When there is a loss in the family, a funeral is held. It is the ceremonial release of our beloveds that allows us to cope properly and move on with our lives. But I didn’t just lose a family member, I lost an entire family. Three-hundred people suddenly gone from my life; it was an abandonment. This family I speak of was my church family. Three weeks into my high school career, my dad lost his job. He had been the associate pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church.
I can still recall every detail of the night that my dad broke the news to my mom, my brother, and me. Strangely enough, I didn’t cry. I think part of me didn’t want to believe what he was saying was true, or maybe it just hadn’t sunk in yet. I slept little that night. A week later, I built up the courage to tell my friends what happened.
The following weeks were full of questions and misunderstanding. I didn’t care about school, sleeping, or eating. My grades slipped and so did my health. My life had been in that church. I was practically raised there, and I thrived off of being the adored pastor’s daughter. Everyone knew me when I stood smiling at my dad’s side, shaking hands with the church members as they entered the narthex. With that gone, I didn’t know who I was. I was an outcast in what was supposed to be the most accepting of places.
Although it took months before my family situation was on stable ground again, it finally came. As an outlet for my immense flood of emotions, I found a passion for writing. It became my identity, this quiet relationship with a pen and paper. I wrote countless poems in my notebook during the hours I spent burrowed away in my room. It became my new sanctuary.
Unfortunately, my dad never did fully recover. For the last three years, he’s struggled to pay the bills, sometimes working four jobs, and my mom works two. Amidst this economic recession, a man close to completing his doctorate degree has been subjected to work for $9.50 an hour, only a dollar more than his teenage daughter. It has been a humbling experience for both of us.
I have risen above the tragedy of my freshman year, and learned to accept that even religious institutions, which in theory are all loving and caring, have their flaws. We are all human, and we all make mistakes. Rejection is a painful experience, but I believe it is something every person needs to go through. Only by being forced to be on our own can we truly discover ourselves. If I hadn’t been forced out of my comfort zone, I wouldn’t have met so many new people, or tried new things. I am now open-minded towards the world around me, and the diversity it has to offer.
I know that harsh realities are a part of life. Though I don’t fully understand why bad things have to happen to good people, I do know that one needs suffering to know compassion. This experience has allowed me to handle the trials I’ve gone through since then. Difficult relationships and trying friendships have left me confused and often discouraged. Nonetheless, I persevere. I did not allow adversity to get the best of me. Instead, I blossomed. I am proud of the person I am today.
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