One day in eleventh or twelfth grade my Dad suggested that maybe my style of dress was not appropriate for school. "Other people dress like this," I said. A couple of days later we were driving down the road, just him and me in the car. The conversation came up again.
"I don't think it's appropriate for you to dress like that at school," he said.
"Other people dress like this," I said.
"I talked to some of the people at your school and they said the only people who dress that way are you and your friends," he said.
"Yah," I said, "what's the big deal."
"I just don't want others to have the same opinion of you that I have of your friends," he said.
That was a breaking point for me. What my father said just didn't jive with my idealistic teenage world and from then on, I chose friends over family. Later, I got my act together and managed to become friends with my family. My closest friends, they are family and I am delighted when I get close enough to someone that they feel like family.
But back to high school. In high school, I was the kid your parents told you to avoid. That went for my friends too. Not that we were bad kids--our reputation was far from deserved but I understand the concern, why parents and other kids are wary of someone with a bad reputation. Some kids from church wouldn't talk to us at school, some wouldn't date any of us. And so we just became closer and tighter, so much so that I do feel closer to those people, most of them, I haven't spoken to them in a year or two but I feel closer to them than my parents and siblings. It was a smashing blow when one of my friends gave in to his parent's wishes and stopped associating with us; a couple of my friends were devastated. Back then most of my friends were Mormon though we had a general disinterest and in a few cases disdain for the church. But we were spiritual in other ways, flirted with Buddhism and read Ayn Rand and all that typical teenage philosophy; passed notes around with our favorite passages—now that I look back, it was like an underground seminary.
Gradually most of them, including those closest to me, started to Mormon up and it really bothered me. I felt like we were splitting. It would be some time before I would change my tune on Mormonism and ironically, it was my non-Mormon girlfriend that softened my mind and enabled me to honestly look at the Mormon church and how I really felt about the spirituality it teaches.
Most of them are still strong, spiritually. One of them especially, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to completely dismiss Mormonism as long as his faith holds strong. I so respect his mind and I so respect his heart; I trust him that much.
Of course I have gotten into trouble because of friends, picked up some bad habits because of friends. It’s inevitable. A have a friend in particular, when we get together spirituality is out the window, and I’ve had other friends like that from time to time. On our own, neither of us would get into much trouble, but together, it’s a goofy fun mix. Though we have no focus on spirituality when we are together, those friends are inspiring and invigorating and because of them I feel more dedicated, more spiritual than ever.