Background: My name is Sarah, I am 31 years old, born in Wilmington, Delaware. Spent my childhood in a parking lot of a church in a trailer where my parents were the pastors of a church. So that was kind of the beginning then we moved to Delaware again where my parents were part of a big church here. Now I am back here after being away for 10 years, I’ve been back for like three years now.
Faith: To me faith is just…I don’t really know about the word faith. Faith. It kind of makes me feel something like just blindly believing or something and just kind of like falling into some pattern of belief that you feel committed to or you feel like you can’t change. I guess having faith could mean like having a faith in positivity, feeling like everything will be okay in the end.
Aspects of your life which have shaped your faith: I’ve had a lot of different periods of faith in my life. Growing up in a church I really felt like I didn’t have a choice as to what I would believe. I kind of felt like my whole perspective of reality had been formed for me and was very aggressively enforced. So I didn’t really have a lot of room for experimentation. So as soon as I was 18 I wanted to get as far away as I could I don’t really know what I think, I kind of feel like whatever I choose to believe is reality. Whatever anyone chooses to believe actually becomes reality for that person. I feel like everything is just so individual.
Do you generally feel included with your peers? I kind of feel like that more now than I did in the past. When I grew up with this very strict evangelical background I felt like I was a little bit different and it was hard for me to fit in. It was difficult for them to stuff me into this model citizen that they were trying to create.I didn’t really feel included, I always felt like the bad kid, or the kid that was never going to quite fit in, and I wasn’t and that’s because that completely goes against how I’m made. I feel like I have met some magical people that have come in and out of my life and are still coming in and out of my life so I do feel more acceptance now in this kind of agnostic community of people who choose not to label themselves in any firm belief but still have a spiritual side to themselves.
A time when you felt included: I’ve had a lot of people make me feel included, especially now as a musician. I’ve been a recording artist for a while, I was an actress for a while, and then I was just kind of living my life for a while so never really created a career path but then I started really focusing on my music three years ago and people have been really accepting.
A time when you felt excluded: This is going to go straight back to Christianity because I didn’t feel really included there. I felt like I had to please those in authority over me and I felt like I was kinda locked into this hierarchy of trying to please my youth pastors and trying to be just like the certain kids they picked as examples. Everyone would idealize them and it as kind of manipulative and almost sociopathic I feel like when people in authority would kind of have this position of telling you spiritual advice and making you feel like their acceptance or you need their approval. I feel like a lot of really unhealthy stuff can happen in that situation, where anybody is a spiritual leader, a spiritual teacher…I feel like that’s not supposed to be an absolute and that’s not THE source of wisdom for anybody but it’s just A source.I feel like there was just a lot of negative outcomes from having that kind of hierarchical system set up. The society that that creates and the kind of culture that that creates is competitive and it’s very judgmental. If somebody does something the youth pastor doesn’t like, all of a sudden everybody is angry at that person, they’re in the outs and nobody will talk to them. That happens to everybody, there is always a black sheep you can pick on and people love to do that.
Overcoming exclusion: I would just kind of keep my head down and I would find just like one or two people that I felt kindred to, or I felt understood me. I had like two or three really close friends that to this day I’ll see sometimes. I definitely felt like I was always able to find one or two people and we could create our own little support system and we didn’t need anybody else.
Advice for someone who is feeling excluded: Realize that the place that you’re in right now is not going to be forever. As you grow and as you develop, different opportunities come through your life. You aren’t always going to be where you are now. Just focus on what you want in life rather than the things that are disappointing to you or the things that make you feel bad. If it makes you feel bad, get out of the room. Go to a different room, whatever that room symbolizes for you, just get out of there. And I know sometimes you’re in a situation where you’re stuck if you have to finish school, you have to get your bachelors’ degree and you don’t want to be there. If you are stuck in a group or friends or your family there could be so many contexts where you could feel tied to people who are bringing you down. I would just say protect yourself and take care of yourself and focus on your own happiness. Don’t succumb to people pleasing or feeling like you need to work harder to be included by people who are obviously excluding you. Make your own place in the world. Create your own scene and just start to put out intentions. Start to dream about who you want to be your friend. What is this person like? And before you know it you’re just going to start attracting people that are cool and that are going to help you and benefit you in your life. I feel like you can shift your energy to help you grow into a different direction and meet new people.
Advice to the people doing the excluding: It depends on how willing they would be to listen. Sometimes it’s difficult to express yourself in a way that people who are different from you can understand. That can be a challenge, definitely. I would just try to be as honorable as possible and try to communicate your feelings in every situation. If you’re stuck in a place and you need to confront somebody who is excluding you, I would just say these “feelings” messages, you know? Like, “I feel this feeling because of this and I would rather be feeling this” and just kind of describe what you would rather want to be happening. Usually people who have a heart can feel that. When you share your feelings with somebody it can really help and if it doesn’t that that’s your proof that that person is totally not worth your time and they probably won’t even listen to you so I would just…peace out and go your own way. Try to just be yourself and share your feelings as honestly as you can.
One thing to make the world a more inclusive place: Education, social education possibly. I feel like ignorance is something that creates this idea of excluding someone. If you’ve never met somebody who is different from you, sometimes you don’t know what the norms are, how you should behave. How do you shake someone’s hand who doesn’t have a hand? There’s just so many things that you consider normal from your perspective that are just different habits for different people. I think just educating yourself. Reading different articles online about different people’s lifestyles, following blogs, looking into history about different people. If you come across a culture you don’t know anything about, just go on Wikipedia, look it up. Something as little as that. Or looking around you and seeing who are you friends with. Are there people around you that you’re not with that would be like an interesting person to know. Getting to know people in a more objective way just for your own growth really. What can this person teach me and is there anything I can teach them? When you meet people having that kind of attitude can really help you to expand your mind and learn new things.
“Don’t succumb to people pleasing or feeling like you need to work harder to be included by people who are obviously excluding you. Make your own place in the world.”
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"human." is a culmination of the writing, photo, video and design work of Harrison Brink and Alisa Miller. It is meant to act as a forum where we show the vitality of the human spirit through the strife that people face and overcome. If you have any suggestions for the project, please contact us. All input is welcome.