Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Questions For the" Born-In the church": What's Your Story?

In the days of old, generations ago, many of us in the Worldwide Church of God were victims of a culture of conformity. A culture that refused to accept that differences and diversity, not just of personality, but of opinion. The expectation was of assimilation into the precise expectation defined specifically by Herbert Armstrong as to exactly what defined not only a Christian, but a human. Not only a father, but a king. Not only a leader, but a ruler. The definitions were intrinsic, the calculations exact. You were a Worldwide-er. And if you did not fit the mold, you certainly got told. And for those who did not assimilate, in no time you were shown the gate. 

Growing up in the Church, however - was a slightly different story. There was no gate. What there was, was a two-punch indoctrination - first, from your parents, and then, when you understood, from the Church in general. Once you entered into school, the contradictory information began to infiltrate your mind. Then, the counter-information to fight the contradictory information came forth from your father, mother, pastor, and church leaders. You were told that what the counter-informers said was wrong and from the dark side, even though it made sense. You were told that what the church and parents said was right, even though it was obviously - except for some elements - wrong. 

Yes, you knew the basics were common sense and made sense. The ten commandments - sure, those made sense. Respect and honor - yeah, that made sense. It was everything else that didn't make sense. 

We have to stop eating leavening for seven days. But yet, this seems to be leavened - doesn't it? 

We have to stop eating and drinking for twenty-four hours. What bad thing will happen if we do? 

We must avoid working from Sunset to Sunset on the Sabbath. But yet, we're all working, aren't we? 

We can't eat pork because it's an unclean food. Yet, my friends eat pork, and they're healthier than I am. What gives? 

We are commanded to go to tithe three tithes - yet we're dirt poor and impoverished, and can't live, while our ministers live high on the hog and the big guys out west live in luxury. Why don't they see this as a problem? 

And this isn't even scratching the surface on the questions of a young person in the Church. There were many more questions and not enough answers. The expectation of the young person in the Church was to simply answer any question with "Maybe I don't understand now, but someday I will." Or, "Perhaps I don't get it because I'm not baptized yet". Or, and I heard this from other youth lots of times... "This isn't for me, but I have no choice, but once I'm old enough, I'm out." 

There was a sizable portion of Church Kids - the Y.O.U., if you will - who never really bought into the game. They had no choice to attend or not to attend - they were going, and that was that and case closed. So they went. They attended sabbath services that were absolutely inappropriate for them. They went to the feast, they skipped school sports and activities - but internally, they felt angry and deprived - and in some cases, even robbed. Certainly, misunderstood, rejected, and a fish out of water from everyone else. The questions, such as those examples above - were never sufficiently answered. And what this caused was, for many, a mass rebellion of the youth and a slammed door shut on the church that they grew up with. But for these young people, the damage was done. 

The Church had attempted to do damage control with such programs as S.E.P., Y.O.U., Church sports programs, talent shows, youth trips, outings, Bible bowls, district weekends and the like - but did these really do the trick in retaining the youth of the Church? The answer is a resounding no for the majority. How many of the youth in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, out of the nearly 100,000 that were in the Church in and around that time - remain in Armstrongism now? Why didn't they stay?

Here's the question that I am posing specifically for those who grew up in the Worldwide Church of God, who were raised in the Church from birth, and are no longer: 1) In Armstrongism, 2) A Church-goer, or 3) Religious. Why did you leave? 
What was your rationale? What was the breaking point? and finally, where are you now? Do you have anything additional to add? What's YOUR story? Please use the comments to answer, I'm looking forward to your answers.

submitted by SHT


DennisCDiehl said...

Just sayin'

We all have a story. We are not, however, our story. Everyone in life has a story but it should not define us or keep us stuck in place. When we identify too closely with the story and we become "the one who..." this or that happened to, we will miss out on the life we actually have now.

nck said...

Those physical things never were a problem. Tried fasting on atonement from I believe 13 years old. Of course that was just a challenge and not some deeply spiritual thing.

I was blessed with parent who let me decide everything regarding spiritual matters. So at 5 I decided to join christmas meal at kindergarten. Although I did refuse the sausage.

Today I spend way more than 2nd tithe on holidays, third tithe was abolished in 1985 by hwa in welfare state nations, free will offerings are free will offerings.

I do recognize todays splinter kids suffering If they are homeschooled and deprived of friends from outside the church then are expected to enroll in a splinter school instead of studying engineering or whatever preference. I guess having parents working at HQ must be sheer hell, although pasadena hq kids always came across as spoiled princesses rather than the unspoiled princes I met at University.

At 13 I studied "races" and came to differ from the opinions expressed in the "1960's 7 rules of success" booklet, although I do agree with the basic premiss of the book.

I came to differ on many opinions. At 16 I did not join school outings if a homosexual actor was in the play. Later at 20 I realized that most of the comedians, actors and musicians I had enjoyed the most on tv were in fact homosexuals. So there did that theory go.

I couldn't really add the "7" or 9 or ten resurections of the holy roman empire. Especially occult hitler didn't belong there in my opinion since I love the Romans rationality, so I figured with this random choosing and picking we might aswell be in a 6th resurection.

I have many stories. On a you trip I saw a nice old catholic church and commented favorably. Our leader responded that he couldnt wait to cut the edifice to smithereens. I thought him a cultural barbarian and visited the greatest buildings and art since that deception.

Within the mold I was one of the most independent thinkers within. Never a rebel. I did like my father correcting a regional director for snapping at irregular children being excited for a church talent show.

I come from a family where real authority is exercised under a hail storm of bullits or when 16 year old kids hold a kalishnikov to your chest, not some supposed know it all from a pulpit.

I guess I was an exception for being a student of true knowledge and defending that and still never rebel in non orderly fashion within someone elses garden.


Anonymous said...

A little bit ridiculous, tell your story...in 3,650 characters or less? Which tiny portion? Which vignette?

I will say this though.

At first, people who came into the church did so as adults, and a lot of the cliches around the church experience, such as your "first love" when you were "excited" and "zealous" to "finally be learning 'the truth'", were invented to speak to those people. It's not possible for us to have those sorts of experiences and the church lingo wasn't geared toward us and it didn't speak to us. I guess it took a while for there to be 2nd generation at all, and given the propensity for the youth to flee, I doubt we were ever a sizable enough minority for them to bother speaking to as a constituency. I've had ministers ask me about my experience, and were surprised when in so many words I told them I didn't fit into their cookie cutter preconceptions about churchy experience. I guess it's something that had never crossed their little minds. Why would it? They're essentially salesmen, and we're not a demographic that they ever really needed to sell to.

Because we came to the Armstrongist message as infants, it didn't take us long to absorb the whole thing. When you get right down to it, the entire corpus of the Armstrongist message is just a rather small set of propagandistic cliches. It's a set of distinct phrases that can get strung together in various orders with the appropriate amount of filler in between. It doesn't take long before you notice how highly repetitious it is. If you come to it as an adult, maybe it takes you lot longer to notice this, but when you're raised with it in an immersive environment, by the time you're 20, it's already been a long time since you've heard anything new.

And then what? What's supposed to happen next? Nothing new, that's for sure. There's no advanced material. There's no upper division. The whole thing is very shallow. When you're in high school, they expect you to graduate, but that's not true of church. You're expected to just keep repeating the same material year in, year out, for the rest of your life. How stultifying. Like practicing your scales, boring as it might be, there might be some value in it if there was anything about it that was even true, but there isn't. All it is, is the pack of lies Herbert had to tell to make a buck off of you and me. But he's been dead for more than 30 years now. In order to make a buck while he was alive, he was content to continue to ruin people's lives for decades after he was gone? Now that's narcissism for you.

Anonymous said...

Nice comment. Did you get that from the 1970s Kung Fu TV show?

If you are so independent minded, why do you put Herb on a pedestal and act as his defense attorney?

SHT said...

"A little bit ridiculous, tell your story...in 3,650 characters or less? Which tiny portion? Which vignette?"

Feel free to use multiple comments. Simply end one comment with "Continued" and start the other with "Continuing". You might want to use a pseudonym to identify your comments with a common name for continuity. There's not a "one comment" per thread limit on this blog.

Anonymous said...

Fear. Fear is the heart of love. Why I stayed and why I left was a mixture of fear and love.

I was born in the early 80s. My first word was OJ but that could also mean Armstrong because I was watching the telecasts as well. My Dad was the center of my universe and his praise or distaste was as God’s. I tried to stay faithful to honor him and because I was scared of what would happen if I went my own way.

My deconversions occurred in waves. At 13 when I was reading Matthew I read you have to love God with all your heart, all your soul and all your might and I felt I couldn’t measure up to that. At 17 I tried the wordly things drinking, smoking weed, etc and almost left the church but realized I’d have no friends so I stayed. I became more faithful. Helped out at church camps and tried to be better. When my Dad died I tried to handle situations like he would. I fit in well socially in the COG. I knew the right answers but I also had more questions. For me the main philosophical hurdle which I never could get past was the nature of God. Was God good? My peers believed and were baptized or left but I stayed in body but had my doubts.

The main issues I had with the COG that I attended were interracial marriage and the superiority and supremacy of the group we were a part of. We were Philadelphians while all the rest of the COG were laodecians. I hated the ideas that people would not be able to marry based on skin color and the smug superiority. I stayed in for my Mom and my friends but I looked for answers elsewhere. I liked Protestant authors. Rob Bell, Donald Miller, etc.. I appreciated the normalcy and balance they offered when it came to Christianity. I would read books such as these after church. Previously I had read Sam Harris and was an atheist for a time but found it empty. I had been mentally else where for a long time but kept my thoughts about God/COG culture to myself. I started dating a wonderful girl who is now my wife, but at church I heard a sermon about dating non-believers and if that’s what you’re doing you might as well leave and that was my cue to exit.

I’m now happily married to that girl. I still have questions and doubts. I still don’t know if God is good. I would consider myself agnostic but I try to love others in a Christian manner. I miss my friends although most have kept in touch. I think everyone finds a line of best fit for their lives. I know and am friends with kind Christians, atheists, Hindus, etc.. Your religion does not define you, but you define your religion in how you interact with your fellow man.

Thank you for this blog and thank you for a forum to express this story. Side note I came upon this as I was researching HWA and was disturbed by all that I found. Even in my church going days I was never a fan of his abrasive pulpit shouting style and even less so of the profligate excess and spending. I said if he were in charge of the church at a time where I could make a decision about where I went, I would not be a part of it.

DennisCDiehl said...

Anonymous said...
Nice comment. Did you get that from the 1970s Kung Fu TV show?

No smartass. I've seen it for 30 years unfold in the lives of many who get stuck in their story and experience, whether an organizational or family one, while their actual life goes by. I got stuck for a time and the price is high when you can't keep moving. While the experiences occupy lasting space and the story can't be unlived, it can ruin you if you let it. I choose to let it inform me and expand my horizons nicely.

I have had friends stuck in the story put a gun to their head, a rope around their neck or jump off a bridge, so stuck can be fatal and simply pass one's pain on to all those who survive. Suicide is a very long term solution to a short term problem unless we think the problem is incapable of being put in perspective. There are no do overs.

You'd do well not to be so f'ing flippant about something that is absolutely true whether you get it or not.

Anonymous said...

Your comment did sound like a fortune cookie or a Buddhist saying, so why shoot the messenger. I feel confident that other readers would have reacted the same way.
You appear to be restating Paul's advice of forgetting the past and focusing on the future. You could have been more clear on your point.

Calling me a smartass is another example of you having lived in a ivory tower. I've worked in places where verbal brawls are the norm in the lunch room. My 'smartass' comment would hardly register.

SHT said...


Congratulations on finding your one true love and your exit from Armstrongism. Thank you for your story, and I wish you all the best.

If you wish, peruse this blog at your leisure - much more to learn not only about HWA and his true goals and persona, but the other Armstrongism splinter leaders as well. I hope you will be a regular contributor here at Banned.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who has followed "New Age" religious thought will recognize the insipid cliché that Dennis trotted out for us. It's funny to me that Dennis, who fancies himself a rational secularist, would unthinkingly and unironically use this phrase dredged up from the shallowest of New Age psychology.

To a Christian, the reason we need Jesus Christ is precisely that we are our story, and that only through Christ's sacrifice can we write new chapters in which the old story no longer guides the plot.

To a New Ager, "you are not your story" means that you, an immortal and eternal soul, are a particle of God and that your relation to your current mind and body is only a temporary fluke. You are neither good nor bad, and your actions are neither good nor bad, and in any case you are not even the actor, as you are an eternal spiritual being.

Dennis is correct that people get stuck in psychoses and neuroses when they refuse to grow beyond their story. However, he seems not to know, or not to care, that when people adopt the "I am not my story" approach they often succumb to dissociative disorders and refuse to take responsibility for their actions.

Maybe a good compromise between the two extremes would be something like Carl Sagan's "Pale Blue Dot" approach? Yes, you are a victim, and yes people have wronged you, and yes you have made some really bad choices. In the scheme of things, however, you are not even one pixel on that pale blue dot as seen from space. Your story is real, but in the grand scheme of things it is small enough to fix, and not big enough to get overly worried about.

nck said...

Regarding Dennis' comment. There is a lot of wisdom in that. I just observed a bunch of marines working on their PTSS in therapy. The coach asked them to repeat.....I am not a marine, it is just a role that I took upon myself..

Fair question.
On one of the other topics I commented that I never put hwa on a pedestal. I am merely talking about the lasting legacy your and my dollars helped build. I also like to annoy liars and nimkompoops.

Mostly however when I comment I have my little cousins in mind. Trapped in one of the more fanatic splinters. If they happen to come across one of my musings about hwa when they can read it is my sincere wish that they can discern the difference between what was accomplished and preached under the rule of hwa amd what the leader of their splinter demands of them.

The lies by the uber frustrated do nothing to aid those trapped in a splinter cult.

As for my independence. The moment I'm not having fun anymore I walk away from.the internet. Just like I decided to leave wcg after decades without saying goodbye or informimg anyone while most of the members were occupied with summer camps, holidays amd the congregation didnt notice I was gome until weeks later.

When I'm done I'm done.
When I need to tell a director the truth I do not hesitate to tell him firmly amd swiftly. I really feel.Stam Rader and I would have made a great team im aiding personality types like hwa. Our type is confident in their own abilities regardless of consequences or the offering of lesser educated opinions.

(AND I DO REGARD EXPERIENCE AS EDUCATION TOO, before one would find me arrogant rather than confident.


DennisCDiehl said...

The Proverbs and Ecclesiastes sound like fortune cookies too if that's the way you look at it. .

I don't think I could have been more clear unless you think Paul was the gold standard of clear. But then again, he may have been quoting a fortune cookie too so it's all good. :)

Anonymous said...

I would be considered a second-generation Christian in cog lingo. I was raised in WCG during the 70's and 80's. I am still connected with the movement, but I can speak to this question. The issue that overwhelmingly causes the young people of both my generation and my children's generation to leave in droves is simply hypocrisy!

While some might leave due to questions about Sabbath, Holy Days, or dietary rules, most of these things have not been the true culprits. The problem goes much deeper for many than just these surface issues. As an adult in the movement I have been witness to the darker side of how the system works, though I was largely oblivious to it as a child and teen.

This unfortunately wasn't true for some of my peers or their children. Keeping the commandments loses its meaning when your father drinks too much, or commits adultery on your mother, or abuses her verbally, physically, or both. He then puts his suit on Saturday morning, your mother puts her dress on, and you all go off to church, and pretend to be a normal family, while the father you saw come home drunk the other night gives the sermon or sermonette, prayer, leads songs, or passes the offering plate on a holy day. You listen to yet another sermon on the virtues of a submissive wife, while your mother hides the bruises on her arm under her sleeves, and you hide yours under your shirt, or dress. So much for the give way, or any concept of love being transferred to the younger generation. This more often than I care to admit was the case for many in the church. Pedophiles and porn addicts sit side by side with women and children, sing the same hymns, and supposedly worship the same God. Those who haven't personally lived this nightmare often know at least one family who was affected by these issues. I know multiple families in which this was the scenario. The ministry is largely ineffective in dealing with these issues, and these things have gone on unhindered and largely unspoken of for years, because after all, abuse and addiction just don't exist in the church. Mental issues are also problems that are not handled well, and largely go unaddressed.

Another issue we have with all the splits and splinters is the hypocrisy and double standard in dealing with each other. Many of our teens have been reduced to attending services in some cases with a small handful of older people. Others have been kept at home, listening to sermons online by their parents chosen leader. Attending or even visiting with other Sabbath keeping groups is largely discouraged and it is at least implied that to do so would be to compromise the "truth". Other groups are viewed by many of the older generation with suspicion or at least a lack of brotherly kindness or mercy. After all you must be able to justify why you are sitting in a room with four other people when the cog across town has fifty others to fellowship with.

We point out the errors of our brethren and their leaders in other groups, and some of these leaders are truly heinous. However, we almost all hold up HWA as a standard of “truth". Our children however have access to a tool called the internet. They read for themselves old PT articles, booklets, letters, etc. And many of them do not understand why this man is so revered by their elders when they readily see false teachings and false prophecies in his writings. Other guys set dates, practice headline prophecy, and are rightly castigated as false prophets, but HWA did the same things repeatedly and it’s OK because he supposedly never came right out and called himself a prophet. Others mistreat and manipulate their congregants. HWA did it too, and somehow it is overlooked. His son carried on adulterous affairs for years while playing a leading role in the church, but this is OK. Our children see the cold hard facts of the “Philadelphia era”. The story is in the literature. But we continue to look the other way, while talking about the “truth”, and wonder why they leave.
Concerned Sister

Anonymous said...

clearly only certain people are censored by this blog...

c f ben yochanan

Anonymous said...

I wasn't born into the church but my parents started attending when I was 3. I grew up buying into all the hype because I didn't know anything else. We lived in the Midwest and so didn't have the exposure to all the goings on at HQ. Maybe my parents kept us sheltered from what other people were saying. We moved to the west coast in 1975 and it was culture shock. They had YOU and so I went as a teenager and noticed that the minister could stand up there and tell us as teenagers that we shouldn't do this or that but his own kids were doing exactly what he was telling others not to do. Most of the teens in our group were doing the same things as his kids did. At 18 I left because of the hypocrisy, I saw it every time I looked around at church.

I returned at age 22 because of fear, being a military wife stationed in Germany, what would happen if I returned home and no one was there? I would be left behind and it scared me, so I decided to return to church once we returned to the States. I remained in for many years. Later, I did find it harder and harder to go each week, as a single mother with 2 kids, I wasn't included in family outings with other families, invited to dinner with other families with kids. I would go home after church and sometimes just cry because I felt so left out, but I still stayed. Once they started making the changes around 1993 or so, I began to just quit caring, what was the point. They all said they had the truth, if so, then how could they suddenly just change what they said was wrong for so long?

I finally quit for good in 1995, my second husband and I returned to the west coast and people whom I had known for many years acted like they had no idea who I was. I finally said enough! I no longer had the time or energy to deal with people who behaved like this. I haven't looked back since.

My husband joined the church as an adult, when I left in 95 he left a few years later because he didn't agree with the grace concept. He joined the RCG about 3 years ago now and it hasn't been good for our relationship and it has brought back a lot of things I didn't know bothered me. It's been difficult and will always be as long as we are in the same house.

jim said...

I'm glad I didn't attend the WCG until I was a teen as I was able to see a portion of the other side. I had doubts about WCG holding the exclusive presence of the holy spirit, but for a short period I put aside the cognitive dissonance and accepted the teaching. But, some of the pre '95 splintering started maturing my thoughts back to my younger common sense recognition that the organization can't be the measure.

But, I still went with UCG in '95. The 2010-11 UCG-COGwa minister-driven split completely revealed how false the COGs are. I remind myself there are good people in them and I still associate with them only for relational/social reasons at times. I thought to attend a service to see some friends from back in the day. A prominent minister in this larger COGwa congregation actually stated that "the church is the way". The COGwa ministry push Armstrong and loyalty to the Church more than any subjects. The only thing that restrains COGwa from the greater excesses of WCG is knowing they would lose members, not a matured belief.

Ripley said...

My mother was baptized into the WCG while I was still developing in her womb.
There was a story that was told about that night and my slightly inebriated father throwing an empty liquor bottle at (but failing to actually hit) Ron Merideth's head. I'm still not sure that it actually happened though.
My mother's baptism was the straw that broke my father's will to try and save the marriage. He left a couple of months after I was born, and my mother became a "widow" with a living husband.
My older sister and I were categorized as "fatherless." A fact that irritated my father's family to no end.
I remember the day i told my mom that I was leaving "the church." I was 14. I don't remember how I broached the subject at first, but I remember that I used the hypocrisy of those ludicrous teachings that I was force fed my whole life as an escape route.
The crux of my argument was something that Herbert and his army of ministers repeated constantly. You have to have faith in the word of God. You can't enter into God's kingdom riding on someone's coattails. God made it quite clear that not everyone would be chosen. God had a plan and that plan could not ever be changed by anyone. I said i was sorry, but for whatever reason, I was not chosen by God to believe these things as true.
Mom was very shaken but couldnt get past my logic. As a last ditch effort, she asked me if I would be willing to talk to about all of this with a minister. I told her that I would always respect the opinions and judgement of Wayne Dunlap who used to be one of our minsters in Dallas. We even followed him when he got transfered to San Antonio. (Extremely odd now that I think about it a bit more.) So mom got his number from Ken Swisher who also used to be a minster in Dallas and was now in charge of the Little Rock congregstion where we lived at the time. I spoke to Mr. Dunlap for about an hour I guess. Even with all of his ministerial education from Pasadena, he couldn't best my logic and reasoning for going. He told my mom that my leaving was God's will.
The following Saturday was the first time I didn't attend services since that mysterious Saturday when mom left early in the morning and only told my sister where she went and why. (I don't remember how old we were then, but we were both too young to have been left alone for an entire day with no adult supervision whatsoever)

Ripley said...

My sister and mother went to church and I stayed home completely alone. It felt really strange, but also very good.
I also remember that day as being the first time I ever heard Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody." It was a strangely perfect fit with my confused and relieved feelings that day.
So what drove me to finally decide to do it?
A few years earlier, my sister and i got off the bus from school and came into the house to find mom in tears
She told us to sit down because she had something to tell us. Something terrible.
She said, with a quivering voice that I
will never forget, "Mr. Armstrong has died." My older sister instantly started to cry and became very frightened about what would happen to us (the church people) without him to lead us to the place of safety. All I could think was how happy I was that my grandparents were apparently still alive. That's when i knew that I would never belong in this group, and possibly never belong anywhere. It was the first (and far from the last) time that I seriously considered suicide.
After a couple of decades trying out a multitude of approaches to religion and all of its variations, I setteled on Humanism.
It's a long and complicated story, but I dont speak to my mother and sister at all anymore. They are still in some Armstrong splinter group, keeping the feast, shreiking about the evils of Christmas, and being incredibly self righteous about dietary rules that are misguided to say the least.
People have been telling me to write a book about my experiences for years, but I always felt that there was nothing remarkable about my story. Who would cate about the kid who left the cult and couldn't handle the real world because she had never been educated about it or even experienced the basics of life (like eating a paclet of crackets without first checking the ingredient label for lard.)
I'm happy to answer any questions that any of you may have about my experiences in WCG.
Eventually I will be writing a great deal about my cult experiences as well as my path of recovery pn my blog, Possibly Too Personal on my website www.ripleyjohnson.com

Anonymous said...

Unless your daily life is a series of role-playing, you are your story! Really.

However, I wouldn't stigmatize someone as a "new ager" based on a few comments. Various cliches from different philosophies have passed into the general lexicon. These are oft repeated by individuals who are not part of the group who originated them.

Anonymous said...

Just saying "I am not my story" isn't a substitute for individual's introspection or therapy.
Many indoctrinated (and many of us were,) repeat their history, each time thinking it's a new life, when it's just another chapter.

Breaking free of one org feels elating, but it takes work to change communication styles, for example. Church was missing points on "effective listening" because of its authoritarianism.

Recovering Authoritarianists may not recognize their own style, or even others' reactions/submission.

Takes some breakthroughs, insight into narcissism and narcissists, and other 'styles' of personality, and doses of humility and courage to accomplish change.


Anonymous said...

I was born and raised in Pasadena. I spent my most formative years attending Imperial so I didn’t have the experIence of having witnessed another set of viewpoints. While I can agree with one of the commenters that HQ kids were, Ill say uppity, not all of us were. There was a class system there as well. If you weren’t a ministers kid, you were definitely looked down upon.

I never questioned. I feel kind of stupid but it’s the truth. I never questioned. When I first stepped out into the real world, I lived two lives in one body. It took me a long time to reclaim myself.

I have learned that I am my story and that it’s ok to accept my story in its entirety. It is what has shaped me and made me who I am. I look at it as a central factor in me thinking for myself now and questioning everything. I have more sense of self now because I had to do a lot of work figuring out what was me and what wasn’t. I’m still learning every day.