Monday, March 1, 2010

Bittersweet Memories of Georgia

It was 9 years ago this week that my mother kicked me out of the house for the last time. She told me I was an evil spirit, and she didn't want my negative influence around my three younger brothers. I spent that night on the phone to my long distance boyfriend, crying. He offered to come get me and bring me back to Atlanta, Georgia, to live with him. I had nowhere else to go, so I accepted his offer.

I quit my 3 jobs, dropped my college courses and packed most of my things. My mother ignored me the rest of that week. He arrived in California the first week of March 2001. We visited Disneyland, the Griffiths Observatory and a few other tourist places before hitting the road in my 1998 Chevy Metro.

We took the 40 through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Tennessee. Driving into Georgia, we hit traffic and sat for 3 hours because a Tractor Trailer carrying logs overturned. I remember listening to his mix CD and Cyndi Lauper as we sat enjoying each others company.

I still remember pulling into Atlanta. I remember how the sun was shining and how open I felt. We had driven all night from Memphis to make it to Atlanta. I remember parking and going up into the dorm rooms. He was a student at Georgia State University and lived in the dorms that were built for the 1996 Olympians. We were a short walk from Centennial Olympic Park.

As time carried on, I realized that I was alone in a new city in a new state. The first time I met my boyfriend was when he walked off the plane in California. And I did have him in Atlanta, but I was still getting to know him. That April, I was able to get a job at the Dave and Buster's in Marietta, Georgia. Shortly after that I got another job at the Cracker Barrel. We moved out of the dorm rooms and into our first apartment. I was working two jobs and he was going to school full time.

Our relationship was strong, but at times, awkward. I was in a transitional place in my life and it seemed as though he knew what he wanted to do with his life, but he wasn't sure how I factored into that.

No matter how I feel about him now, no matter what happened in the two years I was in Georgia, one night he did something that I will be forever grateful for...

He had done some research on the Mormon religion. And he found some things that didn't add up to him. I don't remember everything he brought up, but he pointed out the flaws regarding the referencing of horses, coins, and the blood lineage of Nephi. There are no traces of Jewish DNA in anyone native to the Americas. He challenged me, whether out of love or frustration, to question my beliefs. He asked questions I couldn't answer, it brought me to tears. He kept me up all night, showing me things online, asking questions, offering answers. When I told him I was done and didn't want to talk anymore, he kept on going.

Honestly, I was mad at him. I couldn't believe he could 'attack' me like that. I was supposed to be the love of his life and here he was, making me cry. I was surprised that night didn't lead to a break-up; we stayed together a year and a half after that.

I never attended a Mormon church while I was in Georgia. I did, however, attend a Baptist church every Sunday that we spent at his parents house out in Evans, Georgia. I never told him, but I really enjoyed it. I found it easy to question that Pastor, I wrote down things I didn't agree with. I looked up the scriptures he referenced and read and reread them. It became easier over time to start looking at the beliefs that were handed to me as a child, forced down my throat as a teenager, and to question them.

My relationship with him ended on uncomfortable terms. But my time in Georgia, my experiences there, I wouldn't trade for anything.

When I came home from Georgia, my parents welcomed me into their home. In order to live there, they required me to go to church. Their church... the one place I knew I didn't belong. I struggled to attend church for years after coming back from Georgia, but in the end, I knew that Mormonism, with all the guilt and the shame wasn't for me.

I miss Georgia. I miss the Magnolia trees in full bloom, I miss the friends I made there. And I sure do miss Pikachu, my one eyed cat. Because of my experiences in Georgia, I finally had the strength to question. And I will be forever grateful.

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