WHETHER it was staying out past curfew or arguing with our parents, we’ve all experienced adolescent angst.
For Lizzie Ens, her childhood in the Amish community resulted in a very different form of teenage rebellion.
The 38-year-old spoke exclusively to The U.S. Sun about her growing up Amish and the decision that changed her life.
“I grew up in the strictest form of Amish community that you can grow up in,” Lizzie explained.
“She continued: “”There are different sets of Amish, other orders are allowed to do Rumspringa, where they can go out and experience the world and decide whether or not they want to stay.
“Where I’m from, in Ohio, that was strictly prohibited.”
Lizzie compared the way of life to being “stuck in the 1860s, right before the steam engines came out.”
She explained: “To paint a picture, there was no electricity, there was no indoor plumbing so we had outhouses for our restrooms and there were no showers, nothing like that.
“We used wood-burning stoves and cooked all our own food on them, we had those for our heating and we had to use Kerosene lamps for our lighting.”
Along with everyone else in her community, Lizzie’s family made their own clothes.
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They also managed an 80-acre farm, where they sewed and harvested crops, and milked their cows by hand.
Tractors were not allowed, so farmers had to tend to their land on horses.
“We had large gardens in the summer where we picked vegetables; we canned and preserved our own meat, fruit and vegetables,” Lizzie said.
“It was very hard work and then on top of that, you’re part of a church that is governed by a bishop and is mostly controlled by the men.”
Lizzie spoke about the oppressive rules and regulations enforced on members.
She explained: “The men make the rules and the women are just supposed to obey and do what the men tell them.
“They are expected to be the ‘house woman’ and have lots of babies.”
Girls were “promoted to housework” after finishing their education in eighth grade.
Lizzie’s own mother has 19 children and was tasked with raising them alone after her father died suddenly.
Lizzie was 13 at the time, while her youngest sibling was just five months old.
She credits the strong bond of the community with helping her family through the difficult time.
Lizzie said: “When tragic things happen like that, they come together and they really take care of each other.
“That’s why so many people stay, even if they don’t believe in everything, they stay because of the connection and the bond that the community creates.”
However, coming into her teenage years, Lizzie couldn’t help but question if there was more for her than a life as a wife and mother.
She became disillusioned by the church’s belief system and, despite being baptized at the age of 18, she was more restless than ever.
“I got to that point where I said to myself ‘If I’m going to hell for putting a pin in my dress the wrong way then I might as well go to hell driving a car,'” she said.
Despite her growing rebellious nature, Lizzie’s escape from the community wasn’t planned.
She was in a long-distance relationship with a young Amish man from New York, communicating via letter.
Lizzie said: “The day that I left, and we had never talked about leaving ever, it was my turn to go deliver a letter to the mailbox to him.
“The mailbox was up on top of a hill and so I had to walk up the road to get to it and when I got to the mailbox there was a note inside.”
No address, no stamp, just her name written in familiar handwriting and a warning that it was for her eyes only.
She explained: “He ran away, he’d left with his sister and her boyfriend, and they’d drove down to Ohio from New York the day before.
“If I wanted to leave, they would come by that night around 10 pm to pick me up.”
It didn’t take Lizzie long to decide. Later that night she bid her family goodnight and went to her third-floor bedroom.
She had shared an “intimate conversation” with one of her sisters, expressing her love without saying it and bidding her goodbye without showing it.
Lizzie explained: “What’s crazy is in the two weeks leading up to that moment. I knew something really big was going to be happening. I just didn’t know what it was.
“Every night when I would go to bed, I would be drifting to sleep and it would feel like someone was shaking my bed and it would wake me back up.
“I actually thought it was God punishing me [for questioning the community] but now I’m like ‘No, he was telling me to wake up and get out.’”
After packing up a few “souvenirs,” she climbed out onto the roof of her house, too afraid to leave through the front door.
“That moment on the roof, when I was sitting for 30 minutes contemplating how I’m going to jump off, was one of the most pivotal moments of my life,” she said.
After taking the leap both metaphorically and literally, Lizzie was on her way to freedom.
Leaving behind the only home she had ever known, she met her boyfriend and his sister in a truck nearby.
She explained: “Everybody was just screaming and yelling, it was just feeling free and so excited.
“The crazy thing is we were all feeling that without even knowing what our next steps are, without even knowing what was happening with our lives.”
Lizzie went from riding in a car for one of the first times in her life to getting a driver’s license within a few short months.
Other firsts included trips to the mall, dressing how she wanted, listening to music unsupervised, and even taking a shower.
Lizzie now lives in Arizona and owns her own company Miss Commando, where she promotes some of the positive aspects of the Amish lifestyle with the world.
“If you really think about the Amish community, it’s old world and it’s about sustainability and being self-sufficient. That is really what the world is craving,” she explained.
While she was eventually able to rebuild her relationship with her mother, Lizzie’s interactions with her siblings, including her twin sister, are limited.
However, two of her younger brothers and younger sister followed in her footsteps.
She was able to help two of them “integrate into the world” and they maintain a close relationship.
And while she misses the rest of her family, Lizzie rarely finds herself wondering ‘What if?’
She explained: “If I hadn’t left I probably would’ve gotten married to the boyfriend that I ran away with and have 10 kids like my twin.
“I’d just be a housewife, that’s pretty much all I would be, that and depressed.”
Lizzie concluded: “Life is amazing and here’s the thing, I’ve really had to learn to get to know myself.
“I am on a mission to let people know that if I can do what I’ve done coming from where I come from then I want you to know there’s hope for you.
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“I want you to know that it’s possible and that you can do it.”
And though it may not be from a 15-foot roof in the middle of the night, she said: “Sometimes all you need to do is jump, take the leap.”