I grew up in Pennsylvania in a small Amish community before moving to Florida, then New York City. The question I’ve been asked lately is: Why do I try not to talk badly about Amish people and the Amish church, especially considering that I personally hated being Amish? A short partial answer: my parents accept me, so I accept them and their beliefs. In a much longer, more accurate answer:
When I first left the Amish community, I was angry, upset and hurt. I never fit into the culture. I was free-spirited, independent and didn’t like the rules. I had no problem talking about how much I hated the ministers of the Amish church, and the way they wanted me to follow their idea of how I should live my life. I wanted to leave and never go back except visit my family.
Since I left, a lot of people have questioned me about the Amish lifestyle, and how I feel about it. I still feel the same way I felt when I left. But I don’t feel right talking badly about the religion, because I know it’s a very personal feeling. It’s because of who I am and who I want to be. The reason I didn’t want to be Amish is because it simply wasn’t for me.. It’s not because being outside the church is a better life, it’s because of my own experiences and personal life journey. Yes, there are LOT of practices and habits that I don’t admire or agree with, but there are just as many that I do agree with. I find that’s true with every church and culture. Human nature has a way of making even good intentions go wrong.
For all the things that I hated, there are things that make the Amish lifestyle work for many people- The community of support, the firm understanding of what’s expected, the peaceful way of life. I have friends and family that are still living in the Amish community. They are happy, content and feel like they are where they belong. They made the choice to stay in the community. That’s where they think they will be happiest. They all had the option to leave, but they chose not to.
Would I go back? No!! But not because I don’t respect the culture. I understand why most of my friends stayed in the Amish community. The reason I left is because I realized that I couldn’t pursue the life I wanted if I stayed. I personally don’t want to live in the Amish community. I want to travel, build the Kate Stoltz NYC fashion line and then create art in my spare time. I want a college education, and I want to pursue a career in my field. I want to help make the world a better place by dedicating my time to charity, and help Developing Faces succeed in helping to give precious children better lives. I want to listen to music and celebrate life in different parts of the world. I see the value in education, in learning about different cultures, in exploring new places and opening up your mind to different ideologies and cultures. I wanted something different and that’s why I chose the path I did.
I’m always unconsciously and consciously reevaluating my life based on my current situation and opportunities. In fact, we are all constantly making choices about what to bring with us and what to leave behind. My parent’s religion sounds a little more extreme than most, but religions in general all have very similar qualities. I have people reach out to me all the time, telling me of similar experiences they had with their own parent’s religious beliefs. No matter the case, there’s a constant ‘weeding’ process that goes on in everyone’s life. Certain things can take years to change or improve, such as a work situation, living situation, etc, but it’s all possible.
The life we chose doesn’t have to be adventurous, glamorous, confined or anything in particular. It can be whatever suits our individual personalities and ambitions. I strongly think that if our intentions aren’t harmful to other humans, and makes the world a safer and better place, and of course, considers the laws of the states, then we should pursue what we think is right for ourselves. Anyone reading this has global access to information about different cultures, religions, ideas and lifestyles. We have to choice to choose what we want to be, then pursue it with all of our heart. As a friend once told me when I was doubting myself as a fashion designer:
“Decide what you want to be, then become it. No excuses.”