(The first two paragraphs I intended to be a social media post. But then I backed down and didn't post it, because it's my own fucking business. I don't need a random 500 or so near strangers (or worse, family) commenting on my inner spiritual life. Fuck.)
Maybe you could tell, or maybe not, but over the last 5 or 6 years I lost my faith in Mormonism. It’s not something I have been public or candid about with very many people, but recently I decided it might be good for me to be a little more my real self on the outside.
It’s been a long, slow process, and I’m still in it, of course, but the basic gist goes like this: after many years of guilt, shame, perfectionism and depression, I decided something about Mormonism was contributing to these things and I gave myself permission to take a break from the church. Almost immediately the constant weight on my mind started to lift and I started to feel more free on the inside. I didn’t know how to reconcile this with my long belief in Mormonism’s truth claims, and so I didn’t. But for the first time, instead of prioritizing church doctrine and trying to force it on myself, I prioritized myself and did what felt better to me.
(End of social media post. Beginning of further ramblings.)
So—I think this is true. And despite a lifetime of trying to find the thing that’s me, to do the thing that I am meant to do—my mission—I’m still trying. I haven’t found it-- Or, haven't spent enough time with it, or had enough trust in it, to make a significant dent.
I think that growing up in a fundamentalist religion is behind that, because I’ve only been free in my soul a few years now. Mormonism gives you so many imperatives about your life and the purpose of your life that you simply aren’t free to explore. So now that I am free to explore, I feel… yes, I do. I feel right now that I am on the way. I am excited about some things I’ve done today. I contacted a singer friend with whom I am going to work to compose a set of Emily Dickinson settings. I emailed the Houghton Library at Harvard for permission to use the texts. I am imagining a way of working, a process, that will work with my lifestyle, that will tap some of my strengths as a person, and that will result in writing a body of work I can be proud of. And this process I’m imagining is very individual.
Before, I would try to put myself into some pre-existing narrative about music careers: something involving academia, visible, resume-worthy accomplishments, achieving steps on a ladder that others have climbed. And, it hasn't worked that way for me. Not yet. Academia was a bust for me, for so many reasons. My involvement in various local choirs has also been a bit of a bust, partially because there are so many other people in them. People. Also, let's be honest: choirs are culty.
But I see a way to be successful in my own individual way. And I guess my point for this writing is that, in order to do that, I have to be comfortable in my own skin, which meant leaving the religion of my childhood. It also means believing in myself more strongly than I compare myself to others. A belief in the value of my own inner world that withstands the wrecking ball of other artists' bios.
Yeah, and this is also me telling myself that it’s ok that I’m 37 and still trying to figure out some BASIC SHIT. It’s ok. There are good reasons for this. And I'm still alive and moving forward. So, whatever.