A Secular Childhood: Letters to My Daughter – no.2 “Help Others” and “Follow Your Own Path”

Happy Halloween! My husband, the magician, and daughter, the kitty witch:

Here are the next two letters in my series, A Secular Childhood: Letters to My Daughter.

 

Dear daughter,

It’s important to help others and your community. You can try to save the world, but please realize there are people in need right here in your hometown. Big causes are important, but neighbors need to help neighbors. Wherever you are, people are meant to help other people. We are all connected through our basic needs and wants. Always remember we are more alike than different. 

We don’t help others in god’s name — we don’t do it in anyone’s name. Some religions use charity to prey on the vulnerable, but it’s important to treat others with respect. Practice empathy. Life is fragile and we could easily be in someone else’s shoes. 

We help others because we’re good humans, and that’s what good humans do.

Love,

Mom

 

To my daughter with so much potential,

I am so excited to one day see the person you’ll become with interests and passions that make you uniquely you.

Explore and try new things, but if you don’t know what you want to do when you graduate high school, that’s okay. You have time. I wanted to be a mother and writer and I didn’t figure that out until I was in my 30’s. The 18-year-old me could have never predicted what the 30-year-old me would want even though I thought it all figured out by my high school graduation. I was kind of crushed when things didn’t go as planned. There were definitely unexpected twists and turns but I’m happy where I’m at. 

As far as finding a partner, dad and I followed a pretty traditional path. We dated for a couple of years, got married, and a few years later had you. We also went to college and bought a house before you came along.

Please don’t feel like you have to follow in our footsteps. You don’t have to be interested in the same things as others in our family. Do what makes you happy. You can have a fulfilling life without a spouse or children. You don’t have to buy a house. Education is important but there are other options than just a traditional college.

Life is short so make the most of it. You don’t have to live up to someone else’s expectations. Set your own goals and milestones and make your life your own. Don’t let anything hold you back.

Love,

Mom

A Secular Childhood: Letters to My Daughter no.1 “Be Proud” and “Indoctrination”

This pandemic has been hard on all of us. I’m going a little stir crazy, but on the bright side, I’ve had plenty of time to write and have been working on several projects.

One project is a collection of letters to my daughter — things I would like her to learn from her secular childhood. Most of the letters are intended for her to read as a teenager and many include stories from her life today as a four-year-old as well as stories from my childhood. 

I would really like to share these letters with you and I plan on posting one or two of them weekly among other posts.

The first two are called, “Be Proud of Where You’re From” and “I Don’t Believe in Indoctrination” with an introduction letter.

 

My sweet girl,

As I begin to write these letters, you are just barely four years old, but you already have so many questions. I’m doing my best to be clear and forthcoming in my answers. I never want to see your curiosity fade. Never shy away from asking questions. You’re learning as much as you can about the world around you and I only want to encourage your enthusiasm and quest for knowledge, which I hope will continue for a lifetime. Stay inquisitive as your interests and passions unfold.

I’m excited to see the person you will become.

Love,

Mom 

 

Dear daughter,

When I first went to college, I was occasionally called “fresh off the farm” due to my country accent. I actually worked pretty hard at trying to sound like I was from the city or suburbs. One word where my accent was particularly noticeable was “again”. I would pronounce it “ah-gee-an”. I didn’t even realize I was putting a whole extra syllable in it until it was pointed out to me. I practiced saying “again” over and over and my accent became less noticeable. I now think it’s pretty sad that I was self-conscious of how I spoke and I regret ever trying to change it.

Meanwhile, I had a professor from Mississippi who had lived in Ohio for decades and still had a thick Southern accent. He didn’t care. It was a part of him and even kind of charming. I should have followed his example. 

Today, I am proud of where I’m from and I know I can’t help how I speak. Now I consider it an endearing part of who I am — just like my professor from Mississippi. 

I know as a teen and young adult you will probably want to get the hell out of Ohio — I know I did. And that’s okay. You are free to explore and I encourage you to go.

Our ancestors were some of the first settlers to the Great Black Swamp of Northwest Ohio and our family has lived here for generations. This is my home and I hope you feel that way, too — whether you settle down here or not. I hope you will have many good memories to carry with you as you find your place in this world.

Wherever you end up, please always be proud of who you are and where you’re from. You will always be welcome here.

Love,

Mom

 

Dear daughter,

By now you know that I’m an atheist and that’s something that’s very important to me. It reminds me to live life to the fullest, focus on my recovery from mental illness, and see the world through a humanist lens. Basically, it’s intertwined with every aspect of my life.

I will never force you to be like me. I don’t believe in indoctrination. I hope by now I have instilled in you the value of verifiable evidence and empathy, but you are free to explore the world however you would like. I want you to learn as much as you can. 

Always be skeptical and make informed decisions, but your beliefs are yours to define.

 

Love,

Mom

Making Progress on My Mental Illness Book

Sorry, I haven’t posted for a while. 

For the past few months, I have been writing a book about my experience as an atheist with a mental illness. I’ve had a lot of ideas for the past few weeks as well as a lot of drive, so I just went for it — even though it meant neglecting my blog for a couple of weeks. I’ve been writing my butt off and I’m happy to say I’ve made a lot of progress, but I’ve also learned a lot about writing, myself, and recovery. I always think of myself learning from projects at work or school, but gaining knowledge and experience from writing this book, a project of my own doing,  has given me a sense of independence, and it’s empowering.

In the book, I write a lot about my eating disorder which has painful and at times confusing — like I just can’t put my thoughts and emotions into words. I gave a few pages to my husband to read hoping he could shine a light on the places where I was having difficulty, however, he thought it was really good, and to my surprise, those few pages gave him some much-needed insight. He didn’t realize the depths of my eating disorder at its current state. I’m not doing anything dangerous, but I have a lot of weird habits that range from annoying to dysfunctional. He said he’d be more gentle when reacting to my behaviors toward eating.

Then there’s writing about my schizoaffective disorder — which I’ve done so many times before. There have been points where I felt like I was just spewing out information, but now I working on telling a story — creating visuals and making it interesting. I try to give as many details as possible — especially when discussing psychosis — in hopes of showing the true nature of mental illness and recovery.

This book has been revealing — even to myself as the author. It’s really making me examine where I stand in my recovery. I didn’t plan this project too far in advance, but it really feels like it’s something I need to do right now, not just for writing, but also for my life — how am I doing and where am I going? This has been a very rewarding project and I can’t wait to see what the end product will look like.

I will keep you updated and post again soon. I hope you are all doing well!