It still surprises me how unkind some people can be. What part of building Zion makes it acceptable to be furiously judgmental? Over the last few years, I have seen the very (very) best my adopted community has to offer, and I’ve also been privy to some of the most scathing and biting commentary on women, in particular, me. I suppose so much light must cast a shadow…

I’ve been accused of milking my ward, being inconsiderate of my Elder’s Quorum in accepting a spot in graduate school and needing to move, of overstepping my proper place in seeking higher education. I’ve been called to repentance in a letter for being an apostate feminist and I’ve been shunned in person for being too orthodox. I’ve been called a Welfare Mother, I’ve been accused in a national newspaper of overfeeding my lazy fat children on the less than $4 per day that welfare provides. It’s been suggested that I should just find a husband not not take a man’s spot in grad school, and I’ve been told my children should be my highest priority, and to get off my ass and get a job.

I’ve been asked how I can submit my will to a patriarchal church, and I’ve been told by leaders of that church that I need not lobby for rights if I just remember how to be virtuous. I have been told that my undergrad should be enough, and if were less educated, I might have an easier time meeting a man. I have been told I sacrificed my children’s well-being by going to school, and that they are victims of my ambition. I have been told “how dare you?” when I admit I receive public assistance, and have had strangers comment on my belongings in line at the grocery store. I have been told that I am a reason not to pay tithing anymore.

I do not wear my CV around my neck. I do not owe every person I meet a run-down on how hard I have tried, how many mountains I have climbed, how my soul has been wracked, how many tears have fallen from my chin, how many times I have fallen, and been too weary to get up. But I just keep writing.

What should a woman in my position do? I am sick of retelling the sad story of the last several years in order to gain approval from strangers. I have chosen to be raw, open and naked in my narrative, and I do not regret it. The net good that has come from my vulnerability far outweighs the cruelty— a truth for which I am eternally grateful.

To the rest of the people who are overflowing with misdirected anger, hatred, cruelty and what they might imagine is righteous indignation? May you never walk a day in my shoes. To those who have loved me, picked me up when I thought I couldn’t do it on my own; you hold my heart in your hands, my gratitude in your limbs, and my teachable self moving forward, emulating your examples.

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