- Please briefly describe what religion/culture you grew up in, and list a few ways in which you were restricted from living a “normal” life.
I was born in Miami but raised in Kuwait. My father is a Muslim from Kuwait and my mother is a Catholic from Colombia. My siblings and I were raised with Islam and Catholicism. I had to learn how to live a double life very early on. I wasn’t allowed to play with boys once I hit adolescents. I wasn’t allowed to wear certain clothes, laugh without reason or question religion.
- When did you start “disbelieving” your faith or teachings, and how did you deal with that new found realization?
My family and I survived the Gulf War in 1990. We were able to escape through the desert and make it to Miami where my moms family was, only to be hit by hurricane Andrew.
After so much destruction, we went back to Kuwait where I grew up until I was 15. I say that to say this, there was so much trauma and dysfunction that was spread through out the generations. At the time I didn’t understand that, and as I grew older I was able to understand everyone was just as lost as we the children were.
I started really questioning the idea of God around middle school. I couldn’t understand how both my parents perception of God, though strong and convicting, wasn’t enough to protect my family through out the catastrophes we had experienced.
In Kuwait, I was in religion class because its mandatory and I remember asking reasonable questions and being kicked out of class. In my mind, as a rebellious mixed angry child, I couldn’t understand why no one had straight answers from me if God had been so perfect. The inability to answer my questions was a familiar response on both sides.
- What ultimately was the “straw that broke the camel’s back,” when it comes to you deciding to permanently leave your upbringing?
I had experienced some troubling times and I remember being so young, desperate and lost to find divinity that I figured going back to what I knew would help. I went to a catholic retreat and was honest about not being fully on board with Jesus being god and I asked for a prayer and the priest said he couldn’t bless me. At that point I knew that path wasn’t for me.
4a. What were some immediate consequences (if any) of you leaving your upbringing? 4b. What were some of the immediate benefits?
I think one of the hardest parts about this whole process has been having to ask my parents to respect my beliefs even if they don’t agree with them. There has actually been a lot of freedom and growth in my relationships with my parents since I’ve gotten passed the fears of being transparent with them
- What challenges have you faced with reinventing your identity, and how you navigated in the world outside of your abandoned upbringing? (Feel free to speak about emotions, family relationships, friendships, mental health, intimacy, spirituality etc…)
I’ve battled mental health issues since childhood. I know that my life is contingent upon my spiritual condition. My life depended on me exploring spirituality beyond the limits set in my childhood. The more I heal the more I’ve also been able to appreciate the religion both of my parents gave me. Today, I am a woman who is well rounded and respecting of so many walks of life because I understand that our relationship with God (as we understand him/her/it) is so deeply personal and beautiful.
I’ve spent many years volunteering in diff avenues and the one thing I try to show people is how to find God for themselves. It irks my nerves that divinity has been hijacked by fundamentalists of ALL backgrounds. Its such a shame to see so many young people lost and without guidance or even the willingness to explore because of the fear behind the idea of God that we’ve been conditioned to believe exists.
Since having told my parents I needed my own space to explore God, I have tried mediums, pilgrimages, past life regressions, card readers, acupuncture, retreats, praying, crystals, nature, animals…so many things!! When Ive traveled I’ve gone to hindu temples, mosques and churches, I would give anything to share that energy with the world around me to show people its all the same! It was beautiful to have tangible proof that God is universal, all loving and all powerful.
Ive been faced with a lot of ignorance through out my journey to God and ive learned to respect people where they are at. Its not my job or anyone else’s to convert or convince anyone. My very existence and the miracle that is my very existence is proof in itself. I live a life that is righteous to my moral compass according to the god that I have come to know along the way- and I have to be bout it not talk bout it.
The only reason im able to have the relationship that I have with God today is because I had so many women along the way guide me and challenge me to explore beyond my childhood ideas and my parents ideologies and I am forever humbled by the gracious gift these women gave me.
- What would you say to anyone going through the same situation, and seeking to get out?
I was taught to talk to God like my friend, not like a bell man at a hotel or a 911 call but really start including god into my life. One of the first things I started doing was doing a better prayer in the morning like /god if you really got me give me a sign through out the day and if I got that’s sign at night say thank you. I was told it was ok to be angry with God and God would still love me. I started to see god in the smiles of children, to see the love between friends in same sex relationships, to see the humility in people feeding the homeless, to see the selflessness in humans giving of themselves. That was all God. I had to really submit to understanding that God was everything and everyone. When someone was mean, there was a lesson for me, whether it was to stand up for myself or to pray for someone who bothered me. There were so many teachable moments to find God, if I was truly on a path of discovering my own divinity.
Question everything. Read, pray, talk to people, go to workshops of new faiths, there are online groups too if your unable to explore in person. Figure out where your heart feels at home. Do these words your reciting resonate with your soul? Does this ceremony feel like your soul is being hugged super tight? There is no right or wrong in this process, except honoring your truth along the way. And its ok if there are changes, like all relationships and growth changes can happen. You can deal, so long as you put your truth first. I hope you find yourself and all the glory that is you exactly as you are along the way. Life is so much more manageable when you are able to embrace your ancestors, your guardian angels and God along the way.
I’m looking forward to your responses! Also please send any clear or high-resolution photographs you have of yourself that can be used for the article.