Papa Don't Preach (Please)
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Papa Don't Preach (Please)

How I Discovered My Religion

Papa Don't Preach (Please)
Kellen Hanley

One of my first memories is of prayer. Of sitting in a hospital room, five years old, still rosy cheeked and big eyed, staring at my ailing mother. Praying so fervently that she would get better—that her arms would wrap around me again, comfortingly.

It’s easy to get caught up in moments like those. Those moments when you feel so confused and lost that you pray so hard your thoughts and inner monologue might just burst from within you. Where sweaty palms may brush together so tightly it causes blisters to form. It’s easy for your prayer to become a hodgepodge of words and feelings and emotions, all jumbling out together into hope that some higher power is listening or watching.

For me, thoughts move together like tumbleweeds, rolling around aimlessly from one corner of my brain to the other, caught in a never-ending gust of wind of emotions. But thoughts, or at least mine, seem to have some rhyme and reason to them every now and again.

When I was younger, religion was something that seemed above me. Both of my parents were raised in Irish-Catholic families, where prayers were spoken almost as often (if not more) as hellos or telling of the day’s events. But my childhood was different. Prayers were special—reserved for when times were truly at their worst. Or at least, up until my junior year of High School, that’s how they seemed.

Perhaps what I am saying is this—I didn’t lose my religion, but religion and the idea of it, was lost upon me. I had no idea what it meant to have a close relationship with God outside of the one I had created in my head. God was a power that stood far away from me, far removed from my headspace and certainly farther away from the reality that surrounded me.

Finding God, I believe, saved my life, or perhaps more precisely, the direction in which my life could have gone. On a cool November night, as cool as it can get in Florida, I sat at my desk lost and utterly confused. Confused about sifting through and piecing together that I was versus whom I wanted and strove to be. Trying to sort out emotions about school and relationships that seemed to be dying off in hoards. And sitting there, single brass lamp lit in the corner of my room, I was taken back to that hospital. The tiny girl with the golden curls who prayed so eagerly for her mother to get better. How eagerly she had believed in the omnipotent power and presence of God and how her religion, without even knowing what religion was or meant, was so deeply engraved in her thoughts that she could pray for another with such devotion…brought me to tears.

With this memory, I began writing. Simple letters addressed to God, each night. My problems, no matter how trivial, friends that had seemed to be struggling, a recounting of the days events, no matter how droll and uninteresting, were all written. A diary with a higher purpose, I thought. It made it easier to come to terms with myself, with my diagnosis of a thyroid disorder, of a mother who was still ill, of a confusing social climate, and a hectic political one.

I found God on my own. Slowly and within my own terms and guidelines, I found God and I am certainly very glad I did. But in finding God, I found myself too. I found that writing, lists to stories to poems (it didn’t matter what form), soothed my worries. I found that I loved art and histories, yet I still loved sciences. I found that I loved English Literature. I found that I had a soft spot for Elvis and Frank Sinatra, while still singing off-key to any and every Taylor Swift song. God, or more precisely, my relationship with God, gave me a sense of direction and purpose.

I am thankful that religion was never shoved down my throat. I am thankful, too, that a semblance of religion was in my life in some way as well. But perhaps I am most thankful and most glad for the opportunity to find that religion that my life, my family and God have allowed me the journey to find and continue searching for, as my eyes and my horizons expand in the ever growing world we live in.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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