|You got this, girl.|
Dear 21 year-old Lauren,
You are doing the right thing. I know it feels horrible and impossible, but you know in your heart (through your brain and emotions, not the Holy Ghost or whatever) that it's the right thing. It's time to stop being Mormon. Sure, you can never actually be completely un- or ex-Mormon if you were raised by parents who both have Mormon pioneer ancestors; it's a cultural thing. But you don't have to do this thing anymore. If you don't believe, you know it's wrong to fake it. So don't.
You know how you worry that you feel icky about trying to reconcile your newfound liberal political beliefs with church teachings? That shit disappears if you just stop trying to make cognitive dissonance work. Or you know how you wonder if deep down inside you're giving up Everything (family, eternal salvation, etc.) just so you can have sex with your boyfriend, and that's not a very good reason? Your family won't disown you! You'll stop believing in an afterlife anyway! Sex is great and totally normal to do with somebody you love when you are both consenting adults! Sex away! (Or rather, keep sexing, because we both know you took that plunge before you officially decided to stop going to church.) You know that heavy rock of anxiety, that sense of dread about the future you constantly feel because you fear you and your boyfriend can never get married because of religious differences and also the Second Coming is going to happen, like, any day now, so why bother making any plans? Let it go! First of all, you should never, ever marry your current boyfriend and you won't, thank the Sexy Gay Jesus, and also that other stuff is not real. Ten years in the future I can tell you that we're all going to drown due to climate change, sure, but Jesus has not yet returned to Adam-ondi-Ahman.
Remember in August, when your best friends from home and your awesome little sister drove out to Montana where you'd escaped another summer of depression, unemployment, and also your family to pick you up in a minivan with a kayak strapped to the top? And how at your crappy outside-of-Yellowstone campsite you seriously considered tasting some of that wine your friends were drinking, but didn't because your sister was there and you didn't want to make it weird? You and alcohol will get together. It's going to be a torrid and sometimes messy affair, but it will mostly be very, very fun even if your family and former church friends may worry you are an alcoholic because you don't think drinking is a horrible secret and/or that you are doomed because of your complete disregard for the Word of Wisdom. That is not a real thing. You're fine. Have fun with trusted friends.
And you know how worst of all, you feel like you're letting your parents down? Like, destroying them by not following the life plan they wanted for you? It's going to be okay. It's going to be awkward and scary for awhile, but they love you and will always want a relationship with you. You have built a support system outside of your family and you will be all right without their approval. You will go to therapy and time will pass and you will become more independent and trust yourself to do what's right for you, not what you think you should do. You will become (even more) awesome. You will be an adult and your parents will have to take care of their own feelings. It is normal to let them down, to choose a different path, and to disagree completely with them about how the universe works.* This is how many, many families function. You'll figure out how to relate as adults and you will not really miss the people-pleaser you once were, your parents' "golden child" for all those years. Not giving a fuck is the freedom you have earned.
You will, in fact, largely give up guilt once you stop going to church. It will be amazing. You will swear constantly, drink too much, have sex with numerous unsuitable (and/or just largely unknown) fellows before meeting someone way more awesome than anyone you know (or are dating) now. You'll stop feeling like there's something wrong with you because you've never aspired to the church's version of ideal womanhood. You'll become an unapologetic feminist and find a partner who is too. If you get married, it will be on your own terms. If you have kids, it will be the same. You'll no longer feel torn between supporting your queer friends and your upbringing. You'll never feel like walking out of a meeting because those leading it use the word "patriarchy" in a positive sense because you will never attend such a meeting again. You'll feel safe among your peers to make choices without the baggage of whether or not Jesus would do such-and-such or whether or not you can do some-other-thing and still go to the Celestial Kingdom. You've never really liked the idea that you had to spend eternity with your immediate family anyway, so it's a good thing it doesn't exist.
You are okay the way you are. You will always have to struggle with anxiety and depression, but don't believe your parents' hype: it's not sin and the absence of the Holy Ghost that makes you that way: it's genetics, it's luck, it's the everyday pain of growing up and separation, and it's a traumatic shattering of the world you've always known. But you're the one doing the shattering. Everything inside of you tells you this is the right move. Do it. Break everything, break yourself open and find New Lauren. New Lauren may not ever get her shit together, but she got this one thing right. Do it for us. You'll make it.
I'll see you,
31 year-old Lauren
PS- Enjoy vodka and orgasms.
PPS- Be patient, your sister will figure it out too in her own time.
*It's random, cruel, and meaningless, that is a fact--but some people like to make up comforting stories that say otherwise.