Once again, I can feel it: all eyes on me. I begrudgingly swim out from behind the fortress of my poly-resin castle and into open water confined by barriers of glass. I am exposed. I am judged.
For 19 years, this was my life. The perpetual scrutiny of every spoken word or every move I made, something I never got used to.
Criticized. “What is she wearing? That’s no way a pastor’s child should dress.” “Did you just hear what she said?” “For a pastor’s daughter, she really shouldn’t be doing that.”
Or my favorite, “You aren’t allowed to feel that way.” This was very hurtful to me, and even more wounding was the fact that it came from someone who I thought cared very much about me.
Being in a family where your father is a pastor is very much like living in a fishbowl. People are always watching you, sometimes even looking up to you as some type of Christian role model. There are expectations for a family, as well as for an individual. Certain ways to act, speak or dress.
Sometimes I think people seem to forget that we are normal humans, too.
When I was younger, the term “pastor’s child” was something that defined me. It wasn’t just a title. It was a way of life. There were guidelines and rules that began shaping and molding me into how people thought I was required to act.
My parents never pushed these rules on me, though, and for that I am grateful. However, I could still feel the pressures paired with the expectation to be some perfect Christian who had it all together. “Perfect.” What a foolish word.
Then, at times when I accidently let a swear word slip or if I wasn’t Miss Sunshine because I was having a bad day — when I wasn’t acting “perfect” — I would be titled “hypocrite.” Hypocrite.
There were times when what people thought of me, or what they said about me, wasn’t extremely bothersome. After all, I am who I am, and people can either accept it or not. But other times, I found myself getting fed up with how people labeled me as something I wasn’t and how I felt obligated to live up to their standards.
So when college finally came around, I was nothing short of anxious and eager.
I spent my whole life in a fishbowl of peoples’ eyes watching me as I performed my flips and tricks for them. What was life outside the fishbowl? What was a life where people didn’t know me? It was a new world, and I could be anything.
The way I see it is that, in one way or another, we are all fish who have left our bowls, or titles, at home in search of creating new ones. We have jumped into an ocean. Some fish will remain where they were, with the same titles, while others will explore new ones until they find one that best fits.
That is what college is for me and for many others, as well: a place to finally take part in the freedom to be whomever or whatever you want without the confines of your fishbowl. The defining factor lies in whether or not you exercise that freedom and, of course, the way in which you exercise it.
This point in our lives is the best time to recreate ourselves into the people we strived to be when we were children, before we became old enough for society to give us titles to live by.
In a sense, being at Lehigh has allowed me to, for the first time in my life, rename myself. Though I still hold on to the title “pastor’s child,” I have also added new titles to my name.
It is not just one term that defines me anymore. I am a pastor’s child, as I always will be, but I am also just a normal Christian. I am also a writer, an editor and an artist, and above all else, I am imperfect.
I believe you are only titled the way you allow yourself to be. If you don’t like what your title is now, there are so many opportunities to change it, especially here at Lehigh. You just have to search.
If you feel like an outcast, become the leader. If you always feel put down, then stand up.
I used to be the person who always said, “It’s not that easy.” But I can promise you that yes, it really is.