By: Lydia Scott
I guess at the age of 42, I can consider myself middle-aged. 42 years is plenty of time to make a bunch of decisions that don’t turn out too well. It’s also plenty of time to be able to find the silver lining among the dark clouds of bad ideas. There are things I fully regret, like that time I drank way too much at that party out of town. Ugh. Or going to work for that horrible man who felt I was too fat to work out front where his clients could see me. Or not gassing up my car that dark night when I was 16 and out past curfew. These are all insignificant events that lead to nothing but pain and humiliation. I could have matured without those, thank you very much!
On a larger scale, I’ve been through some things that I did have a choice in, but either didn’t go well or weren’t, in general, a happy experience. But I don’t regret them. This blog will focus on something that took up a lot of my early life and wasn’t the right thing for me. But I definitely don’t regret it. Even when I get mad about it, I still don’t regret it.
I spent well over 30 years as a very devout member of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Sure, I got into it because my parents were Witnesses, but in my mid-teens I made the conscious choice to stick with it, to the fullest extent possible. Now, I have to say first, this way of life works wonderfully for millions of people, and in no way am I knocking it. For me, however, it resulted in a lot of issues that lead to unhappiness, more bad decisions, and denying the mind I was born with. Eventually, in my mid-30’s, I did move on to a way of life that fit my persona better – agnosticism. For me, being a devout evangelical Christian in this religion was not a good idea. However, there were good things I learned and experienced from it, like:
- I learned how to thoroughly research an assigned topic; devise an outline for a 5 minute dialog about that topic; create a skit between me and another assigned person that had to be within 30 seconds of the 5 minute limit and accomplish the task of getting the point across with a defined beginning, body, and conclusion; then perform said skit on stage (with real microphones!) in front of about 100 other people, afterwards being critiqued on it and informed of what needed improvement. I did this as a preteen and continued on as long as I was a Witness. It has served me well in my career, without the “formal” education.
- I learned how to stand up for what I believed was right, even when every single other person around me, every single day, thought I was an idiot. Do you know how hard it is to have the last name of Valentine, but not celebrate Valentine’s day? I can’t tell you how many times, even as a grade schooler, I had to to say “no, thank you” to people who just felt sure I really needed cards, presents, and parties for all the holidays and birthdays they enjoyed and I didn’t. Did I feel left out? Absolutely. Do I now have a hard time knowing what to do for all these celebrations, yet have an insane need to participate in the fun? Absolutely. Am I glad I learned how to stand up for my beliefs, even though I eventually outgrew them? Definitely!
- I learned discipline. We had meetings three days a week, every week, plus the “field ministry” (going door to door to talk about spiritual topics with strangers) a minimum of one morning a week. So yeah, even as a child, I was well-behaved and spiritual with a bunch of other people on at least four of the seven week days. I had to get dressed in fancy clothes (basically Sunday church-going clothes) for everything. I had to make sure I had all of my materials, like a Bible, a song book, publications we’d be reviewing, and a book bag. I had to study the assigned materials before each meeting so that I could participate. Participate, for the general audience, meant raising your hand to answer the questions voiced by the conductor of the meeting (usually provided in the assigned study material). If you could read, you could study and prepare your comments. If you weren’t old enough to read, mom and/or dad would help you practice giving a simple one or two word answer to a question they felt would work well for you. The conductors of the meetings would make a point to look for the tiny hands being held up amongst the 100 or so faces in the audience.
All of these things played a major role in many of the positive habits I have as an adult. Granted, there are parts of what I experienced that played a negative role, but hey…nothing is 100% positive, right? And this blog series is focusing on the good stuff.
My next blog post will deal with my experience later in life with psychiatric treatment facilities, which was not fun either. But I learned some things from my experiences there that I didn’t expect.
I’d love to hear from some of you. What things did you experience that weren’t positive, or weren’t good ideas, but taught you some valuable lessons?