Today my new passport arrived. Golden letters glimmered on the burgundy cover, its decorated pages pristine. I opened it like a child who had just received a birthday gift.
After adding my signature under my picture, and chuckling at the bemused expression on my face, I decided to destroy my old passport. Its cover was stained, its pages creased. Ten years of travelling between the country where I was born and the one where I’ve grown up had taken their toll.
As I cut up its pages, I smiled and tried to remember where I was and who I was ten years ago, when I first received it. Then it suddenly hit me.
I’ve spent the past decade deconstructing — and ultimately discarding — my religious beliefs. During ten years of intense studying, thinking, debating, even praying, the narrative that once seemed to hold my life together slowly unravelled.
Leaving behind the comfort and security of beliefs instilled from childhood is difficult. It was largely a negative process, in the sense that I had to reevaluate everything that I believed in. Some things I gave up with a sigh of relief. Others, I let go of reluctantly, like a child desperately trying to hold on to the teddy bear which was given to it at birth.
The journey was extremely taxing. It brought anger, resentment, sadness, and at times, despair. It’s not easy to recover from a lost sense of identity, from the shattering of your sense of reality, and from the grief over a dead god. In the process, some close relationships were lost — others were irrevocably damaged. When you deconvert, there’s no going back. You enter the unknown. You cross over into the twilight zone.
The process of deconstruction will continue, probably for the rest of my life. But after ten years, it’s time for something new. Becoming “free from” is just the first step. Now I’ve started a new chapter, one where I’m learning to be “free to”: free to quench my thirst for knowledge about the universe and everything it contains, to become a more compassionate and empathetic person, to enjoy what this one and only life has to offer.
I’m holding my brand new passport. Its pages are empty, waiting to be stamped with new destinations, filled with new experiences. As I thumb through the clean pages, I feel slightly apprehensive, but at the same time I’ve never been as excited about life. A new adventure awaits.