SparkNotes Blog

Auntie SparkNotes: Amish Paradise

Dear Auntie SparkNotes,

This is a little bit odd, but here it goes: I despair in the modern world. More than that, technology scares me (which sounds odd, seeing as I am using a computer at this time, yet even my computer frightens me), and I am frightened by what direction our world is headed in. This isn’t a new feeling, I’ve had it for . . . well, for the better part of my life, and for the better part of my life, I’ve wanted to be Mennonite, or more specifically, Amish.

That sounds strange, I know, but it is the truth, and I just absolutely loathe the society in which I live. And as time goes on, I find over and over that I can not shake the feeling that I don’t belong in this society, and whereas I get hailed for my skill in the sciences and maths, people saying that I shall be a “renowned doctor or scientist someday,” I have no desire for any of that. What I do want is a nice, large family, a simple life, and a stringent, religious community that shares my views to raise them in, and I believe, and have believed for a long time that I have found one that meets my criteria. I have not mentioned my wishes to most anyone, and when I do mention it, everyone believes that I am joking. I am not joking, and though I do not know for sure that I shall make an attempt to join the Amish community, I do see it as a very serious possibility, and in the case that I do not join the Amish community, I do know that there is a near-100% possibility that I shall live my life in relative seclusion doing all the things I just said I wanted to do.

Herein lies my problem: No one takes me seriously. They either believe that I am making jokes, or believing I have taken to a romanticized version of the Amish, whereas neither are true. Auntie, how do I get people to take me seriously about this, for this is neither passing fancy, romanticized notions, nor a joke?

First the bad news, Sparkler: nobody is going to take you seriously.

I know: this sucks, and I’m sorry. But really, it’s just not gonna happen. At least, not until they’re confronted with the very real spectacle of you churning butter, raising barns, and living in a candlelit house with a lovely bearded husband and a large, energetic brood of Amish children.

But hey, you know what? That’s true for every teenager with plans that involve flipping a big fat bird to society and deviating wildly from the norm for the rest of their lives. And it’s only when a person actually does grow up and join the Amish, or take up residence on a commune in the Arctic, or kidnap three hapless tourists and turn them into a human centipede, that everybody looks at each other, shrugs, and says, “Wow, I guess he was actually serious about that!”

Which is to say, just give up on convincing the people around you that your plans are your plans. You’ll only make yourself crazy. And instead, do what everyone else does in a situation like this: shrug, renew your commitment to the life you want, and take heart in the fact that one day you’ll call up every single person who doubted your dream and say, “Look who’s Amish now, bitchez!!! BOO YA!”

…Or, I mean, that’s what you would do, if not for the Amish restrictions on telephone use. (Maybe you can get someone to do it for you.)

However. While I’m not about to tell you don’t know your own mind or aren’t taking this seriously, you still have the same responsibility as every human being to know what makes you happy before you make any life-altering decisions about your adult path. And that’s why your letter, which is so heavy on feeling scared and not belonging (and comparatively light on the nitty-gritty reality of life in an Amish community) makes me think that you’ve still got some work to do. Happiness is about choosing the life you want, not rejecting the one you don’t. And whether you join the Amish or just choose to live in traditional, family-oriented seclusion, it should be because you genuinely feel you belong there—and not, as your letter suggests, that you’re fleeing there by default because the alternative freaks you out.

The good news: you’ve still got plenty of time to make sure that you’re informed, engaged, and solid in your knowledge of what will make you happy. So do your research on the Amish, sure—but don’t neglect the equally-important work of analyzing your true reasons for wanting that sort of life. If it’s because you yearn for an uncomplicated existence of simplicity and faith, that’s fine. But if it’s because you’re afraid of the modern world, even just a little, then you’re not ready to make any plans.

And instead, you owe it to yourself to dig deeper, think harder, and do whatever it takes (including being screened for anxiety or talking it out with a professional) to find a life path that’s not about what you’re running away from, but about what you’re moving towards. Because no matter where you choose to go, fear is the worst reason in the world to end up there.

Do you have plans that nobody will take seriously? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at advice@sparknotes.com.

Related post: Auntie SparkNotes: Religious Differences