Since the time I could first form memories, I knew that I was different. For one, I was a vegetarian. There was no meat in our house, as both of my parents were vegetarians, so I never had any, and I never had any cause to be around any. Secondly, I went to a church school. Now, if you’ve never been to a church school, or even to a private school, there are some things you need to know about it:
1) A church school has classes like Religion, and Bible Study
2) A church school is first and foremost centered around the church, so only those from that particular religion are accepted in the school
3) A church school is very costly to maintain, so there is a pretty steep tuition component
4) A church school requires a uniform
Our uniform was navy blue pants and a yellow button-down shirt for the boys, and a pleated navy cross-hatch skirt or dress with a yellow button-down shirt for the girls. We were checked for properly pressed clothing (no problem for me, as my mother was fastidious about this aspect) on a daily basis. You were always expected to have a second uniform available in case the initial one was dirtied. Boys were also expected to wear a tie on most days, preferably in navy, and some of the girls wore ties as well. Needless to say, with these strict uniforms there was absolutely no room for individuality, but that wasn’t the point. The point was to make clothing a non-issue, and it worked, except that we all couldn’t stand the uniforms.
The fact of tuition caused many problems as well. You see, our school, Larchwood SDA School, was funded by several Philadelphia area churches, so students came from all over, from each of the “sister” churches. Some churches had more money to assist their students, while other students had to foot the bill themselves, and within their families. Since their families were not rich, they had to struggle to get by, and sometimes they had to leave the school mid-semester to go to a public school. It was always a depressing time when one of our classmates was in this predicament, and would disappear before the year was done.
Also, because only Seventh-Day Adventists were accepted in the school, we didn’t have any exposure whatsoever to the outside world. Everyone there thought like us, believed what we believed, and there really wasn’t room for argument or debate. While it was a good thing to have others like us we didn’t have to always explain our religion to, it was also bad to not get to question our faith. Because it is in the questioning of your faith that you grow and mature as an individual, and collectively.
Finally, with classes like Religion, and Bible Study, that counted toward our final GPA each year, it was a veritable church meeting we went to each day. Due to this, I think I can quote entire passages from just about any book in the Bible (well, that and the fact that my father is a preacher). This serves me well when I get into a battle of scripture with just about anyone these days. I’m still not sure if I’m grateful for this or mortified by it. Probably a little bit of both.
Growing up SDA was a phenomenal experience because it was like a completely different world from the world outside. Insular in its complexity, and set apart from the rest of the world, it was unique. It definitely helped me to become the person I am today, and for that I am grateful.