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Kelly Cheek
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It's the End of the World as We Know It

Armageddon’s just around the corner!

Chances are that’s not something you hear on a regular basis, but it’s an aphorism I grew up with. I was born and raised as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and as such, spent my life waiting for God to bring the war that would destroy the wicked (non-Witnesses) and make way for the paradise that would then cover the earth.

I was trained to go door-to-door, seeking those who were longing for relief from the woes of life in this world. This was an activity that I hated throughout childhood, and it never got better when I became an adult. I’m a creative introvert and was always happiest when I was alone, or at most, with a small group of close friends, doing something I enjoyed. Knocking on strangers’ doors seeking rejection and derision didn’t quite qualify.

I was taught scriptures that supported this lifestyle. “The world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.” “The love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things.” “Having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things.”

I was not taught things that would help me get on in this world. The world is passing away, remember? So, I never went to college for an advanced education. I never learned about business or finances. I was never taught to plan for retirement. Armageddon was going to be here long before then.

Well, attempts I’ve made over the years to break free from the daily drudge of working for someone else never succeeded enough to really fail on a massive scale. Instead, they just kind of fizzled out without so much as a whimper. The same goes for my writing career, so far. As I alluded to in an earlier chapter, my book sales would barely buy me a monthly Grande (medium) Cappuccino at Starbucks. The Venti (large) was totally out of reach. Best stick with the Tall (small) and have a little change left.

Well, at the time of this writing, I’m 61 years old, Armageddon hasn’t come yet, and the balance in my 401(k) is not nearly as high as I would like for it to be. In early February of 2011, I finally made some decisions that got me disfellowshipped. That’s like excommunication, but with shunning thrown into the mix to make it more interesting, and to protect them from my dangerous and life-threatening lifestyle. I lost all my friends and family in one fateful day.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not here to badmouth Jehovah’s Witnesses. Whatever you feel about their doctrines, they are decent people with high moral standards. But, despite the losses I incurred on that momentous Groundhog Day ten years ago, it has turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made.

Since then, I’ve found true love, and I’ve found happiness on multiple levels. I am, unfortunately, still doing the daily drudge, but I’d hate my job whether I was still a JW or not. I just need to figure out how to break free from it, how to support myself doing what I love.

I wrote about someone in a similar situation in one of my novels. When We Were Gone Astray, book 3 in my SpiritSense trilogy, focused on Fin MacKinley, one of the main characters from the first two books. He was a successful author who came from a strict religious background, and because of his lifestyle, and particularly writing books with explicit scenes, was shunned by friends and family.

Throughout the story, Fin is plagued with guilt and doubts, and visions of a fiery ending, although it turns out there’s more than just his religious background involved. While I never named the religion he left, most of the details reveal it to anyone familiar with Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Fin was the most autobiographical character I’ve ever written, although I admit I took liberties with making him a successful author. Or maybe I’m precognitive and haven’t realized it yet. But, early on, I was plagued with guilt and doubts myself. How could I not be? I had turned my back on what had been my life for half a century.

Despite that, I managed to write my first novel, something that I had only dreamed of for years. I followed it fairly quickly with a second, a third, etc. Now, nine years later, I have eleven novels under my belt. (Do these novels make me look fat?)

But I’m still not making any money off of them.