If you’ve read any of my Temptation novels or even my newest Amish murder mystery, Lamb to the Slaughter, you’re already aware of how passionate I am about the Amish lifestyle. Having lived in an Amish community for six years I gained a lot of experiential knowledge that inspired me to write my books, but I also made many close friends. Some of those friends were teenagers and for me, it was personally startling to watch them go through the process of rebelling against being Amish, to joining the Church and courting their sweetheart, to marriage and their own babies, and all in just the span of few years.
But not all the young people in the community experienced the same fate. A few of the teens actually left their Amish roots to experience life in the outside world. Not only did they face the horror of being shunned from their families and their community, but they also had to catch up on their education, learn to drive a car and manage the almost unimaginable amount of freedom that they suddenly had. Unlike how the TV reality shows (I won’t mention their names here) depict the wild behaviors of the Amish youth when they break away from their culture, the young people I personally know, were for the most part sensible with their departure. They didn’t leave their families, friends and Church to party, drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes and get pregnant. On the contrary, they left because the Amish lifestyle just didn’t suit them.
Of course it’s still a huge decision for a teenager to make and one with many unforeseen consequences and that’s why I asked my friend, Ella Mae Peachy, to answer some questions for my readers. Ella Mae left the Amish when she was sixteen. She’s nineteen now and living in her own apartment and works full time at a local factory. Instead of frumpy polyester dresses and a horse and buggy, she now wears jeans and t-shirts and drives a sporty white mustang.
The changes in her life over the past three years have been monumental, but I’m very proud to say that she’s handled the challenges with strength and determination. I admire her independence and fortitude greatly and am very excited that she happily agreed to do this interview for the blog. She came to the farm today for a horseback ride, something she hadn’t been able to do very much since leaving the Amish world so our following conversation took place while we enjoyed a leisurely ride in the beautiful Kentucky countryside.
Karen: Why did you leave the Amish?
Ella Mae: There were a lot of reasons at the time, but mostly I just wanted to do more with my life. Amish kids finish school at fourteen and I wanted to be more educated. I also couldn’t imagine myself getting married young and immediately having babies. It just wasn’t for me.
Karen: What arrangements did you make in order to leave your family?
Ella Mae: I had friends in Indiana who agreed to take me in. I later moved in with an English family who helped me a lot.
Karen: How did your parents react to you suddenly moving out?
Ella Mae: At first, not so well. They actually came to Indiana and had me put into a type of
probation home for troubled teens. I stayed there for three months. When I got out I was even more determined to not return to the Amish.
Karen: How is your relationship with your parents now?
Ella Mae: It’s better. Since I didn’t join the Church officially before I left, I wasn’t shunned as hard as my brother, who also left to be English, but after he’d become a member of the Church.
Karen: Joining the Church is a serious matter. Why do you think some young people do it when they still aren’t completely sure that they will remain Amish?
Ella Mae: I think that wanting to have a boyfriend or a girlfriend makes a difference in their decision. But once they have officially joined the Church, it’s much worse if they leave.
Karen: Are you allowed to eat meals with your family and attend community events?
Ella Mae: It depends. My parents are more relaxed about it than others, so I do sometimes eat dinner with my family, but it’s more of a cafeteria style meal and we don’t all sit down together. I wasn’t allowed to be a server at my brother’s wedding, because I had left, but my sister got married in another community and I was able to be a part of her ceremony there.
Karen: Can you tell me one thing that you really love about being English?
Ella Mae: Besides all the freedom I have to make my own decisions, I absolutely love driving. It’s so much fun! Right after I got my license I drove my sister and her husband down to Florida. It was a really neat experience.
Karen: On the flip side, what do you miss about being Amish?
Ella Mae: That’s a hard one. I guess the only thing that I really miss at this point is not being able to spend more time with my family.
Karen: What was one of the more difficult aspects of becoming English?
Ella Mae: I got my GED last year and that was hard. I didn’t have the same training in math that I probably should have had, but I caught on and passed the test.
Karen: Do you think that you’ll ever go back to being Amish?
Ella Mae: No, I can’t see that happening. I don’t think I could live without my car now. Besides I’ve gotten used to being independent and I like it.
Karen: What are your plans for the future?
Ella Mae: I’m taking classing this fall at the Maysville Community College. I want to be an RN.
Karen: Your best friend also left the same Amish community that you did and she’s now happily married to an Englisher. Has it made it easier for you to have a relationship with someone who went through a similar situation and that you can relate to?
Ella Mae: Oh yes, we help each other out so much. I don’t know what I’d do without her.
Karen: Thank you so much for answering my questions! I’m very proud of the young woman you’ve grown into and wish you all the best in your new world.
Ella Mae: Thank you for the horse-ride. It was fun and I enjoyed answering your questions.