Losing My Religion, High School, and Crawling


Me on a relatively good day last month.

Once upon a time there was a little Mormon girl named Natalie. For various reasons, including a repressive upbringing; being held at gunpoint at age 6, and threatened with rape; the fact the church asked my parents not to press charges and they didn’t; The fact my mother regrets this, or so she wrote in her book  (She passed away almost two years ago), all contributed to a very confused young woman who made her way into high school with very little faith or knowledge of the sacred MANSPECIES, and a whole lot less than sure that any little bit of the Mormon Church was true.

Of course, when I asked, they said it was true. They bore their testimonies. But…Even at 15 I was capable of critical thinking, and too much didn’t add up. But I was in a group of girls that all believed, and all went to church, and we were all good girls, so that’s what I did. When you try so hard to fit in, you certainly aren’t going to announce you think the Church is a whole lot of bulls&$%. So I created a Molly Mormon persona, and I fell in love. They don’t really go hand in hand, but then they do, because I was not the person I was pretending to be.

First loves are notorious for pain, rejection, and memories years later. I get that. But you move on. But being a writer, I was encouraged to write my memoirs. I decided to experiment by writing Pieces of Me, on my blog, and the first one was dedicated to two boys I knew from school. (Edited on July 4, 2014, to remove the names of the boys who didn’t consent to me using them. It was my choice.) I alerted them both it had been posted. It actually went rather well.

It went so well I proceeded to write about “David.” This is a pseudonym, obviously. This one did not go so well. I opened up that Pandora’s Box and spent the next three months trying to clean up painful monster memories that eluded me behind shelves and under the bed. They were sneaky, and would attack when I least expected it. He and I had been communicating, until one day I realized he was doing IT again. He was trying to get into my head and manipulate how I felt. Now I realize I gave him that power. That’s on me. But the only thing I knew to do at the time was cut off the communication, dusted up the last monster I could find, and locked that box back up.

At this point, I was very unsure about continuing on writing. But I did. Until one of them taught me a lesson I will never forget. Those memories? They weren’t just mine, they were his, too. And when I created a scenario that painted him poorly, he was very upset. Neither of us could really come up with a reason why we never quite “got together.” And my yearbooks were away in hiding. I continued to say and do the wrong thing, until he just blocked me. It was not a nice blocking. Mid-sentence. Finally he undid the block, (Love Facebook. Want to wipe the earth clean of everyone you don’t want to remember? BLOCK.) and things were okay for a while until I said something else he didn’t like, and that block stayed permanent.

I figured “Oh, well, just like high school. Should have known.” Assumptions are the best friend of faux pas.

I recovered my yearbooks, thanks to my daughter, and I found his senior year inscription. It was nice. Nicer than mine, which said something lame like “I heard you did well in sports this year.” Of course, I had a clipping of a newspaper article where he was making an important play. And I went to every game. I HEARD? Lame. I don’t remember that. I guess I wanted to think I got over him.

Junior year he didn’t sign my yearbook. He was mad at me, over a girl and a note. I was right, but that doesn’t mean much to a boy who has been mistreated. And I told you so is not fun to swallow and not entirely nice to say.

But sophomore year it was all there for the telling. And what it said, essentially, was that I didn’t try hard enough. It was my fault. He was trying. He came to find me every day. He kicked my shoes if I ignored him. And I didn’t know how to be brave enough to ask him to a girl’s dance. Or be more aggressive. I was still the scared little rabbit in the Molly Mormon outfit.

So he moved on, sorta. And I moved on, sorta.

And I think the real me is a bit too much for him. But he was sweet, and I owe him an apology he won’t let me give him, so I will do it here. I misjudged you, and I not only didn’t read deep enough, I somehow missed it completely. Oh to go back and fix what you have fucked up. (Molly Natalie would not have used the word Fucked, FYI.)

These days I am up and down with craziness quotient, as I deal with life and death health issues, the inability to be the person I used to be, and watching the people I love go through such painful times. My friend Amy lost her two children in a car accident. I still carry her grief around with me. It’s too big of a burden for one person. And a few other things happened, that I won’t write about, because it’s not my memory alone, and I crashed.

Lowest of lows. I have never been so low before. And my husband laughed at me because my low is not really that low. I live in a nice house, in a nice town, with a crazy dog and a very nice husband. There is no gutter here in my story. But everybody’s lows are different. What rock bottom means to me does not mean come close to my lost friend, who committed suicide a few years back. It feels like yesterday, but I know it wasn’t because my mom was still alive. Almost three years now. I miss him. A lot of people do. And I wish I would have recognized his rock bottom. All of us do and did.

Realizing all this, I recouped, but no matter how many apologies I sent to “the boy,” I was not forgiven. Now, he has his own part in this, and we both know it. But the thing is this. When he was 16, I decided he was a jerk because he wanted someone else other than me. And the truth is, I just didn’t give him a chance. And even if he had wanted someone else, that doesn’t make you a jerk.

And high school was a billion years ago and our lives are so very different. I think the ending of the life I had led, until I got sick, forced me back into a time when I was well. But that isn’t today. And I’m not as young and stupid as I was, and yet I still was not the nicest person in the world. That’s my goal. I want to be nice.

I wasn’t.

So here’s your apology, “insert boy’s name here.” Maybe someday we’ll talk about it and you’ll forgive me.

And FYI for anyone else who is wondering, I am NOT writing my memoirs. I have moved on to children’s stories about dragons, New Adult, and YA. And something else big. Real big, but I can’t talk about that yet.

If you do write your memoirs, remember, those  memories are your take on something that happened long ago, and unless you keep everything special, like I did, you may never unravel what really happened, and you might hurt some people who don’t deserve it.

Just a thought.

Now, back to my crawling. I have vertigo, so I do this a lot. I want my life back, and it isn’t going to happen. So I crawl. And then my husband picks me up off the floor, dusts me off, and tells me why it’s okay, when it really isn’t. He should get a Pulitzer prize or something.

Remember that. Birdman. Pulitzer Prize. Or a Harley. I’ll do my best.





About Natalie R. Collins

Natalie has more than 30 years writing, editing, proofreading and design experience. She has written 20 books (and counting), has worked for the Sundance Film Festival, and as an investigative journalist, editor, and proofreader. She embraces her gypsy-heart and is following her new free-thinking journey through life. Follow her as she starts over and learns a bunch of life's lessons--some the hard way.
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2 Responses to Losing My Religion, High School, and Crawling

  1. Lynn Shrum says:

    Natalie, I really enjoyed the article. I can very much relate. I hope someday your apology is read and accepted by the recipient to whom it was meant.


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