Monday, December 5, 2011

Reflections on Thanksgiving

I took this image from Postsecret, which is a fantastic website that I love to check every week. I thought about doing this post on Thanksgiving, then decided not to, then I saw this PostSecret today and changed my mind again. So we'll see how this goes.

Now, as you read this, I want you to keep in mind that I love my family, dearly. They are all good people, so this isn't a dig at them. They just don't understand sometimes.

I'm the middle of three children. I have an older brother and a younger sister. My brother and sister are both tall, blonde, and popular. They're both rockstar athletes (my sister made varsity track her freshman year, my brother was a basketball superstar) and were the cool kids in their grades. And I'm...this weird little brunette who likes school. So I kind of stand out already.

I got weirder. I liked books and didn't dress in cool clothes and I had nerdy friends...and then, the real blow. I did something against the Catholic church. I joined the Gay-Straight Alliance at my high school. That created some waves, and then even worse...I decided to do my first real act of activism. A gay couple at my high school told the GSA that they weren't allowed to buy prom tickets together, so the GSA was looking for volunteers to try to buy tickets to the next dance with a same-sex partner. So of course I volunteered with my friend Danielle.

My parents were not happy about that. We had a few really big fights about it, and they told me that didn't want me making waves, that I would get made fun of for doing it (except I was already being made fun of for everything else, so this wasn't a huge concern of mine), and they wanted to know why I had to be so different from everyone. Why couldn't I just be normal? (By the way, we were allowed to buy tickets together, and here's a PG rated picture of us at the dance together. I was 15 at this time, so don't be creepy.)

This became a recurring theme in my life. Why was I so different? Why couldn't I be more like my brother and sister? My parents weren't excited that I had straight A's, or that I volunteered on a regular basis all throughout high school, or that I was getting ready to be the first person in my family to go to college (well, it didn't seem that way at least). We just argued about how "out there" I was.

Now that I'm an adult with a college degree, and pay my own bills, am gainfully employed, they...still think I'm out there. It really sucks that I can't really talk about my work to my family, because they think I'm radical. I really don't think I'm that radical, but even if I were, the only things I talk about are helping students (because, you know, that's what I do)...and yet my family still thinks I'm radical.

It's weird, because my dad has admitted to me that he thinks the Bible is bunk, and he doesn't really believe in a Judeo-Christian god...but he calls himself a Christian because it's "easier." He thinks I should stop being "out there" and just "go with the flow." I think he's mostly a deist (even though he claims not to be). I felt really left out at Thanksgiving dinner when we prayed. I felt almost...targeted, because we haven't said a prayer before Thanksgiving dinner in years, and now that I'm a professional atheist, we have a prayer to our "Heavenly Father?"

It stinks, because you always hear about how standing up and being different is good...unless you're an atheist. Simply not believing in a deity and thinking we should have a separation of church and state is radical enough that my family doesn't want to hear about my work. That kind of sucks. :/

Anyway, that's why I think secular groups are important. Even if my family isn't excited about my job, my friends can be. I have my biological family, and I have the family I've built here in Columbus and online. My coworkers are all fantastic (like JT, he's so fantastic that I put his stuff in jello) and the people I've met at conferences are so kind and supportive.

I know there's no invisible sky daddy watching me who's proud of my accomplishments, but I can at least rest easy in the fact that I'm making a difference in the world and actually helping people...and there are people out there who are proud of me. 

And shit, I'm proud of me. That's pretty important.


  1. We're proud of you! I hope that someday your biological family can accept you for who you are, which is not at all "radical" or "out there". I guess I had it easier because my family supports academics, and I share interests with my dad.

  2. That whole thing about your dad advising you to "go with the flow" is just the classic example of why it's so important that atheists like us speak out. Doesn't he see that we don't want to have to stay in the closet and lie about our true selves our whole lives? We want to be who we really are and be accepted for it!

    Luckily for us, it's a virtuous cycle: the more of us who do that, the easier it makes it for the rest. That's why groups like the SSA are so awesome for helping to create a safe environment for atheists to come out and speak up.