The world has opened up before me; it slowly unfolds, revealing to me things I would never guess or imagine.
In our culture, we are told our lives should follow a certain pattern. There are activities that one is expected to carry out in order to be considered successful. If you diverge from the path, you will meet with disapproval from several sources: your parents, your friends and peers, your employers, your family, et cetera... You could be called a rebel, at worst, and unconventional, at best. People may decide you're leading a self-destructive life because they don't understand or simply cannot fathom your reasons. They accept the standard of life presented to them as good and never question it; never desire anything else. They experience fleeting moments where they wish for adventure or long for "something else", but few test themselves against the unpredictable unknown.
I had lived in a box, but not happily. I tested its walls, gently at first, and then more aggressively as time went on. I've peeked over. I've stepped out. I'm standing in the brilliant light and my eyes are slowly adjusting to life on "the outside". I haven't yet fully grasped the implications of my atheism, but I continue to feel the shackles of ignorance fall away.
It's been a while since my last epiphany. I have pushed and pushed myself this past year; I have wrestled out of myself insecurity and uncertainty. I know who I am. I have overcome the world by overcoming Fort Lauderdale. I struggled and fought to prove to myself that I could survive, and that I could depend on myself and achieve my goals. I had to win in order move into the next phase. I hadn't realized how close I was to it until now.
When I was a Christian, every move was potentially fatal; every action could've been a threat. There were only so many paths to traverse, and they were so dull and colorless. My limited options stood in front of me and were about as appealing as my choice between volleyball and basketball during P.E. class. From my vantage point, the gymnasium was the world. Little did I know that things like tennis, bicycling, swimming, hiking, hockey or bungee jumping even existed. I had no idea what lay outside those doors. Try to imagine walking out and discovering something as simple as the grass as opposed to lacquered wood floors. This has been my experience of coming out of my Christian world and into the real and extremely unimaginably expansive world.
It’s ALL new, and not just my career path choices (which, before, consisted of missionary or Sunday School teacher): it’s my approach to life. I don’t have to be afraid anymore. I can view it all as an adventure; there are no mistakes and there is no right or wrong. Even if a decision I make negatively affects my life, I can fix it. I can learn and grow and move on. Christians have tried to invalidate the life of atheists by saying we have no hope, but what we actually have none of is boundaries. They’re right: nothing matters. But, it’s not so depressing a thought anymore. When I die, it won’t matter that I changed my college major more than once; it won’t matter that I moved forty times before my 50th year; it won’t matter that I took a risk on someone, even if by chance it didn’t work out; it won’t matter that I caused controversies in an attempt to make the world a better place; it won’t matter whether or not I had children. I could go on, but I just realized I’m free from expectations now.
The only thing that will matter is that I lived my life the way I wanted to. I can now slough off conventional ideas of success and remember that I was never part of that decision-making process. No one asked me if what I wanted in life was to graduate college at 22, get married directly afterwards, have three and a half kids, live in the suburbs where there are “good schools”, go on paid vacation once a year through a job where my hours are nine to five, and then retire at 55. Education is absolutely important, but it’s less about the degree and more about the lessons you actually learn. The time frame doesn’t matter. No one can tell me I should know exactly what I’m going to do with my life “by now” when I’m only 26.
Even though I have definitely not followed a conventional path thus far, I’ve felt the pressure in the back of my mind. The pressure of going to college is heavy upon me in this culture, but I realized (just now) that it’s not something I have to get done right away. I love learning! Why would I ever stop? Why would I insist on being finished in a year when what I really want is to continue for as long as it’s possible?
I can change the course of my life whenever I want to. I can pursue anything and not be so tied to the idea that it owns me. I am not AN ARTIST; I simply am artistic. I am not A WRITER; I simply enjoy writing. I am not AN ATHEIST; I simply lack belief in the improbable or that which cannot be proven. I am not ruled by my title or by my profession. I am not ruled by my goals, but I rule myself and try to evolve. My plans may change because I actively insist that my mind grow. If my mind grows, change can be necessary and I must NEVER deny myself that.
I only have one precious, fleeting life. I won’t waste my time in a stagnate puddle of doom, or even subject myself to the pain of endurance where it is NOT NECESSARY. If it is self-inflicted and serves no other purpose than principle (i.e. I said I would so I must), I will stop. Once I feel I am able to move on, I will. I won’t linger unless there is something significant to be gained from the experience… unless I want to.
Christianity was never about choice. Free will was a myth; joy was faux; happiness, faked. My options were limited to someone else’s idea of a “good life”.
I own my life now. The world waits to be discovered.