One of my good friends posted a throwback Thursday photo of me today from what was probably the most pivotal summer of my life. I’ve been thinking about this summer a lot lately.
I was 15 years old and super into ballet. I mean so into ballet that I only went to half days of school and got my PE credits waived because I was dancing so much with a local ballet company. I auditioned for, and was accepted to, a six week summer program with the Houston Ballet Academy. I had such a great time. I loved spending my entire days dancing, I loved making new friends (although the only person’s name I can remember is the boy I had a crush on, he was super cute). I had a blast. About a month after I came home I quit ballet. It’s hard even to even to explain why, for some reason ballet, which I had been obsessed with for years, was just felt done. My Mom just about blew a gasket (though she kept it under control). She had invested a lot of time and money into my hobby and then I just decided to quit one day.
It wasn’t until years later that I began to realize why that summer of ballet camp was so important in my life and not just another example of my flakiness and how I tend to be 100% all in just to suddenly quit.
That was the summer I decided to be a Mormon.
Okay, technically I had always been one. I was born to goodly parents who taught me the gospel, I attended church my whole life, and I was baptized on my eighth birthday. But that summer when I was 15 was when I chose to live my religion, not because anyone else was making me, not because it was expected of me, but because I decided I wanted it. We usually only ask people who were baptized later in life to share their conversion stories, but this is mine.
When I first arrived in Texas not a single soul knew I was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. No one knew what standards I was supposed to be living. I remember when they announced how to get to the available church service options mine wasn’t listed. They told us that if we came up and talked to them they would make sure we would get to our services. I was too shy to go talk to them, so I let it slide.
Around the second week in we had the opportunity to go shopping I bought a spaghetti strap tank top. I hadn’t ever owned one before. I remember the first time I wore it and how uncomfortable I felt. I can remember the exact bench I was sitting on, the faces of everyone who was with me, and what the humid Texas weather felt like.
It was the moment in which I had a choice to make.
I thought about why I was uncomfortable. It was because I was not living the standards I had been taught. So it was time to decide if I believed in those standards, or if they weren’t important to me.
I think it’s pretty obvious what I chose. I wish I had a story of a miraculous spirit coming to me, or happy tears falling as beautiful music plays in the background and I ponder on all the sweet truths of the gospel. But really, I didn’t need the spirit to confirm what I already knew, that living the gospel was right and I just needed to buck up and do it even if it made me different. But it was a powerful moment because it was a decision I reached all on my own in a time when no one would know.
A few days later I met another LDS girl and who was already attending Sacrament Meeting every week and we attended together from then on. I lived, and stood up for my standards for the rest of the time.
Although there were still moments when I pushed the boundaries on the finer points of the gospel as a teenager and young adult and although I still make more mistakes than I would like, the bulk of that decision was made when I was 15 years old, all by myself, at a ballet camp in Houston Texas.