Recently while digging through the shoebox in which I store the electronic detritus of my life that I’m too lazy to go through — the one that’s followed me to three different states and made it across the country with me — I found a long-forgotten USB drive and decided to go through it for the first time in a decade.
There were three documents on it, all obviously, embarrassingly Mormon. One was called the “Future Husband Requirement List,” and based on the date, I wrote it during the fall of my senior year of high school, in 2006.
Here’s what it said:
My Future Husband Requirement List
Returned Missionary (preferably Europe!)
Speaks another language
Strong in the church
BYU graduate (or better)
Willing to move away from family
Hasn’t lived in Utah his entire life
Good with kids
Would be OK not having kids
NOT a democrat
Fourteen years later, a few things about that list stand out to me: I was a kind of a hypocrite, I was trying to smother the part of me that knew deep down I was full of shit, and you can see the early signs of discontent through my facade of pretentious righteousness.
I wanted a husband who could speak a foreign language, even though I couldn’t speak one myself at the time. I wanted him to be a returned missionary, even though going on a mission was the last thing I wanted to do. And I wanted him to be strong in the church, even though I wasn’t particularly strong in it myself.
“NOT a Democrat” was only in there because I had swallowed my family’s “Democrats are ruining this country” line without doing any of my own research. I held onto that for a few more years, which no one who knows me now would guess based on my political activity.
Here’s what’s most interesting to me: “Willing to move away from family.” “Hasn’t lived in Utah his entire life.” “Would be OK not having kids.”
Those are the words of a nervous 17-year-old young woman who was afraid of what her future held. I was afraid to get married and being stuck in a relationship with a person I’d end up resenting, and I hated the thought of being trapped with a family I disliked for the rest of this life, let alone eternity, because I didn’t like my own all that much. I had loathed Utah from the moment we moved there and couldn’t wait to get out. And I was terrified of having children and screwing them up, or resenting them for the loss of freedom they’d no doubt represent to me. And I was afraid of how much it would hurt.
At 30, I don’t often think of myself as anything like the girl who wrote that list, but I can see the seeds of my current self were there from the beginning — they just needed room to grow. I’ve always valued learning, and I still love to read (and discovered a passion for language learning shortly after writing that list). I’m even more fiercely independent now, and I did make it out of Utah.
I also went from being a conservative talk radio listener to being a loud-mouthed progressive activist, and from stressing over finding a husband to being happy living life as it happens, whether I have a partner (of any gender) or not.
Most importantly, I went from writing what I’d been told I should feel to writing what I know I feel, and from relying on being told what to think to relying on research, factual evidence and getting to know the world outside of my own bubble. That alone has made all the difference in who I am.