Losing My Religion. My Marriage. My Identity.

Josh Tenes
3 min readNov 25, 2021


“Identity cannot be found or fabricated but emerges from within when one has the courage to let go.”- Doug Cooper

2018–2020. What a trip!

Leaving Mormonism after 36 years. Leaving a 15 year marriage. Leaving a hometown 13 years after arriving. Leaving a basketball team five years after starting it. And leaving a job, two years in.

My whole identity ripped to shreds, incinerated, chewed up, swallowed and spat out.

Over dramatic? Probably.

All of this, amidst a global pandemic, government imposed restrictions and four National lockdowns.

At 38 years old, I felt like I had lost everything (cue tiny violins).

Utterly terrifying.

Ultimately liberating.

Throughout the process, however, I learned something about myself with profound implications.

Drum roll please…

I had been making decisions, motivated not by hope, optimism and love. But by fear — that most crippling of human emotions.

Fear of loneliness.

Fear of regret.

Fear of judgement.

Fear of God.

Fear of punishment.

Fear of the after life.

Fear of poverty.

Fear of homelessness.

Fear of missing out (you’re all thinking of the acronym).

Remaining loyal and committed in an incompatible marriage, for fear I would never find greater fulfilment and love.

Remaining active in the religion of my birth for fear of eternal consequences. Fear of punishments repeatedly rehearsed to me as a young adult.

Sticking with a tiresome job for fear of not being able to find a better one. Or another one at all mid-pandemic.

I had, of course convinced myself otherwise.
It wasn’t fear, it was faith. It wasn’t horror but hope.


(Yep, I swear now. It’s great!).

Side note: Did you know that a test was once done to see how long people could hold their hand in a bowl of ice, with and without swearing?

When allowed to swear, everyone held their hands in for longer.

Swearing helps you deal with shiz.

How on earth I commuted on the central line in London for over a decade without audibly cursing is beyond me.

Anywayyyyy… I fucking digress.

The moment I began to focus on what I might gain instead of being consumed by what I would lose, things began to shift in my mind.

I saw endless possibilities, I felt real enduring hope and optimism.

Like the cowardly Lion, I realised that courage is not about acting in the absence of fear but in spite of it.

And with this courage came freedom and liberation.

In the depths of lockdown, I never felt more free.

Free to think critically.
Free to challenge assumed authority.
Free to carve out my own morals and live accordingly.
Free to pursue the love and fulfilment I deserve.
Free to explore myself and the world around me.
Free to decide what matters and what doesn’t.
Free to create my identity.

Free to step into the arena.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” — Theodore Roosevelt

In losing everything, in overcoming fear and accepting the beauty of failure, I stepped into the stadium.

I chose courage over comfort.

From Mr Roosevelt again:

“…the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”

I hope anyone reading this, experiencing change, can focus not on fear but on the future. On the potential gains not the losses.

P.S Don’t disregard fear completely — when crossing a busy road etc.

Or swimming with sharks.