I Have No Roots

Photo by Lana Hope.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana Hope’s blog Wide Open Ground. It was originally published on March 7, 2015.

When I left my fundamentalist upbringing behind, I left it all, all my roots, all my friends, all the things that connected me to the past.

They say people need roots, but I have none.

When I’m lonely, I have no where to turn, except to people of the moment. When people talk of old family Christmas traditions, I have none, or nearly none.

When it’s Christmas break, I don’t fly to my parents because there is no Christmas there. When the semester ends, I go camping, not to visit old friends. When I’m lonely, I write in a foreign language on my FB.

My facebook includes no one I knew before the age of 16, and only one person I knew before the age of 18.  That one person wasn’t from my hometown.

I’m almost 30, and my oldest friendships date back only 10 years.

When I walked away from fundamentalism and the homeschool world, I didn’t just leave my old friends behind. I left behind a whole different set of traditions and norms. I have no roots.

For most of my life, we did not have a Christmas tree, Christmas decorations, and lots of presents. We did not have Easter egg hunts on Easter Sunday or dress up for Halloween.

But we did wisdom searches, and sewed our own matching doll clothes, and cooked meals with our friends. We played outdoors and did research in the library.

We had massive family get togethers with other homeschool families. We had a watermelon party at our house because we had so many watermelons, and I remember times with friends where we dug tiny tunnels and had cricket races through them, and I remember all us kids catching 100 baby frogs at our house.

With our local ATI get together, we went swimming in our ridiculous modest swimsuits in our friends swimming pool, rode their massive zipline, played cricket with all the dads and large numbers of siblings. We did this year after year;.

We went to gatherings at the ALERT Academy, which is associated with Bill Gothard and ATI, and we had a whole different set of traditions, such as singing hymns before our meal.

We had American girls club when we were elementary school, and Proverbs 31 girls group in middle school.

But those traditions, if you can call them traditions, were all put behind me when I left fundamentalism. No one else says to you, “what did you do in your proverbs 31 girls group as a kid?” They say “what was your Christmas traditions” and I shrug my shoulder with nothing to say except “well I did lead the little kids birthday party for Jesus.”

My facebook friends talk about meeting up with an old friend from high school; my friends here at the university talk about their old high school friends. I always say nothing, and then come home and facebook search old friends.

I find their facebook cover photos with their 7 siblings and 15 nieces and nephews. One old friend I recently found had a cover photo were she and her whole family (i.e. parents + siblings + their families) were all wearing T-shirts that said, “Children are an inheritance from the Lord.” The mother had bought these for all of her children and grandchildren, which at this point totals nearly 50. In the comment section of the photo, homeschool mothers said, “arrows for God. Praise the Lord.”

And so I realize it’s better not to even look up people from the past; I don’t need to know what they are doing, because my heart might judge them for not leaving it all behind, when I know in my heart that leaving is so difficult it’s almost not worth it.

When I turned 18 I got my drivers license, and went to my own church and formed my own friends. For the first time in my life, I didn’t have someone overseeing my friendships and picking my friends for me. I’m thankful the last ten years have been different than the first ten years, but I can never go back and have any kind of roots.

Some times I think the hardest part of not having roots is not that I don’t know anyone from high school. I think the hardest part is I have no one who remembers what it was like, what the massive get togethers were like; no one to discuss those ridiculous wisdom searches with and all things fundamentalist and evangelical.

People speak of just cutting off the past, but we never really are separate from it. We uproot the tree, and the tree lays there alone. I am that tree. My roots are no longer dug into the soil, but the soil is still around me. There are many other trees around me, and they still have roots, but I don’t. 

I have no roots.

6 comments

  • Very well described. I was not raised ATI but I was raised extreame evangelical so I can relate on so many levels. I did attend the Basic Youth Conflicts in the 70’s and decided Bill Gothard had a serious problem with women.
    I would love to hear you address the POSITIVES of leaving the culture and all the great new experiences you have had and the new adventures to come! Its such a great world and you have a unique perspective to make the world even better with compassion and humor!

  • I understand. My experience is similar. Be well and I’m glad you have a new life now.

  • I identify with this a lot, especially having just graduated college and moved back home. My situation isn’t as extreme, as I still have a good relationship with my family, but having to cut out basically the rest of my entire childhood community (with like 3 exceptions) means I have a lot of memories but very few connections here, and it’s really lonely sometimes.

  • Thanks for sharing your story.

    Don’t let not having friends from high school bother you too much. You aren’t alone in this. A lot of military and missionary kids move so frequently that they also keep few, if any, friends from childhood. They are also more likely to have had unconventional educations – either switching to eight or ten different schools, being honeschooled, or attending an international school with completely different traditions than American schools. Do seek any of these people out in your area, you may have something in common with them. 🙂

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