Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Story of a Vocation ... the early years*

I grew up in a good Catholic family — church on Sundays, Advent wreath, mac&cheese on Fridays in Lent, all that good stuff. However, I went to our parish grade school where I was the resident outcast, so for me going to church simply meant that I got to see on Sunday all the people who made my life a living hell the other five days of the week {yes, I realize there are actually six other days of the week, but since sometimes we'd have stuff on Saturdays .... wait a sec, I don't have to defend myself to you. If you don't like what I'm typing, well .... ummmm ..... :-Þ. As I was saying ....}. Needless to say, church was not the most profoundly moving experience for me, and I extended that lack-of-impact over into my classroom experiences. From my memory {which I readily admit is most likely not the reality of how things were}, my eighth-grade scripture class had homework like: Read the first the chapters of Genesis and outline them in proper outline form. So ... Roman Numeral One: Creation. Capital A: The First Day. Number 1: Darkness and Light. While Confirmation was something that we allegedly had a choice in, in actuality, in my mind, there wasn't even an option. Most importantly and obviously, that would imply that I had actually thought about it, which by no means was the case. Besides, if you're already "The Wierd One" that everyone loves to hate, you don't exactly want to give people more material. Then there's the added detail that this is part of the curriculum for the year — like I'm really gonna make my teacher come up with all this other work for me to do instead. So, I went with the crowd and did my Confirmation prep. Lots of questions to answer various nights .... if I didn't do them (which was often the case), I got to stay after school in the principal's office until I finished them, just like with my math or English homework (again, which often happened {have I ever mentioned my slacker-tendencies?}). Hence, religion was a class, just like any other class; reflection was merely homework, just like any other; and the Bible became a textbook, just like any other.

As I continued on into a Catholic high school, religion became even more of an intellectual exercise, with the classes being more academically-focused. I continued going to church on Sundays because, well, that's what you do. We didn't have any of that new-fangled "youth ministry" stuff, so the extent of my involvement was sittin' in the pew. During the summer before my senior year, I did participate in a two-week service project in Houston, although that was more for the chance to get out of town for a bit than for any more altruistic reasons. The project was run by the Society of the Sacred Heart (the religious order that ran my high school; they have twenty-one schools in the US that are connected as the Network of Sacred Heart Schools), and it pulled twelve girls from throughout the Network to come together and work with disadvantaged kids and seniors in a poor Hispanic part of town. We slept on the floor of classrooms, hung out, and had fun. It was a good time, but nothing overly spiritually enthusing, at least that I can remember. It was good, though, in that I didn't feel like such the social outcast {having been so traumatized in grade school, I sabatoged myself in high school and decided that everyone there must not like me either ... a fact that I only began to see the stupidity of during my senior year}, so it was a helpful experience for that.

I was one of the last ones to fly out from Houston at the end of the two weeks, and I remember sitting there in the airport with two of the sisters as they talked to me about what I was planning to do for college. I explained to them how people said I was good in math and science and that perhaps I should consider engineering; my dad knew how much I liked chemistry and suggested chemical engineering. I had never heard of ChemE, but I figured I'd give it a shot — at least until something better came along. Or perhaps I'd do chemistry; I wasn't sure which, but there's a decent overlap if I decided to drop back from the engineering to the pure science side of things.

As I talked to these two sisters about this, one told me how she had started in ChemE as well, but she dropped it for reasons I don't remember anymore. The other one {who had struck me the one night as she, a "nun", came in to tell us "Lights Out" in Ohio State boxers and a t-shirt and instead of getting us all quiet told us the whole story of how she had been engaged before she entered the community} said that she didn't see me as a chemical engineer; "I see you as a teacher, school counselor, or social worker." I told her there was no way — I didn't have the patience for any of that. She insisted that I did, saying that she had seen me with those kids.

Then I got on the plane, flew home, and that was the end of that.

*I don't suppose anyone out there {besides my family} gets the reference in the subject line there .... maybe you'll get a prize if you do .....

5 comments:

Susan Rose, CSJP said...

I too was a recovering social outcast in high school. It wasn't until graduation that I realized perhaps people in high school actually liked me for me. I missed out on a lot, but luckily I got over it by college. Most of my good friends today are from my college days.

Looking forward to more of the story!

Garpu the Fork said...

Yay! Freaks and geeks unite! :) I got picked on and harassed daily until college. College was a dream come true. Can't wait for more of the story...

Lisa said...

Me, too :) Also awaiting more of the story ...

Natty said...

Hey girl, how's lay life? Got a phone number yet? I'm all moved to my new digs in the formation house. I still have my same cell number (with free nights and weekends!)--call me!

Counselor in Process said...

Social outcasts unite. And those Catholic schools can be mean to the non iris especially if the nickname of the school is "the fighting irish." And my hair! I finally made some friends after a 3 week trip to California the summer before my junior year when I came back with cache, a tan and good stories!