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Church Mouse or Party Animal

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When new kids came to youth group, the veteran youth-groupers used to always introduce me as, “This is Keilah, the pastor’s daughter.” Translation: “You better watch what you say in front of this chick, or you’ll go to hell . . . or worse, her daddy’ll be all over you in three seconds flat.”

This drove me nuts. I desperately wanted to preserve my anonymity, but for all my efforts I might as well have introduced myself to every new person as, “Hello, I am a pastor’s daughter. I will rat you out to my oh-so-holy reverend father if you do one teeny-tiny thing wrong. You may now run screaming.”

I hated being a PK for years. Sometimes I still do. As I wrote before, as far as I can tell, there are two main stereotypes for pastor’s daughters: 1) the wild party animal viciously fighting the PK label by drinking more and partying harder than anyone else, or 2) the sweet little church mouse who memorizes the whole Bible by the time she’s twelve and prays 24/7. Considering the fact that my first year in public school I had glasses, braces, straight A’s, loved reading, and was an ex-homeschooler, I was usually branded the latter. In other words, my social life was officially screwed (and I’m almost ready to track down every single yearbook from the seventh grade and burn it).

I homeschooled all through elementary school, K through 5, with a quick stint at private school in second grade. Then in sixth grade, I went to public school for the first time. In short, I was terrified. Lockers and teachers and homework, oh my. The first time a guy asked me out, I just stared at him stunned and then turned and walked away without answering him (I was eleven; what can I say?). All in all, though, I loved public school. I loved my classes, my teachers, my friends, everything. But I quickly learned to substitute “pastor” with some obscure term like “PR guy” when people asked me what my dad did for a living. (No, I wasn’t lying; technically all pastors are “PR guys” in some way, shape, or form. That’s what I like to tell myself, anyway.)

It was almost amusing watching people’s reactions once they learned I was a PK. I would watch them run over everything they’d said to me in the past hour to make sure they hadn’t said anything inappropriate. If they felt like they were in the clear, they looked ridiculously relieved. If not, they either turned bright red and suddenly lost the power of speech or they became uber-defensive and argumentative. In sixth grade, keeping friends was harder than climbing a greased pole, and getting what friends I did have to speak openly around me was harder. They would talk, yes, but everything was censored. If they ever started a topic deemed “inappropriate,” they would shoot covert looks at me and rapidly change the subject.

And guys, let me make this clear: I’m not writing this for sympathy or because I think I was some tragic little martyr in middle school. I wasn’t. I had it great compared to some kids. I had friends. My parents were happy and in love. I didn’t have to deal with divorce, cutting, bulimia or anorexia, bullying, suicide, and a thousand and one other things kids deal with these days.

But I grew increasingly insecure, I felt as if the expectations piled on me were overwhelming. My grandma, who never even graduated high school, never failed to demand every phone conversation how my grades were. I would meekly answer, “All A’s, Gramma.” Similarly, it was incredible how many people at church asked about my grades on a weekly basis. I never understood why there was such a high interest level in my grades. It seemed like the whole world wanted to verify that I maintained my 4.0 status, that I was sweet and polite and went to Confirmation every week and obeyed my parents and followed the Ten Commandments. Uh oh, Keilah got a B on her math test. Nuclear apocalypse! Mayday, mayday! Break out the sirens! Why do you guys even care?

By seventh grade I was twelve years old and trying to be the perfect child. It wore me out. That year I won Student of the Year along with too many other awards and prizes . . . and I hated my life. I felt like such a fake, an actor. I felt like I was conforming to what everyone wanted me to be: perfect little church-mouse PK. Exactly what I didn’t want to be.

So in eighth grade I kind of threw everything into the air.

I stopped studying altogether and was almost disappointed when I kept making A’s. It would have been nice to tartly answer my grandmother, “No, Gramma, I actually don’t have a 4.0. But what do you care? You flunked out of high school.” But I wasn’t quite to the point where I would completely stop trying at school or intentionally get bad grades. And although I might think such a thing, I knew I could never actually say that to my grandma. She had her own set of problems to deal with in high school.

All the same, I had my share of sleepovers discussing the length of a guy’s you-know-what, flavored condoms, blow-jobs, and boys boys boys in general. I really wasn’t interested in any boys. I thought boys were immature idiots (at least, all the boys I knew). Besides, they always put you in that awkward situation when you had to tell them, “No, um . . . sorry, I don’t date.” Yet I was desperate to show my friends that I was “one of them.” I wanted to fit in, and during that period “fitting in” meant talking about boys, and a hundred and one other things. I shot eggs out of bras (that was actually fun), crank-called people at 2AM, and played Truth or Dare and all that it entailed (I absolutely hated that game).

In other words, I was incredibly stupid. I was this-close to becoming the party-animal PK (I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have done drugs or drank alcohol, but I never exactly had the opportunity to prove it). In the space of two years, I had vacillated between conforming to the church-mouse PK and the party-animal PK.

By the end of eighth grade I was braces and glasses free (check my profile pic for proof!). I was hanging on by my fingernails to my grades. I barely passed my Algebra I state exam (76%, without studying; it lowered my math grade eight percentage points, so I passed with an A- overall).

The summer after eighth grade I made the decision to homeschool again. I had the startling revelation a few weeks into the summer that, thanks to my dad’s pastor-level income, if I don’t get a major scholarship, I won’t be able to go to college. I realized I needed to get serious about school during high school and really impress the colleges. Public school is awesome, but no matter how efficiently the classes are run, a class of one will almost always get more work done than a class of thirty. (I’m currently taking a twelve-credit course-load . . . I’m losing my mind trying to get it all done but I’m loving everything I’m learning.)

Homeschooling in ninth grade, I missed my friends and social life like crazy. Homeschoolers will tell you that we have a social life comparable to that of a public-schooler, but I’m sorry guys, it ain’t true. Homeschoolers have nothing when measured up to the eight-plus hours a day of a public-schooler’s social life.

But that year I kind of took a step back and evaluated my life. I still kept in touch with my friends, I still went to football games and post-game parties, but I made new friends in my new classes and got involved in the homeschool community, and I spent a lot of time at home too (surprise surprise). And as a new homeschooler, I got a pleasant surprise: a fresh start.

I didn’t have to stick with the old Keilah, the one tried to be what everyone else thought she was or should be. Nobody knew me at my new classes; I was a stranger. I could create a whole new person again, just like I had created a whole new person moving from seventh to eighth grade. But this time, instead of “creating” someone new, someone who I thought would fit in, I was just myself.

This is me: I’m fifteen years old. I want to be a journalist or author. I’m not planning on getting married. I don’t want a boyfriend. I’m not trying to impress anyone. I’m just a tad argumentative (occasionally more than a tad) and my mom and I drive each other nuts, but I love her to death. I like finding people I can respectfully disagree with because I feel like we both leave the conversation knowing more about both others’ views and our own now that we’ve been mutually forced to coherently express them. I still love reading, still love writing, make a 3.9 but definitely not a 4.0, study sometimes but not always, never play Truth or Dare if it involves French-kissing dogs, drinking toilet water, or running topless through the neighborhood, and haven’t had cause to talk about a BJ in literally years (two, to be exact [since eighth grade]).

I’m a proud PK, just not a church mouse or a party animal. :)





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