Thanks for the insights and sharing. Reading some of the comments here have given me some much-needed perspective. I can appreciate the range of experiences many of us have; as well as the gradients and context that make our stories what they are.
I attribute much of my naive thinking to being raised-in, with a close bunch of friends before I came of age, and a couple of mentors who took me under their wing when my parents separated. We had lots of fun times: picnics, square dancing, a formal, skating, and even talent shows before they clamped down on socializing outside of the KH. I've also been part of very small congregations who are family-like in taking care of one another.
My need greater parents currently reside in a
close-knit congregation, but at the heart of it all, even they were ready to disown me if I signed a letter with my intent of disassociation. So I didn't. I said to my elder father: "Dad, I'm not going to sign anything." He didn't know how to handle that moment, as it was not in his playbook. It's been left like that since, and we are simply all estranged.
After I entered my 20s, I started experiencing the undercurrents of cognitive dissonance. It wasn't until I got online in the mid-90s that I followed my intuition into forbidden territory, and the rest is history. And yes, I know at the core of it all, if you are not speaking the language, you are no longer part of the community. It's all too easy to be judged and cast out for daring to be yourself and express what's really in your heart. You can't. It all has consequences.
The longing to belong... a deep human need. I know all too well.
On a lighter note, will y'all please stop scrapping in my thread. ;)