I knew I shouldn't open my mouth. It wasn't going to help matters any way I looked at it. But I heard myself saying it anyway. "You think we're better than the Heimeses and Metcalfs, don't you?"
My dad's mouth dropped open. "Of course not!" He sputtered, horrified. Of course, he'd just spent the last half hour patiently explaining why I couldn't spend time with their children. Unlike us, these other homeschool, Christian families weren't enlightened and aware of the importance of family, and of the male position of authority in the family structure. These families allowed their daughters to work jobs in the secular community, spends time with young people their own age, and even apply to college and attend youth group.
But I couldn't accept the things I was being taught. I was the challenger, the black sheep. My dad spent hours trying to teach me, but I would find so many flaws with his viewpoint. The problem was that I could see right through what he said. Nothing he believed was thought through. He would listen to his sermons on cassette tape, like the rules he heard, and enforce them without knowing what the reasoning was for applying that teaching. It drove me crazy. Mom would plead with me to just let dad be right, but I couldn't just settle, no mater how hard I tried.
That continued into my college years. I began to question each new viewpoint I came across. At first my style was raw, abrasive, and put people on the defense instantly. When I started English classes, I met a professor who changed my life. In his class, I learned to debate, to approach the table with an open mind, and to exchange respect with all my opponents. The entire class often went over our hour long class time, discussing the environment, governments, religion, and much more.
All this leads up to a revelation I made this past month. I met the Commanding Officer of my new station a few weeks ago. His style instantly won my admiration. He likes to find ways to make things better. The Navy has many customs and practices that are done a certain way just because they've been that way for decades. But if you can find a better way to do them, why the hell not? So he challenges young sailors to constantly look for ways to improve ourselves, the way we do our job, and the command in general. That's the style of living I do best.
A lot of times, challenging age old customs or beliefs can be very uncomfortable. That's why out country is so slow at stamping out discrimination. One of the things I've challenged that met the most opposition was that of marriage. I don't understand the point of it. Which is probably why I was so bad at it. I see it as a kind of risky business. I mean two people, often not old enough to be fully developed, swear on oath to be everything the other needs, for LIFE!!Rather a tall order, to put it lightly! I don't know where the practice of marriage originated, but it is a hard and fast promise that really upsets especially the older generations if broken. I'd rather date for life, same wonderful partner without the piece of paper that suddenly binds you hats and fast, no matter how your feelings may change down the road.
Another idea I've challenged is that of our need for organized religion. It's a bit of a risk, me bringing this up. I have done relationships that I really value, and my view on this subject, sadly, could compromise those friendships if one of those friends should stumble on this. But the fact that religion, an idea, could have that strong a hold over anyone, scares me a lot. I have a soldier friend whose family nearly disowned him because he disapproved of Tim Tebow's extravagant displays of worship on the field. Where I stand right now is on the belief that if religion helps you reach your goals that otherwise you may not have had the motivation to achieve, than by all means, embrace that. Believe it! But in my opinion, religion doesn't work for everyone. I'm not against religion or God! It's just not something that benefits me in ANY way. If that changes down the road, I'll be the first to convert and the most faithful follower you'll know. But I respect you, and it would be nice if you respected me in return.
Now, the most unpopular part of living your life trying new things is that you are, without a doubt, going to fail sometimes. Probably a lot. But watch me blow your mind: failure, in my opinion, is excellent. It means you aren't just quietly doing what you are told to do! Another huge lesson the Navy is currently teaching me is that you need to know failure in order to achieve success. In fact, the way the system works, you are pretty much set up to fail at some of the things you do, simply because it's known to build character and grow you. So maybe, just maybe, you should feel a little content with your failures. I certainly am learning to.
So, in summary, I guess I'm a rebel. Always have been. As a four year old, trying to find ways around my grandma's direct rules, I was challenging what was, against popular acceptance. And that's how I want to live. Not settling for the way things have always been. That's how we become a stagnant people. No, really living is finding new ways to think and live, even if you make some mistakes on the road to get there. At the very least, you can rest assured that your life will never feel unlived or dull. You've got one short life to live. Live it dangerously and freely.