By Brittney Neal
I was born and raised in Ohio. Around the time of my sixteenth birthday my parents and I had to move to upstate New York due to the threat of my dad losing his job. Unfortunately, a few years after moving and settling my dad was laid off again. Fast forward a few months later, he was thankfully able to find a job in New Jersey, and we have been in this lovely state ever since. For me, moving was a time of fear and excitement. I was scared to leave behind all my friends and everything that I had ever known, yet I was excited for new possibilities. I was hoping for something different. What that actually meant, I wasn’t sure, but I was searching.
At first the new city would be nice, and I would feel like there were endless possibilities for change. Then slowly we would settle in, and fall into much of the same routine. My parents are very religious, and while there is nothing wrong with that, it wasn’t the path for me. I was expected to go to church services multiple times a week, and participate in any additional event the church had going on. The fact that other people did not see that my parent’s religion was the only way, was incomprehensible to them, and I had learned from my sister that if I did not do what was expected of me, then I would be kicked out of the house.
With each move came a different church and in each church we went to, I found people who seemed to be in similar situations, but I never discussed my feelings with them for the fear of being exposed. This left me feeling incredibly alone. Because religion was everything to my parents, I felt like I was a terrible person for not seeing what they saw in it. I felt like I was living a complete lie and was struggling with who I was on the inside versus who I was pretending to be with those around me. As a result, I was depressed for years.
Once I started working at Wiss, I learned that some of my coworkers had been in similar situations with their families. It was relieving to finally be able to talk to people, and to hear how they had handled things or in some instance how they were currently handling things. After a period of time I met my boyfriend, and was also able to confide in him. He became my source of strength. Having people to talk to pulled me out of my depression, and showed me that just because I didn’t hold the same religious values as my parents didn’t mean that I was any less of a person.
A year after graduating from college and starting at Wiss full time, I finally moved out. I had decided long before, that once I moved out I was no longer going to live a lie. Eventually my parents started asking questions, and I was honest with them. It’s been a few months since then, and although they do not agree with my decisions, they have started to accept the fact that my life choices are up to me.
One thing I want to be clear about in writing this blog, is that there is nothing wrong with religion. Everyone has their own beliefs, and follows them in their own way. What’s most important is finding what is right for you, regardless of what anyone else says. I know a huge weight has been taken off my shoulders, and I’ve never been happier.
Brittney Neal is a Litigation Support Analyst at Wiss & Company. If you are in a similar situation and would like to speak with Brittney, you may reach her at 973.994.9400 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.