Monday, May 25, 2015

Saying Goodbye to My 20s

Sunset over the Pacific Ocean as seen from my alma mater.
On Saturday I turn 30 years-old... and I cannot wait! So far, I've only known one other person (who turned 30 a couple of months before me) who doesn't mind leaving their 20s behind. I really don't because this was the roller coaster decade for me.

My 20th birthday and year was a lot of fun. I went to Disneyland (an annual birthday tradition) with my (then) two best friends. My social life was awesome. I had my favorite undergraduate semester that spring I turned 20. A couple of weeks after my birthday I was offered a contract with an agency (something that would've taken my life in a completely different path) that I ultimately walked away from. It was what I thought I wanted... but there was something in me that made me decline it. Interestingly enough, it was also the year that I remember first being offended by what someone said about Catholicism. The older brother of a friend -- who was/is an atheist -- had been watching for announcement of a new pope following the death of Pope St. John Paul II quite intently. After a while he remarked about how he felt stupid doing it since he didn't care... but in such language that it stirred something in me (regarding Catholicism) that I'd never felt before. I didn't think twice about it though.

I reverted to the faith shortly after I turned 21. I clearly remember two big things happening that summer: the World Cup in Germany and my reversion. I got sick a couple of weeks into my 21st year and the doctors couldn't figure out what it was. Someone had the audacity to tell me that they didn't think I would make it to 24. I had been an extraordinarily healthy child and teenager so the suddenness of the illness was scary. Prayers to St. Jude began... as did my reversion.

I started this blog when I was 22. I also came really close to take the "big plunge" (the then fella and I talked future plans) but things didn't work out. 23 was the age in which I started the original draft of Will and Lina: When Two Worlds Collide, which is completely different than what it ended up being. 22 and 23 were the years that my faith began to grow... and prepare me for what was to come. It was also the time in which Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati and St. Therese became the saints that helped me through the rest of my 20s. Oh, and I also discerned the religious life between 22 and 23 but for all the wrong reasons.

I lost my father when I was 24. For my 24th birthday, my father gave me the best gift I've ever been given: he returned to the Church and made his first confession in over 40 years. I also delayed my undergraduate education for yet another year (which I put on hold a couple of times between 19 and 23) while I grieved. I had my first article published in Envoy Magazine, another article followed when I was 25.

I rung in 25 with the biggest party I'd ever had. I think everyone was trying to make me feel better about it being the first birthday without my dad. I started my two-year prison sentence at the CINO alma mater. A big (delayed) milestone: I finally got my driver's license. That's a whole 'nother story in itself.

I finally graduated college at 26 (and I recently wrote a retrospect on the blog). I started working as a freelance writer a couple of months out of college... which is basically how I'm ending my 20s -- I have a couple of articles to write before Saturday. Yep, 26 was a pretty quiet year, which was fine because...

27... oh, 27... you were the worst year of my 20s. I don't miss you at all! Anything that could go wrong, did go wrong. I also got sick again at 27, which I'm still recovering from (the nearly 20 lbs weight drop, stomach issues, etc; I'm finally within healthy weight and I can eat a lot of things I couldn't then). Financially, it was also the worst year. Let's just say I wouldn't wish year 27 on anyone.

My first novel (5 years in the making!) was published at 28. It was a big year for me for several personal reasons. Let's just say that it was the year that whatever delays I had in the "growing up" department finally happened and I became comfortable with who I am as a person. It was arguably my favorite year of the second half of the decade.

The novel sequel (London Calling; the Kindle version of which is currently on sale) was published at 29. This has been the year that I feel like my life has finally gotten back on course... but with a better, clearer idea of what I want. My teens were disastrous on so many levels and I think I did most of my growing up (thus far) in my 20s so I'm glad that I didn't jump into a lot of things I thought I wanted.

In a weird way it seems like my life was on pause for the majority of the decade... because I needed to do a lot of reevaluating. I honestly felt stagnant and unsure of where my life was going. It's only been in the past 11 months that I've seen myself really going forward in all areas of my life -- education (grad school), career (still writing but I'm aiming to teach as well), and we'll see what God has in store for me in the fella department; definitely dodged a ton of bullets in that area in my 20s.

Despite the ups and downs in this decade, I wouldn't trade any of it for the world. I lost many friendships -- especially after my reversion (I can count only a handful of people who've been in my life since before my reversion), I lost my dad, I felt lost for a good portion of it... but I gained so much more than I could've ever dreamed.

So, goodbye (in 5 days) 20s. You were an interesting decade but I seriously cannot wait to see what God had in store for me in my 30s. As my beloved Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati used to say: "Verso l'alto" (to the heights)!

I might write again before the big day but I don't know how busy I'll get in the next couple of days so I wanted to get this post published just in case. :D

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Where is the Trust?

While I was praying the Pentecost novena a couple of nights ago, I had a very interesting thought pop up.

In school or at church, we trust other people to look after our belongings for a minute or two while we do something. I used to leave my backpack and laptop on my chair in the Commons at my alma mater while I went to the cafeteria and I would often trust a fellow schoolmate to look after my things. At church, I've seen people look after the belonging of someone if they go to receive communion.

We trust our doctors to help us stay health. We trust policemen to keep us safe and enforce rules for our own well-being. We trust others to babysit children and to educate them. When we get on the road, we're basically trusting everyone else on the road to know and follow the rules so that there are no accidents. We trust pharmacies to give us the right medications. We trust restaurants to feed us foods that won't make us sick and that have been prepared in clean environments. We trust bus drivers, pilots, conductors, etc. to help transport us safely from one place to another. There is a lot of trust amongst men... so where is the trust when it comes to God?

How many times have we wanted to control things out of lack of trust? I understand that once someone lets us down the lack of trust is set until we can (if we can) trust them again. This isn't necessarily bad. It's good that we be careful and feel the need to be able to trust others for our own safety and well being... but we don't we trust the One who has never let us down or done anything to endanger us?

We put our trust in men (cue comments about Psalm 146, particularly 146:3)... why not God? Just some food for thought for y'all this weekend. ;)

Monday, May 18, 2015

Pressure About My Vocation Discernment

After writing about my vocation confusion and fear, I got a number of great, supportive messages (some on here, mostly on Twitter and Facebook). The word "brave" was used quite a bit but I don't think of myself as being particularly brave. I was just honest. Of course, when you open up yourself like that, you're also inviting some messages that aren't particularly helpful (though they're definitely well meaning.)

If it didn't come across in the last post, I've been feeling an incredible amount of pressure to re-discern the religious vocation from a lot of people who know me well. While it's flattering that people think I would be worthy of the vocation of a religious sister, the pressure of making it my vocation is incredibly overwhelming at this point. The peace in my heart rests in the vocation of marriage and motherhood yet I feel like I'm being pushed away from it by others.

Last night I reached a point where I just spilled what I was feeling onto a letter I wrote to my future spouse. (side note: I've written a number of letters to my future spouse for several months now.) I'm sure he won't mind if I share parts of what I wrote with y'all, especially if it'll help someone else going through something similar.

I was supposed to be sleeping at the time I wrote this but I sort of had this moment of clarity (and this was right after my nighttime prayers, which included day 3 of the Pentecost novena) so I just stayed up and spilled it onto the pages of the latest letter.

"I keep feeling like I'm being forced to think about the religious life. I get a peace thinking and praying about (the) marriage vocation. I'm not afraid of the religious or single life. Marriage scares the heck out of me. Choosing the wrong spouse scares me. Childbirth scares me. Not having the vocation of wife and mother scares me.

I'm currently feeling... sort of relief as I'm writing this. A very... relaxing and almost peaceful feeling is replacing the anxiety (and) pressure I've felt over the past couple of days... I've even feeling happy about this; like I'm meant to do this and I shouldn't have let others influence me this much.

The thought of being (a) wife and mother... brings me joy, peace, and excitement. Yes, I'm still worried about choosing (the) wrong (fella) because of how terrible my track record has been thus far, but I think that's natural... Childbirth scares the crumbs out of me but the thought that one of (my) future children may be a future priest or nun makes me excited. Thinking about the positive changes (my) future children and grandchildren may do in a world that pulls further away from Christ makes me so happy. Am I getting my sought after answer writing this...?"

I had to modify and omit some things but you get the gist of it. After so much pressure -- to the point where I wanted to cry -- I just let go and wrote it all out. As I wrote about it, I began to feel peace. The more I wrote, the more I felt enveloped with a sense of serenity and love. It almost felt (and quite literally) like a very cool sensation start from my chest and go down to my feet. Not in a "I'm cold" way but in a way that made me feel very at ease. Then I felt a lot of love for my future family.

I'm sure everyone who has been gently (and not so gently) pushing me to think about the religious life means well but I've repeatedly said that it doesn't seem to be my vocation. I know I'm turning 30 years-old next week (30 on the 30th; easy to remember ;D) and that that means it's "too late" in the eyes of some people but, please, don't rush me. And, if it makes any of you "you should discern the religious life" people happy, I have been discerning becoming a lay Dominican or Carmelite for some time now; a married lay Dominican or Carmelite. That will also be a slow process because my spiritual director wants me to finish grad school first; I don't want to overwhelm myself with too much at once. I'm not in a rush so please be patient with me and with Him since I will be doing His will, not my own. :)

I'm just sharing this because I don't want to reach the point where I'm going to be crying (my default when I'm feeling overwhelmed or very upset) because of the pressure.

OH! I'm starting my last novena in my 20s on the 20th. It's going to be the St. Therese 24 Glory Bes novena. If anyone wants to join, please let me know so I can send you a reminder of the day we're on. This novena isn't for me (though I'm doing it for personal intentions), the prayer intentions are your own; I just wanted to do the novena that helped me the most during the majority of my 20s as the last one I did before I turned 30. :D

Anyway, I hope y'all had a great weekend and have a great week as well. :D

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

Friday, May 15, 2015

Vocation Confusion and Fear

For the past two weeks or so I've been thrown into this sort of vocation confusion. It started with yet another person bringing up another round of "you should become a nun" and ended up with my having to re-discern my vocation as per instructions from my spiritual director. So how did I find myself here? By admitting that I hate dating.

I realized last week that I don't like dating... at least not the way I've experienced it up to now. I think I've just had really bad experiences with some really shady guys. That's a big part of why not dating for years (with valid excuse, teehee) was very easy for me; the pickings have been incredibly slim in this city. I was on Catholic Match for 4 full days and they were the longest 4 days. All the guys who reached out were old enough to be my dad or were (thankfully) honest about their disagreement with the Church's teachings on contraception and premarital sex. I was actually creeped out by some of them so I just deactivated my account. I mentioned this to my spiritual director. When he asked me why I thought marriage was my vocation, I couldn't give him an good reason... because I was afraid that maybe my reasons weren't good enough.

Am I afraid to be called to the religious life? Not at all. If it's what He wants from me, I'll do it. My mother won't be happy but if it's what God wants, it's what I'll do. Do I feel called to it? Not at all. In fact, when people ask me why I'm not a religious sister, I almost feel like they're trying to force the vocation. There, I said it... I feel like having to re-discern the vocation or having people repeatedly ask me if I'm sure I'm not meant to be a religious sister means I've failed to discern my vocation properly... and like it's being forced onto me.

I'll be completely honest about another thing: I have a great fear of childbirth. I think it may be because I've known from a young age that my mother came very close to dying when I was born. The older I get, the closer I get to possible complications... and that scares me. I love babies and I'm my friends' personal cheerleader when they're about to give birth but the idea of me giving birth scares the crumbs out of me. However, I'm very open to this as my vocation. The thought of having children and raising them up to be good, faithful Catholics who could themselves become priests or nuns in the future makes me so incredibly happy. I, myself, don't feel called to religious life but I hope that if I'm ever blessed with children, at least one of them has a vocation to it. Is that weird?

I think my biggest confusion comes from the fact that so many people bring up the vocation to me... and I've had terrible luck with guys. As my spiritual director said, sometimes we don't "feel" called to it but are... but I honestly don't think I am. I've spent time in silent prayer, in front of the tabernacle, doing novenas, reading Bible passages (you name it) and I've only felt drawn to get married. I once felt called to religious life, but I quickly saw that it was for the wrong reasons. I wanted to run away from life and problems from my past. Once I was able to work through them, I saw that I wasn't called to the vocation.

I've seen so much damage done within marriages -- through infidelity, the addiction of pornography, lies, greed, etc. -- yet I'm not at all jaded about the vocation. I see marriage as a beautiful vocation... one that is in danger. My generation (the Millennials) have a pretty grim outlook on marriage which is why so many decide to not get married and simply live with their partners. Yes, we need faithful priests and religious sisters but we also need faithful people (religion aside) to live their vocations of marriage faithfully. We need to raise children in a manner that will strength the Church instead of pull them away from it.

I understand that marriage is not the answer to loneliness or anything beyond doing God's will. So why can't I formulate coherent sentences when my spiritual director asks me? Am I really that afraid of not being called to it? As I said before, I'm open to the vocation of religious life or even a consecrated single... and neither scares me more than marriage. That fear? That fear is of not only having to give birth (I'll get over it, God willing; lol) but of marrying the wrong person. That's where my fear lies. It would be much easier to become a nun or even stay single; I'm incredibly independent anyway, staying solo would not be a problem for me.

Wait, did I just get my answer? Who knows. I'll have to talk about this with my spiritual director next month. If any of you have had any similar experiences, please feel free to let me know what helped you in your discernment.

Alright, I have a number of things to do before the day is over so I'll shut up now. lol.

I hope y'all have a great weekend. :D

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Warm Weather Bucket List

As I was reading today's post by one of my favorite bloggers, Clare, I thought about how I should do a warm weather bucket list as well. There is no other season I dislike more than summer. I've mainly gotten sick during the summer months (the heat and I don't get along, something I seem to have inherited from my dad). My dad passed away in the summer (it was 118 degrees Fahrenheit on the day of his funeral). Except for my reversion which began in June 2006 (triggered by, you guessed it, illness), I have had some of my unhappiest memories take place during the summer.

Instead of dwelling on how much I intensely dislike the season, I'm going to focus on all the good I can experience during it. So here's my bucket list for this late Spring into Summer.

- Get involved in my parish's new garden (vegetables and fruits, I believe).
- Celebrate my 30th birthday.
- Learn to knit a beret for myself.
- Learn at least 2 new breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes that I can do without turning on the stove.
- Go for a walk early mornings, before the heat begins.
- Have one weekend on which I play tourist around L.A. I might've been born and raised in the city but there's a lot of touristy things I have yet to experience.
- Spend an entire morning/afternoon just browsing records at Amoeba Records.
- Find a decent local bookstore that isn't part of a large chain and spend at least two hours exploring it.
- Have a picnic by a lake.
- Hike one of the trails in the Santa Monica mountains before it gets too hot to enjoy them.
- Visit my alma mater if only because I miss the campus location.
- Have a mini road trip, preferably away from L.A.
- Finish my third novel.
- Give my wardrobe a much needed overhaul... and do it on a budget.
- Finish all the books I've started on my Goodreads list before starting new ones.
- Have lunch or dinner with friends I haven't seen in ages.
- Watch FIFA's Women's World Cup.
- Clean out all the random bookmarks on my browser.
- Learn to play a couple of songs by the Good Lovelies on the guitar.
- Attend at least one concert.
- Go to at least one museum.
- Go to the beach at least twice before the triple digits begin.
- Find a good place to go swing dancing.
- Go to the Cicada Club.
- Visit the Griffith Observatory.

As Clare said in her post, this isn't a "to-do" list but more of a list of fun things I'd like to do now that the weather is becoming warmer.

Anyway, this was just a fun blog post I wanted to share with y'all because I am stumped on what to blog about. Do any of you have any fun plans for the late spring / summer?

That's it for now. I need to go do some research on something for tomorrow. Cryptic, I know. ;)

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D