I was doing everything I was supposed to, but not getting the results I wanted. The perfectionism took over. I was doing everything to the extreme. I was praying all the time. Reading my scriptures for hours. I went to temple ceremonies twice a week. I decided to pay double the tithing. I’m surprised I wasn’t a translated being
The Mormon Church has these timelines and templates of how you are supposed to be, how you are supposed to behave, the rules you’re supposed to follow. But then they’re also like, ‘You’re a unique child of God and an individual. Be yourself.’ It’s very conflicting and confusing, especially for a person like me who is intent on doing it “right.” Can I be myself, or do I need to fit this mold?
I was a perfectionist growing up. I thought I had to accomplish everything and do it all at once. I was always thinking, ‘I still have to learn the piano, and how am I going to find time for the violin?’ I have three brothers who are mirror images of who I’m “supposed to be” in the eyes of the Mormon Church. They had families and kids at a young age. They’re very active in the church. I put a lot of pressure on myself to reflect that.
There was a time in college that the pressure felt overwhelming, insurmountable. I went to school as a dance major. I started fixating on how I would support a wife and children with dance—these people who didn’t even exist yet. It’s like they were already behind me, following me, and expecting things from me. It was a very intense feeling. I distinctly remember stopping and asking, ‘Why am I directing major life choices based on people who don’t even exist?’ I felt like that’s what I was supposed to do.
I experienced a major turning point while on my mission. I’d been a missionary for 18 months already. We were knocking on doors when a middle-aged woman invited us in. I remember sitting with her, telling her how important the Mormon Church was to us, being passionate, persuasive. And everything we said, she reciprocated—except for the Catholic Church. I could tell the Catholic Church had played an equally important role in her life. I felt ashamed that I thought I could come into this woman’s house and try to convince her otherwise. I remember thinking, ‘What am I doing?’
I met this guy and it was a moment I could tell my life would change. We started dating and I was living between these two worlds. It was a struggle of doing what felt right to me, but was so wrong to everyone else. I told myself I had to get back to church and start wearing my garments again. One day I was reading my scriptures and I couldn’t even piece it together; I felt so physically sick to my stomach. I called my dad sobbing. I stopped going to church. I think this was really hard on my parents, but they still loved me.
I was studying really hard. I felt like if I could achieve highly in academia it would compensate for this other righteous role I couldn’t fill. While in the middle of an intense workload, I received this letter from my father. He told me he received personal revelation that I met my roommate so I could marry her and remain active in the church. I did not like that, in fact I hated it. Here I was literally pulling my hair out from trying to achieve some greatness, and doing it all just for parents, and then I receive this letter. I locked myself in a closet and cried for hours.
It’s taken a lot of internal conflict, but I realize now that whatever I do with my life has to be for me. Not for my parents. Not for the church. Not for some fictional family. I feel so fortunate for the life that I have and the amazing people I’ve met along the way. I’m happy with how the Mormon Church shaped me. But I also know I’ve experienced a lot of beauty and friendships I would not have experienced had I not left the church. Had I not traveled, explored, and let go of expectations. Had I not let go of that template.