So my family joined the bigger frum shul; I was nine years old. I was still able to go down into the men's gallery and visit with my father and brothers, look up and wave to my mother.
I always sat with my mother. I didn't live so close to the shul, so I wasn't friendly with the neighborhood kids; I didn't attend their Eitz Chaim or Bais Yaakov schools, going to a Modern Orthodox/Conservadox type school; I didn't go to B'nai Akiva groups (don't recall if the shul had them, although they did have a "Tefillin Club" for post bar-mizvah boys that had davening, breakfast and social events. I wanted to join my oldest brother at that club. At least, once again, it was a place to belong.)
So I went to Orthodox shuls, my father davened every day with my brothers, we observed the chagim but we weren't Orthodox. There were still many changes in our family's life that would have to be made to deem us Orthodox.
I went through the Jewish day school and one year of Jewish high school and then went on to public school that had a large population of Jews. There was one boy in my year who walked the halls and wore a kippah, but that was only one. I was still more observant than any one of my typical peers and for the most part had to turn down Friday night party invitations, or if they were Saturday night, I'd arrive rather late, after Shabbos was out.
It was weird to have a foot in both worlds. I can't say it was confusing, but there were times as I grew older that I would "make exceptions"--eat out, but only milchig; go out, but only after Shabbos dinner or lunch...you get the picture. How was I able to explain it to others? I don't really know, but I think I often just brushed the topic away with "I can't really explain it." (of course, I couldn't, because I didn't know myself why I was doing certain things and not others, why my family was doing certain things and not others.)
I grew older and still wore my Judaism on my sleeve -- in university, and later when I went to Israel, where I opted to be a volunteer on a Mizrachi kibbutz, where I needn't worry about Kashrut or Shabbos or Yom Tov. And then into the workplace...where I started to try to explain Yom Tov and Shabbos and Kashrut to co-workers.
I loved Judaism, but didn't "live" every aspect of it. It's clear to me that I wanted it to remain a major part of my identity (I'd never even consider dating a non-Jew, although I was in a position twice in which a non-Jew wanted to go out with me), but the path wasn't so clear. I either could have pursued looking for someone actively conservative, who'd go to shul every week, even if he had to drive to get there, who'd know what Yom Tov and Shabbos observances were all about, who'd have the interest to send any future children to a Jewish day school.
I cast aside the way I was meeting people, and decided to pursue the Shabbaton route. Doing so had me meeting many new people, who became a good, solid and social chevra for me...when I needed one, while my other friends were already married for a few years.
When I did meet my husband, it was in a shul setting. I davened in a shul beside his (his being "an old man's minyan") and that's where I like to think that the roots of our courtship lay. He was Orthodox to my "Conservadox", but it truly was not a far leap for me. I always told people, "I have all the right tools; I just don't use them."
These days I am no longer Conservadox; I am Orthodox, modern Orthodox, FBC (frum but cool). My children attend an Orthodox Zionistic day school, we attend Orthodox synagogues, and we have a great comfort zone in how we live our lives day to day.
I do not consider myself to be a ba'alat teshuva at all; I am just someone who was always on the path of Yiddishkeit and "almost there". These days I'm glad to say "I've arrived."