Hi again. This post is really special to me. I want you to know how great it feels to be free of living my life as a pretender.
I don’t mean that I was pretending to live. I just mean that there was a LOT about me that I felt I couldn’t tell people or be honest about.
Once I escaped from Scientology, I was back at square one. How was I supposed to create a new life? It wasn’t going to be easy. So I developed stories to “explain” what I’d been up to from the age of 27 to 47. It got to the point where I almost believed those stories myself.
Here’s one: When people would ask, “What brought you here to Florida?” I’d get a tightness in my chest and a bit of a twinge in my stomach. “Well, I was living and working in California as a magazine editor (for some nondescript “internal” publications) and then my dad got ill so I came out here to be with him for the last few years of his life, then I met my husband, so I ended up staying.” Blah, blah, blah.
I knew it was a lie, but I felt it was better than telling the truth.
I mean, if I’d said, “Well, I was in this cult called Scientology for 20 years, most of it in California, in international marketing. Then the head of Scientology, David Miscavige, kicked me out of international management and made me stay at the Flag base in Clearwater, scrubbing floors in the galley with a toothbrush. Eventually I ran the marketing for Flag and then finally came to my senses and escaped in the middle of the night in 2007 and had nowhere to stay so I stayed here…”
Yeah, that wasn’t going to be my story. Try getting a job that way. Or meeting new people. Not so easy.
So I developed my coping mechanism, which in the Sea Org we called a “shore story”. That basically was the “acceptable truth” you told the public about Scientology or what you were doing, so that it seemed less weird to them.
I’m sure people would wonder why, if I had a degree in Linguistics from UCLA, I was working at Starbucks as a barista. But they were too polite to ask. And I sure wasn’t going to bring it up.
As the years went by and I became more successful in the job arena, my confidence grew. But I still kept up the facade. I mean, I was able to handle it so far, right? And what if I actually told people I worked with what my real past was? They’d leave, right? I’d be fired, right?
So I lived the lie for years and years. Then I finally was able to tell my story to the world. Wow. What a change. I had NO IDEA how much stress I was under while I held onto this lie.
It’s as if I was living behind a barrier—transparent enough that I could see through it and people could see me, but not ALL of me. I wasn’t able to relax for a minute. If I’d let my guard down, I might have let something slip about my past. Then the jig would be up.
The whole time I was living like this, I was filled with anxiety that I didn’t even realize was there. But now that I don’t have to hide anymore, I can just be myself. I’m still figuring out who that is, by the way—but I’m having a lot of fun doing it.
Now, when someone asks me about my past, I can tell them. Then I can just refer them to this blog if they want to know more. I’ve yet to have someone shun me when I speak about my past in Scientology. Quite the opposite, in fact.
I’m a freelance content writer, so it’s up to me to get new clients. If a potential client wants to know how much experience I have, I just say that I have 30 years experience as a published writer. HELL YES I do. And I don’t have to hide it anymore. I’ve written hundreds, maybe even thousands, of magazine articles, ads, scripts, and other promotional pieces. So what if the majority of them were for Scientology? If a client thinks that they don’t want to work with me because of my past affiliations, then I don’t think they’re the right client for me!
I now refuse to change myself or my past to fit into someone else’s mold. It’s incredibly freeing. I’m more confident now than I’ve ever been.
I guess the real reason I’m writing this post is for those people who have stories they don’t want to tell others. Based on the response I’ve gotten to this blog, I’d go so far as to say that almost everyone has a story they don’t want to share.
My advice? Tell it. But do it in stages.
Start by telling one person you absolutely trust. Then watch their reaction.
Then tell someone you think you trust. Watch their reaction.
Little by little, you’ll see that the reaction you thought you’d get isn’t the one you actually get. You’ll see that people feel honored that you’d trust them with your story. You’ll also see that they couldn’t care less about your past, and that they love you for who you are now.
And so it goes… until you can easily tell the world.
Imagine how free you’ll feel.
As for me, I’m feeling pretty great, and better every day. Even though I’m going through some crazy times right now, I’m fairly calm about it all. I know what I’m capable of, and I know where I’m headed.
One thing I can say for sure is that you can’t possibly move forward until you’re standing on solid ground. My ground is pretty solid now, since I’ve been telling my story. I’m ready to move forward. And, dear friend, I want the same for you.