the outcome anyway.

    Life really is what happens while you’re making other plans.

    • Ursyl

      “It was never about “success” in the first place.”
      Depends on how you’re defining success. :-)

      “Live well, laugh often, love much” seems to me to be a good recipe for successful living, even if your life stays on the small scale.

  • Irishwitchgoddess

    I choose my faith when I was 13. In no way has it limited my life or isolated me. I think you might be looking at this all wrong and maybe dating the wrong guys. I am 25 Married and have a child. I have a great job and wonderful friends. My support system is well rounded with family and friends.  I am a witch and my husband is a Buddhist. Our faiths may not be the same but they share the same principles. That is what is important.  

  • kenneth

    What did I give up by being pagan? Everything. And nothing that I cannot live without. As much as my first coven priestess was a putz, she was right about one thing. She impressed upon us that once we took our first steps, our first real steps, onto the path, that there was truly no going back.
       At the time of course, we thought it was all just for dramatic effect, and the sort of thing fundamentalists liked to seize upon. Well this is it, you’ve “sold your soul to Satan.” Time and living have taught me what it really meant. Realizing myself as a pagan meant the end of innocence. It meant living in full awareness and intention, and on the quest for the Great Work of one’s life, whatever that turned out to be.
      It meant that I would never again be able to live fat, drunk and stupid in the literal or figurative sense, going along to get along, playing out a script that society or someone else had written for me. It meant tearing away the artificial but oh-so-comforting reality of the Matrix and plunging into the hard and cold reality which offered the only real path to redemption.
        Or if you prefer another literary analogy, leaving the Shire for the wider world despite all the hardships it promised. It meant making the decision that realizing my true self – religiously, professionally, sexually, you name it, was worth whatever hardships it brought with it. It meant, in some measure, giving up on the idea of pre-conceived benchmarks of “where I should be” at whatever age. It meant giving up a certain amount of material comfort and financial security that came from the talents that come easily to me to pursue the things that challenged me. The things that I have a very real chance of failing at, but which are critical to the full realization of what I was meant to do. 
        For me, the hardships of being pagan come more from what it has instilled or drawn out in me rather than the stigma or whatever that is sometimes associated with pagan identity itself. Living in the Chicago area, I have a much easier time socially than do folks in the South or more buttoned down rural areas. I live in an incredibly diverse and metropolitan area, with probably as many Hindus and Muslims as Christians, and I find the culture in general is very different in the Midwest where the religion issue is concerned. In the South, even in, say, Indiana, the second or third question in conversation with a new person is “what church do you attend?” Up here, that’s considered a rude intrusive thing to ask a stranger or even a casual acquaintance. 
       I won’t presume to advise Star on whether the costs of her journey are worth the benefits. I cannot answer that for anyone else. For myself, my pagan identity was about finding a key part of who I am, and who I was meant to be. I won’t say it’s never been hard, but it’s been a precious gift to me. I would not trade it for Warren Buffet’s bank account or anything else I can think of.  There are any number of other choices I could have made in life that would have done more to optimize my earning power, social standing, any number of outcomes you can think of. But if it means living a life that is not authentic to who I really am, it’s not living, just existence. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/marienne.foxwood Marienne Hartwood

    For me, it took until I was nudging 30 before I really hit my life stride (the joy of wrapping up that pesky first Saturn Return/quarterlife crisis), but it wasn’t my witchcraft path that really made for the unpleasant bumps in my life. (Rather the reverse, actually…)

    In the Christian path I was raised in (a very liberal one), it was pretty much impossible to find a comparable Christian organization unless you’re in a pretty large and liberal area. Because I like my faith the way I like my sex life (intimate and private), the things that bother you on your list aren’t things that I would want/need in my life.

    Had I remained Christian, I wouldn’t have had the courage to take on the profitable and enjoyable career choice that I moved into (because it takes a lot of faith in something to be able to make the leap from working a “normal job” to becoming a freelancer–at least for me). Had I remained Christian, I wouldn’t have married my husband and we wouldn’t have our wonderful daughter.  We also wouldn’t have our wonderful home (bought because he got nudged into its purchase before the housing bubble thanks to a bit of Gods-given guidance). I wouldn’t have the amazing spiritual family that I have. I would have less time and money resources because I would feel obligated to tithe in money and spend every Sunday (and some other evenings) tied up with “church stuff”. Even after reading your list, I can’t think of anything positive that I’ve given up to follow my spiritual path.

    One statement stands out to me from your post, though: “…the moment I found Paganism and committed to it, I made the decision that my life was going to be harder.” Could it be that your life is harder because you simply decided that was going to be your reality, and the reason my life isn’t harder after making a decision to follow my spiritual bliss is because I decided that being fulfilled in my spirituality meant that my life was going to be easier because everything would fall into place? I have no idea if that’s the only difference (ala energy flows where attention goes), but I do hope that you find whatever it is you need for that happiness that I think everyone should have the ability to attain!

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

       You’ll notice this post is a reflection. No, of course I didn’t know what my spiritual choices would mean a decade or more later.

  • Harmonyfb

    What did I lose by choosing Paganism? Nothing. (I’m not sure it counts as a conscious choice, though. The Gods called, I answered, the end.) I found closer friendships and deeper spiritual support in my coven than I ever had at my family’s church.

  • Falcon Wing

    Star, your post touched off a lot of feelings and thoughts in me. Voicing doubt about faith is an unpopular but often necessary part of the spiritual journey.

    Feeling regrets about the road not taken happens to many people. For me it was my 40th birthday that really hit hard. I had a lot of regrets about not being “normal” and “successful” (from the POV of mainstream society).  There seem to many benefits to conformity and rather few to being an individual.From that state of regret I made a decision to conform to middle-class ideas of success and normality.  The price I paid was a nervous breakdown and slide into mental illness, loss of friendships, rejection, harassment and bullying, loss of a job that was supposed to help me be “normal” again (in terms of income and social acceptance), physical health problems, and a feeling of failure so deep, so painful I considered suicide.And I had to conclude that trying to be normal and conforming to the script wasn’t worth it.

    Consider this: you’ve made a name for yourself as a journalist in a field. That is an accomplishment. I aspired to something like that once and failed, so hey, you got one over me. 

    And there’s also this to think over: anxieties and regrets can lead us to give up what’s unique about ourselves. We seek acceptance from others– and that makes us vulnerable to people who like to control others. That puts our individuality at risk and creates much damaging stress and drama.

    At least as a pagan, you are independent and you know your own mind.  Knowing your own mind, what you feel and think, is a beautiful thing. I’m in my 40s, broke, still recovering from my mental and physical health problems. Don’t know if I will ever be whole again. But I’m a pagan again, by gods, because my pagan faith is a sign of my individuality and my soul that despite what I’ve been through, still yearns to be free and strong and independent. Best wishes to you on your journey.

  • zendodeb

    Nobody’s life is what they expected at 18. Life doesn’t work that way.

    If you weren’t pagan, you would be somebody else, with a different set of problems, and regrets.

    Looking back from way beyond 30, it doesn’t matter all that much. And besides, even if it hurts once in while, as Joseph Campbell said, it really is a wonderful opera. And good or bad, it doesn’t last that long and you can try again on the next turn.

  • http://twitter.com/ClaudiaAtlantis Claudia Atlantis

    I often feel the same way. I just turned 27 (March 10th) and just felt overwhelming depression. 17 year old me would be appalled. I’m not off adventuring in Egypt, I don’t have my own home and I’m not the super skilled witch I thought I would be. I’m overweight, disabled due to illness, out of work and married to a Christian. (No children though). My faith constantly gets put to one side as I try to get my life together. It’s also hard to focus on anything spiritual because there is no physical community for me, and often the online one gets too much to handle (too many egos and not enough wisdom is often the problem). I have no answers for you, just empathy.

    Senneferet xx


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