I was in Grade 4 when I first thought I’d like to be a teacher when I grew up, but our people (horse and buggy Mennonites) did not become teachers. A person needed higher education to be teacher. Then things changed. Our church opened its own schools and arranged with the government to allow elementary-educated people be teachers. They received training during the summer from a person with teacher’s certificate. When I grew up, I applied to be a teacher but no one hired me. I applied again the next year. And each year for many years to come. In the meantime, each of my younger sisters got hired at various church schools, but no one hired me. I knew it was wrong and unhealthy to be jealous of my sisters so I focused on living my life.
One day, I asked my mother and sisters what was wrong with me that people didn’t want me for a teacher. I assumed they’d have a big mouthful of answers ready to spout off. Not so. Instead, the kitchen got really quiet as each concentrated on their sewing projects. I could not understand it, not after a lifetime of criticism and ridicule freely doled out by one and all.
“You talk so much,” one person offered hesitantly. I didn’t accept that. I wasn’t the only person in the community who “talked too much.” Not everyone was ostracized for “talking too much.” The convo went nowhere. I didn’t understand it until my current research on narcissism. I was their scapegoating project; none of it was meant to make sense logically so they could not answer a logical question.
Along the line, I had a nervous breakdown. I’ll never fully recover in all aspects but when I was well enough, after twenty years of being rejected for teacher, I knew something had to give. I applied at the local university, which I later learned was a world class institution of post-secondary learning. I had taken and passed a college level writing course by correspondence. On the strength of that, I was accepted part time at the University of Waterloo. I knew that higher education was forbidden by the church for some odd reason.
I wasn’t sure if I was strong enough to travel the two hours in to the classroom several times a week, so the school said I could take distance education courses, lectures available on tape. Big red flag: My church disciplined young people for having tapes. I wrote a letter to the deacon asking advice. Deacons could not have telephones but lay members could. I asked for a written reply but instead he went to a neighbour’s telephone and called me. Fine with me.
He said it was different from me to use tapes than the young people. In other words, he didn’t say no. I didn’t trust it but went ahead. I told no one except my family that I was going to university. Strangely, they kept my secret. I continued as a member in good standing with the church. Our friends assumed I was not doing all that much work because of my poor health. But eventually, after fourteen months, the secret caught up with me.
Since I could no longer keep my secret, I wrote a letter to a friend telling her about the courses I was taking. I knew she would tell her ten siblings on the telephone before getting back to me. She did. And she was very angry. So were many other people. The deacon and his wife came to see me when I wasn’t home.
When I came home, I packed up my social work texts and went to visit the deacon and his wife. The wife said, “Couldn’t you have asked someone’s advice?” They wouldn’t look at the books; I thought the teachings of the books were identical to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
What was I supposed to say? I said nothing. After a pause, the deacon said, “I guess she did.” I suspect his wife got the story out of him in private, and that he had to answer to his fellow church leaders for not stopping me. Long story short, a few weeks later, via the grapevine my sister heard that the deacon said, “I didn’t think she’d go far.”
That hurt! This deacon was one of the nicer people in the community. I thought he might be on my side, but no. When push came to shove, he agreed with everyone else that I wasn’t quite as bright as normal, but rather stupid. The thing is, I graduated my BA with honours, and got my Masters, too. I still haven’t got high school. Nor do they. They still know that they’re smarter because look at where Sarah landed–in that corrupt cesspool of evil: the big city!
I feel they drove me out; I could no longer endure living with their disapproval and criticism but they think that only proves a guilty conscience. With people like that there is no winning.
I suppose if I’d killed myself (as I nearly did) they’d be lots happier; that way they could publicly beat themselves up for having not given me enough attention, but privately they could rejoice that one more trouble-maker is off their hands and in hell where she belongs.
I do not regret one bit of effort I expended to make my escape. Life is so much better outside the narcissistic family and their adoring community.