Few teenagers could tell you what direction to turn to face Mecca. My friend Ken can.

When I got to know him last year, Ken seemed like your average student. He's Indonesian, but that doesn't make him stand out in a diverse California high school. Gradually, however, I noticed a few things that happened at his house that definitely don't happen at mine. For example, his family has an alarm that sings prayers to remind them it's time to pray. When Ken wears shorts, he wraps what looks like a plaid sheet around him while he's in the presence of Indonesian elders, or when he's praying.

These practices stem from Ken's religion, but they're also a part of his culture. He's Muslim and was born in Jakarta, Indonesia. I, on the other hand, was born in San Jose and have never been to church.

(SW Parra/The Fresno Bee/MCT)

My lack of religion has never bothered me -- until now. I have become jealous of my friends who have a strong sense of culture and tradition. The feeling of unity is addictive.

As I've grown up, I've gotten to know a variety of people and have been exposed to many customs. Ahalya, a Hindu friend, politely demonstrated how to behave as her mother recited their form of grace before a meal. I had never done anything like that, and nothing like Hinduism had ever dictated what I would eat for dinner.

The more religion I experienced, the more I realized how much it was about culture and tradition, as well as belief. And the more I felt like I was lacking something.

Sure, my family does certain things to celebrate Christmas or Thanksgiving, but I can do all those in my pajamas. That's a stark contrast to my friend Sofia, a devout Catholic who owns dresses that are only worn to church on Sunday. They are picture-perfect white and light blue, with thick straps and gently defined waistlines; they ooze class. She wears the dress at service and during brunch with her family. Every Sunday. The only thing you can guarantee about my Sundays is that I won't get dressed up.

Our family has never been opposed to religion. But when I first started attending my friends' events, my parents seemed nervous. They didn't want me to convert and lose my individualism, just because I happened to have fun at a party. As I eventually showed an interest in a variety of religions, they became more accepting of the idea that I might one day choose my own.

The more I immerse myself in different nationalities, beliefs and cultures, the more I wish I had one of my own. I can't say the religious leanings need to be preserved, but I do believe the cultural aspects should be fought for. I see myself taking my kids to church on Sunday, though I am not sure what kind. I've started to read literature about different practices, as well as the basics such as the Quran and the Bible.

These friendships and experiences have given me a better understanding of myself. I agree with some aspects of Islam, and I didn't expect that. I have become accepting of practices I once would have found strange. I now know why I enjoy things like sports team uniforms so much. I love things that bring me together with others for a common purpose.

Before learning about all these religions, I had a more narrow view of the world. Now, I find myself wondering what other religions are like, and I've discovered that asking questions is rarely considered offensive.

And that's good because I have a lot of questions.

The Life in Perspective board is made up of teens who write for the features sections. KateMarie Boccone attends Prospect High School in Saratoga. Reach her at lip@bayareanewsgroup.com.