• Jessie Shedden

"I always felt as if I didn’t belong, and I tried to remedy that feeling by following the crowd."

"I always felt as if I didn’t belong, and I tried to remedy that feeling by following the crowd. I had no confidence in myself, and it made me a boring person to be around. I was too focused on trying to appear like a good member when it truly wasn’t a part of me at all."

Martina Lyons, from America, describes herself as an antisocial, social person, a hard worker, and the best friend you could want. She's opinionated and not afraid to go against the grain and speak up for what she thinks is right.

How many years have you been free?

Almost 3 years!

What is the one thing in life you’re so happy you did? (other than escaping)

I was able to go to public school starting at the end of my freshman year. Having this opportunity completely changed my outlook on the future. I went from being a D average student in the Brethren school to a straight-A student through the rest of high school. Public school gave me a real education, and it made me so much more confident not only in my learning abilities but in myself as well. It opened up so many new doors and made me feel like a normal kid for the first time in my life.

What would you tell your younger self?

It gets better eventually. Trust God and his timing.

Who is the one person who changed your life the most?

Both of my parents! They struggled for many years trying to come up with a plan on how to escape. I watched them try and fail and try and fail again. It was inspiring. They never gave up because they wanted my siblings and me to have what they never got: a real childhood. They worked tirelessly to reach their goal, and it worked. Their decision to leave the Brethren for the sake of myself and my siblings was hands down what changed my life the most (for the better of course).

What is the biggest lesson(s) you’ve learnt since starting your new life?

You can’t be afraid to get help. The people in the world are more than willing to teach you everything you didn’t know about real life. Rely on your friends.

What are you most passionate/grateful about being able to do now as a woman that you couldn’t do before?

Wear pants! (trousers) It’s the most liberating thing, and it’s very important to me. Yes, I’m passionate about wearing pants. I remember as a little kid, pants for women were evil. As a child, we want nothing more than to fit in with the crowd. Little girls my age weren’t wearing denim jean skirts. They were wearing leggings with flowers and sparkly jeans. I was so jealous! Skirts were a nuisance. They weren’t functional. Now that we’ve left, and I have a choice, skirts have become non-existent to my wardrobe. I might have maybe 2 in my closet.

If you have a motivational song what is it?

I really love the song Scars by I am They. It’s all about accepting your past and knowing that you wouldn’t be who you’ve become without the darkness from before.

What is most important for your mental health?

Getting outside and spending time with my horse is the most beneficial thing for my mental health.

What should be required reading for every woman?

The Bible

What in your life gave you courage?

The people that put me down for being myself. In the Brethren school, I was an outcast completely. I didn’t talk or have many friends. It wasn’t because I was weird or shy, but everyone knew we were trying to get out. They knew I wore pants to my “worldly” job. They knew why I wasn’t at the meeting (services). It was the condescending looks and knowing they avoided me at all costs (on purpose) that made me realize this: they’re mad because they don’t have the strength to be me. All they know how to do is follow the crowd. Their judging and snarky remarks stopped hurting. Instead, they gave me the courage to keep being myself, especially if it made them mad.

What ignites your sense of injustice?

Double standards and hypocrisy

What’s the greatest gift we can give ourselves?

Self-love and appreciation. Confidence in ourselves makes all the difference in the world.

What’s the greatest gift we can give each other?

A genuine smile.

Thank Martina Lyons it's been a privilege to interview someone of your generation and very helpful to see it through your eyes.

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