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  • I used to draw technical illustrations of imaginary spaceships on graph paper. This was when I was about 13. I was really into Star Wars. I was also homeschooled.

    Most people who homeschool do it because they think they can do better than the school system, because they have a sociopolitical reason (like anarchists and unschooling), or for religious reasons. My parents were the religious type. I attended a private Christian school in kindergarden and first grade before moving into homeschooling curriculum. At first, we attended a church over an hour and a half away, so all the friends I might have had from there were just too far away to get together with. Then, my father started his own church. There was literally no opportunity to make friends. My mother took my sister and I to 4-H, in the hope that we would meet some kids our own age. For some reason, I brought along my graph paper, and after our basketball games we'd play, I drew my spaceships. I was obviously a huge nerd.

    Fortunately, so was Josh. He was also into Star Wars, video games, all the sorts of things that 13 year old boys in 1997 were into. I suppose we were lucky to be homeschooled, we would have never lasted among our peers. Josh saw my drawings, and immediately recognized the TIE fighter design. After that, we were very good friends.

    But as a teenage fundamentalist, one of the conditions of friendship with someone who isn't part of your church is a constant, passive sort of proselytization. Josh was raised a Christian, but wasn't the same sort of Christian we were. Eventually, he gave in, and in time his zealotry grew to dwarf even my family's. One weekend after church camp, I angrily threw away my jazz CDs (which were among the few pieces of secular music I had) because of Josh's insistence that they were hindering my spirituality. In a rare moment of understanding in those times, my dad told me the CDs were ok.

    The fervency we find in strong convictions lend themselves to whatever direction our nature insists. Zealotry is like a great weight, that once moved, rolls with inertia towards the next place where it would be rest, and then drags us down there with it. One night, on IRC (yes, we were that nerdy) Josh essentially renounced his faith to me. He didn't just have doubts. Suddenly, he didn't believe in God at all, and he was certain of this. It was startling. And instantly, I was compelled to do one of the worst things I could have done as a Christian, but the most obvious thing to do as a fundamentalist. Our friendship ended.

    Truthfully I just wasn't mature enough to process or deal with it. We were too religious, I was too sheltered, and both of us were too strong-willed. When you lose a close friend, you lose the insight you have into their character. I don't know how Josh changed over the next few years, but I know I must have become more mellow and understanding, because also I became happier as I grew older.

    It took years to reconnect. Since then, Josh and I both met the women we love, we both went through college and entered graduate school, and more or less continued in our weird-nerdishness. Our politics grew more liberal into the deep left, a new common ground for us. We live on opposite sides of the country, but when we meet, we go to coffee shops and talk about kombucha, obscure details and things that interest us, and school stuff. Other people may think that's nerdy.

    I wonder what our lives would have been like without homeschooling, fundamentalism, and all the other things that set us apart from other people and each other. Maybe our lives would have been better. But I don't know if we would be friends.
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