It’s the only religion I feel comfortable associating myself with.
I was born and raised catholic by two parents who really didn’t fit the “typical” catholic stereotype; they are carefree, supportive, and more liberal than other 40-some year olds I know.
I get their logic though: they wanted my brother and me to grow up with values, which is a concept foreign to many today.
You see, we grew up in a neighborhood that was near a “lesser” or “worse off” elementary school in Michigan. There were three elementary schools in my hometown; however, school of choice didn’t apply to us since we could walk to Tomek Eastern.
There were several rumors about TE that all of my town seemed to know, like children lashing out and hitting one another in the third grade…things of that nature.
My parents didn’t want to send us there, and ended up enrolling my brother and me into private Catholic school.
It was the worst.
I must say that I did learn a lot about myself. I learned that I am stronger than I’d thought I ever could be.
I was bullied from kindergarten until fourth grade. It took some emotional abuse from a fourth grade teacher for me to finally beg my parents to pull me out of St. John’s.
Until that point, the bullying was pretty harmless. It consisted of not being picked for a game of Red Rover or kickball, sitting at the lunch table in the corner instead of with the “popular” kids (or the kids whose parents were wealthy), etc.
At one point, however, I did realize that the bullying was much worse than I’d thought.
But I was the type of kid to not tell my parents what was really going on.
My fourth grade teacher was the biggest bully I will probably ever meet. She was rude, judgmental, and had no filter whatsoever.
She would verbally torment us, but especially me. I’m not sure why, but she was not a fan. A lot of people didn’t like my family because they weren’t “popular” and didn’t flaunt what they had (or so I see it that way). My teacher had a very strict household with children of her own and foster children.
I remember we had a gift exchange for Christmas and I was supposed to give one of her foster sons a gift. This, I know, was no mistake; she purposely drew my name to make me look bad. I knew she would make my gift look bad in front of her son.
Well, her son beat her to the punch.
When he opened my gift, he was so happy. I can’t even remember what I had bought him, probably candy from our candy store downtown. Nevertheless, the look on my teacher’s face said it all: she was livid that I could bring her son joy.
Another incident I remember vividly was when my mom bought me new tennis shoes. They were a size too big, and I couldn’t walk right in them. I remember I had a math question and my teacher wasn’t looking at my hand in the air, so I walked to her. I tripped and fell in front of the whole class and instead of helping me, she laughed at me (the whole class followed suit).
Events like this took place quite frequently throughout the school year. It got to the point where my parents knew something was going on because I wasn’t myself. I would not be the smiling, happy child full of laughter that they knew I was; I was the victim of emotional abuse from an adult.
I have no problem with religion, but I do have a problem with the hypocrisy it can come with.
Love thy neighbor, but hate thy student? What?
I would have rather been physically abused at TE than mentally abused at St John’s because those scars have lasted forever.
I blocked out my past because of the emotional abuse I experienced throughout my early elementary years. I also blocked out several good memories with friends in the making. I have memories before kindergarten and after the fourth grade, but it’s almost like everything in between never happened, which really sucks.
Five years of my life seem like they didn’t even happen.
I feel like studying and learning more about Buddhism has given me something back: peace of mind.
Although my family is still catholic, I don’t identify with that anymore.
It’s my past, and I’d prefer to keep it that way.
I’ve attempted to go to other Catholic Churches since, and even nondenominational churches; I do not identify with these belief systems whatsoever. In my personal experience, prayer was not genuine; it was an excuse.
Conversation wasn’t real; it was a facade. I know for a fact this is not true in all cases, but it was in mine.
What I love most about Buddhism is that everything is in your control – every action you make has a consequence. It’s about, as I call it, “living more with less.” Studying Buddhism has given me some sense of control back, something that has been absent from my life for a long time.