A funny thing happened tonight while typing out an email to my little sister — I meant to write the words “a part” but instead my fingers missed the space bar and I typed the word: “apart.”  It’s funny, because that one careless typo holds all kinds of symbolism and pretty much describes my last few months…

This summer hasn’t been an easy one for me, interpersonally-speaking.  In early June, I resigned from my position as Community Services Coordinator for the Saskatoon Freethinkers, a move that wasn’t easy — but was necessary (arguably, for both parties).*

For nearly the last year-and-a-half, the Saskatoon Freethinkers have been in the forefront of most of my extra time.  I knew from the first meeting we attended (in February 2009), that I wanted to be a part of the group’s leadership team, because it was JUST what I was looking for in Saskatoon.  By this point, Jerry and I were still pretty much new in our outspoken atheist life, and we were so hungry for like-minded friendships and conversations.

And, it worked out!  I immediately started volunteering for the group, leading talks, and soon enough, I was right there with the movers and shakers.  I loved it.  I loved being a part of the movement.  I loved the responsibility, I loved the interactions, and I even loved helping with the administrative functions of the group (if only because I knew we were setting up something significant).

I was so proud to be on discussion panels, be interviewed for news articles, and even challenge good ol’ John Gormley in defense of our group.  So much of my experience was great fun!

But, like in most relationships, there’s the ups and the downs.  Pretty soon, there were some conflicts and disagreements that never really got resolved, but just got pushed aside or buried.

Before I knew it, my world started getting bigger than just the Freethinkers group, as I helped start up the side-groups of Saskatoon Secular Family Network and Café Apostate.   Pretty soon I found myself volunteering to be a parent education assistant with the Foundation Beyond Belief organization, a US-based charity for atheists and humanists started by Dale McGowan, one of my heroes of secular parenting.  [I’ve only recently realized that our secular parenting group is one of the only active ones in Canada — and this weekend we’re hosting a Freethinker Family Camp that’s gotten notice all over the country!]

And — last week I started my journey toward becoming a secular celebrant, and was officially accepted into the Celebrant Foundation and Institute‘s 2010-11 academic program.   Plus, this week I was invited to be a part of the writing team for a nation-wide blog for Canadian Atheists, representing Saskatoon. (So, I’ve been busy.)

This June, as I was in the thick of all the interpersonal drama with the group, I remember feeling very hurt and confused by what was going on — while also feeling misunderstood and undervalued.  But now that I’ve had some time to think/stew/dwell on everything that’s happened, I can find some actual GOOD that came from the whole experience:

  1. I now recognize that my path in the atheist/freethinking/secular/skeptic movement isn’t necessarily in line with the Freethinkers’ group mandate — and that’s okay.  While I value the need for rationalism and critique, I think I see myself more in the humanist vein of the movement.
  2. I need to feel like I’m in a place where my personality and contributions are viewed as assets, and not liabilities.  From the start, I don’t think I was a right fit for the leadership team.  And that’s okay.  It’s important for me to be self-aware enough to recognize where and when I’m needed, and to know when to back away when I’m not.
  3. I was pretty devastated when I first left the leadership team — it felt as if I were betraying the larger movement by backing away from my role on the Council — but now I can see that’s a bit melodramatic (even for me).   The fact is, while this group has a role to play, it’s just one facet of the whole.  So it’s okay that I didn’t necessarily “fit” here, because there are many more opportunities for me to serve elsewhere.
  4. I’m surprised at how liberating it is to just be a “member” of the group — don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to be a part of it, but now I have the freedom to be selective in the activities I participate in.  So, when our interests align, I’ll be there.  When not, I don’t have to be.  No more trying to fit my round head into a square hole! (ouch)
  5. Free time!  Not that I have all that much to begin with, but now I can really focus my interests into my areas of passion — secular parenting, Celebrant training, and Apostate-ing. [don’t tell Jerry, but I’m hoping to also volunteer for the parents’ council at Emma’s new school, and maybe volunteer for next year’s Children’s Festival.]

As cheesy as it may sound, I feel like I’m finally in a place of peace about the whole situation.  Part of me thinks that it took something as shattering as this separation to really wake me up to prioritize my efforts as to what I want to do for the humanist side of the atheist movement.  Some lessons are harder than others to learn (I know, again with the cliches) — but in this case, I’m really glad to see that there’s positives I can take from something that felt so painful to experience.

So, that’s my journey of how I went from being

a part of the Saskatoon Freethinkers

to feeling apart from it

and finally returning to be a part of the group, but in an entirely different place.

And that’s okay.

*[disclaimer: I know that some of the current leadership team may read my blog (or my Facebook notes), so let me state that this post isn’t meant to be a passive-aggressive slam on the group or the current team leading the Freethinkers.  This post is just meant to be me, reflecting on my experience, on my personal blog.  Feel free to comment, email, or call me if you’ve got questions or comments about what I write here.]