As misleading as the title of this post might be, I have not changed my mind about discerning religious life. The change of heart is my decision not to go down the post-university path I had intended. I was planning to take a year out, get some relevant experience and then apply for a Masters degree and start that then in 2013. I was having some skepticism about this plan even before religious life crossed my mind. I planned to get married and then give up working to raise my children. I never cared about a career, I cared about being a good mother and a good wife and for me not working was the best way I could do that. Getting another unnecessary degree that would just incur more debt for me was really starting to seem like a dumb idea. I really thought about this last summer and I had basically decided I didn’t want to do the Masters but I felt so pressured that I couldn’t stand up and say that. My dream was to go to embroidery school. Sewing brings me a joy that academia just doesn’t. I felt this was better for my future plans as well because sewing was something I could potentially earn money with, selling my work, but was still compatible with being a stay at home mother. And practicalities aside, I love sewing. I hate academics, so going back and doing a Masters just seems horrendous. I only just managed to convince myself to come back for my third year at all and that was only with the thought that it was only the last year and then I could leave and forget about it all.
For a few months I’ve been seeing one of my university counsellors. My problems aren’t major, I just needed help. It’s been difficult and dragged up a lot of stuff I don’t like thinking about or talking about but it’s helped me so much. I can feel it in the way I deal with things emotionally that I’ve changed in a really positive way. I’ve only got a few weeks left, the service can only run for eight weeks of sessions at a time, but at my last session I uncovered something I’ve never talked about before. I realised how much of my life has been spent jumping through hoops, trying to do what I thought was expected of me. I’ve spent my life trying to be the person my parents want me to be but that’s not me. I’ve gotten to the stage where I can’t be that person anymore. I’ve spent my life being the good daughter, I was never a crazy teenager, I never caused trouble, I got good grades and I went to church every Sunday. I was a model child, because I felt so pressured to be that person. My parent’s love and affection was always conditional. Especially my mother, who treats you as if you are poisonous if you do something wrong or just disagree with her. But I can’t keep trying to live up to this person my parents want me to be because that’s not who I am and who I want to be. I can’t live my life jumping through the hoops because those things aren’t necessarily what I want. My mother told me that I wanted religious life to escape from life. Doing a Masters was a way of escaping life. It was a way of avoiding leaving university and having to go into the world where the hoops aren’t as clear so as simply achievable. It was about avoidance and I always knew that.
People often say that you find yourself in university. I can’t say I’m finding myself but I’ve found that I don’t want to be the person I have been or the person I am on the road to becoming. I need to find who I am in myself, without those other ties holding me back. And I’m going to be honest, I’m terrified of that. I’m terrified of where it might lead me and I’m terrified of the reaction I will get to suddenly rebelling after twenty years of quiet submission. I’ve spent my life desperately trying to please people and being terrified of failing them. Again, it’s like if I fail them then they won’t love me. I suppose this is why I always had such difficulty with Confession, after failing I couldn’t accept that God’s love was still there because I couldn’t grasp that love could be unconditional. (I feel like I’m really bashing on my parents here and I’m sure they do love me unconditionally but they do express love on a conditional basis.) I have this hideous fear of failure and my standards end up being set so high that I set myself up for it. I’m realising that this is a journey that I have to go down, no matter how scared I am. I have to do it for myself and not for anyone else. Then if I enter religious life or marry then I will know that it is truly my own choice and my own desire and I will finally be truly free.
This has actually been a really emotional post for me to write. But it’s also very therapeutic. Writing about it may just help me eventually be able to face my fears.