So when I went to Jr. High - which we went to the next town over because our town only had a k-6 school - I met 'a lot' of new people. Now my class size was like 17 instead of just 8. Woot.
My friend Renee is one of the first people I want to talk about. I knew her before from small things here and there. She went to my church, but since I didn't really go, I didn't know her all too well. I am LDS and in my religion children get baptized when they are 8 years old, which I did because my Mom's parents are strong members and were very emphatic about my brothers and I all getting baptized at 8, but we never really went to church because my Dad isn't a member and my Mom was always working or something and it just wasn't a priority for us. Renee's family on the other hand were very good members. She went every Sunday and to young Women's every week and all that stuff (Young Women's is a night when all the Young Women get together for a spiritual lesson and/or activity - I think at one point they called it Mutual because the boys go too, we just had a severe lack of boys). Renee decided I should be going to things like this and so she became very persistent in inviting me to things. All through Jr. High and High School she invited me to camp, activities, church - anything. She became very adamant. Eventually it got to the point where I felt like I couldn't say no. I would try to come up with some excuse "Oh I can't drive" and she would have a reply "come to my house after school and then someone can pick you up, or we can take you home". After finding out she had cats I would say "oh, you have cats, I can't go to your house" her reply would be "sure you can - that's what claritin is for!" And of course I was too nice to just say "No I don't want to" so I would go. It started off that I would just go to Young Women's activities and camp in the summer because those were social activities and it was way easier to drag me to those. And of course once we were old enough to go to Stake dances those were easy to drag me to since there were no cute boys in our school but there were tons of people we didn't know at the dances. It took a long time for me to start going to actual church though. Renee set up a ride for me with some other members that lived in our small town and I started going. After that it was kind of a whirlwind - I didn't really have clothes so an older member who lived in town and didn't have kids bought me a skirt and some nicer tops I could wear. I started going every week. Next thing you know the Bishop came to my house and called me to be Laurel President.
Now for those who aren't members I will do a bit of explaining. In our church they group all the young women from 12-18 together. Those ages are then broken into smaller groups by age - BeeHives, who are 12-14, Mia Maids who are 14-16, and Laurels, who are 16-18. They have adult leaders to guide the girls but then they also call some of the young women to have their own presidency, so that they can have experience with leadership, and also so they can help plan activities that will be beneficial and fun for them and the rest of the girls. It was a bit of a shock to me to be called as Laurel president when I had only been active for what seemed like a month (it might have been longer but I can't be sure). After that I was converted. I don't really have one thing in specific that I can say made me believe in the church, I think I knew it was true all along, but I just didn't have the background or the resolve. After that I applied to only church schools, went to BYU in Utah and my life has never been the same.
Now, I am not saying that Renee was the only one who did anything in this regard. My friend Lissa was also a member and she helped, and my friend Maryn from High School (who I will talk about later) also helped out a lot. But Renee was the most persistent and so I do credit a lot of my conversion to her. It is funny because all growing up she was dragging me along to try to make me do what was right and be a good little member and now she doesn't go to Church anymore and I am the active one. It is strange to me how people change.
We had a lot of fun together. We would play this game called 'Rooms' in their downstairs hallway that was so much fun. We drank Barq's rootbeer and had whip cream straight from the can and giggled like maniacs (Lissa was there too). We even put whip cream in her younger sister's hand while she was sleeping and tickled her face, just like in the movies and tv shows. It worked the way it was supposed to - her sister got whip cream all over her face. And then she cried because it freaked her out (sorry Amanda - turns out it wasn't as funny as all those shows made it seem :-/). I also feel like maybe Renee was one of the people I didn't always treat as good as I should have. She is a very quirky girl, and that plus her religious strength often made her a target for teasing and I think there were times when I might have joined in, and if not that, I know for sure that I didn't stick up for her the way I should have. I am sorry Renee for giving in to peer pressure - thanks for not giving up on me in spite of that.
I also saw Renee when I was home for Christmas this year. She just got married this last summer, but I wasn't able to attend the wedding so this was my first time meeting her husband. They are so good together - they are very happy and in love and it was great to see that. From her I learned that being different is not always bad, in fact it is really good. I learned that persistence is good. I learned the hard way that sometimes you need to stand up for your friends in the face of peer pressure.