I came across this essay I wrote back in my junior year of high school on my experience of moving to Minnesota, thought I would share!
I find it almost humorous how as children we perceive the world through such naïve and censored lenses that we don’t realize the differences in others. However, I don’t see this as an entirely bad state of mind. In fact, I believe it allows us to see who a person actually is without corrupting our views with unsuitable stereo-types and judgments. As children grow up they naturally fall into a state where labeling is common. A person turns into a genius, an idiot, a beauty, a freak, or whatever other label they get marked with. We all come to realize that everyone isn’t exactly like us. People believe in, work for, encourage, promote, and reject, all different kinds of things and ideas. It makes us different from one another, and when society sees something that’s different, it usually makes it known.
Growing up in Utah, everyone I knew came with the label “Mormon,” or at least knew of the background and history that we hold. That’s just the way things were. In fact, people associate Utah with Mormons. It’s just as much a part of my childhood as it is a part of me. I found myself raised in the church and still to this day attend. No matter how far I look back I remember myself, every Sunday, sitting in the cushioned pews, singing and listening to the songs that fill the room as well as everyone’s hearts. The strength I’ve felt, and answers I have found, remain deeply embedded in my heart. Having no idea that my standards and outlooks made me distinctive or uncommon my state of mind remained unchanged. In my youthful state I assumed everyone was like me, which I find a commonality among the way children reason. With that in mind, I figured since my religion guides us to dress modestly, to not consume alcohol and drugs, to not drink coffee or tea, and even to not swear or say the Lords name in vain, that everyone else would act in accordance to those guidelines as well. As a child, that’s all I knew, but as my life’s tally gains more and more slashes with each coming year, I’ve become greatly aware of something. My religion makes me different.
People, who don’t even know me, find the fact that I belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as odd. This became apparent to me when my dad’s job tied my family together and shipped us some place new. Looking back, I remember my little thirteen year old self going to my new school for the first time. It was frightening to begin with.Walking into the new classrooms I could sense the curious eyes of those around me like I was an ant under a magnifying glass.As the days faded farther and farther away from my mind, so did my “New-kid- fears”. I began to settle in, meet new friends, and become more outgoing. However, people were quick to realize that I was different. The way I talked made me different. The things I participated in made me different. Overall something about me just wasn’t common.
Sitting in my boring, and somewhat uncomfortable desk, I can remember their faces turned in their chairs looking at me. Their questions, loud and echoing, are still sharp in my mind. I could hear the clock ticking in slow motion as I tried to come up with a response to the onslaught of voices surrounding me. I could feel my stomach turn as the nervousness crept in. Their eyes, anxious for answers, looked at me curiously as I choked out a nervous sounding laugh.
“So, you are Mormon, aren’t you?” the boy in front of me asked.
“Mmmhhmm,” I confirmed quietly. At least that question was easy.
“Are you really? How many moms do you have? Why can’t you date anyone, is it because your parents decide who you marry? Do you guys really wear that funny underwear?” he questioned me, gaining more confidence.
The girl to my right had then decided to join the conversation, “Everyone knows Mormons have at least three moms, my dad even said so.”
“I uh, I only have one mom.” I replied, my face red from embarrassment. “And I can date I just have to wait until I turn sixteen. And, uh, my underwear is normal.”
This memory will be kept with me for the rest of my life. I believe it has helped me grow and learn about the world around me. Living in Minnesota has made aware that a lot of people are uninformed, unknowledgeable, or shocked by what a Mormon actually does and what we believe. Some look at me with an odd expression on their face as though I had just told them that I was grown from a petri dish. Like I’m something to be studied, or mocked. When in reality, I am just a person, a person with ten fingers, ten toes, two eyes, a nose, ears, a mouth, even a heart. Just like the billions of other people in this world.
All people believe in different things, practice different traditions, and have different standards. We shouldn’t look at someone and see them as anything besides a person. Whether they are a Muslim woman who completely covers her body as a sign of modesty, an Indian man who won’t cut his hair unless showing a sign of grief, or even a Mormon girl who believes that a young prophet could restore a Latter-day religion, they are human, just like everyone else. Rumors, jokes, and stereotypes fly from mouths of people who don’t even know, or don’t fully understand something. People scoff and say “You actually do that?” as if I would lie about it. When in turn, I could say the same about what they believe in as well.
In a way, it’s like the glasses that shielded our eyes as children have been completely discarded. Making us see the differences between us. We find them intimidating. The world creates a false sense of “normality”, but what is normal? Who is normal in a world full of people completely different from one another? I find the answer simple, no one. So I have one remaining question. How can someone judge and discriminate a person for their beliefs being different, when in the grand scheme of things, their own beliefs coexist differently as well? I do not think we should try to see through the naivety of youth,but that we should recognize the differences in ourselves as well as others and not see them as something worthy of being mocked, or causing shame. To look at someone as a person and for what they stand for, is how we should perceive and interact with each other. Through this, we can learn to respect our differences, whether you are of a different heritage, a different culture, or even of a different faith.