This is one of the most openly honest posts I have ever written. It was not easy for me to write and I ask that you do not judge me for my sins. What is done is done and I cannot change the past. I have made my peace and my penance. I have put it to rest.
I was never really taught about sex. I never had sex education at school. My parents never talked about it, I never got “The Talk’, even from a secular perspective. ‘Sex’ was a dirty word in my house. My religious education was lacking, probably mostly because when I took First Communion I was much older than the other children in my preparation class so it wasn’t included. I stopped attending Mass a while after that, after we moved and my parents separated no-one really mentioned the idea of going to church again. So any knowledge I had, painfully limited as it was, came from friends and as I am sure you are all aware 13 years olds are not exactly the best source of such information.
But somehow on some level I still was aware that sex was something important. I remember having a conversation with my best friend when we were about 15 and I baulked at the idea of casual sex. Faith was not a part of my judgement at this point but I somehow understood that sex had meaning. Even with that instinctive knowledge though, when I did eventually start attending Mass again and began RCIA I struggled to understand the virtue of chastity and the Church’s teachings on sex. I knew what they were and I believed them but I didn’t really understand why. I think a part of that was that I was too young. I was 16, in a class designed for adults. It was the best place for me, there is no denying that, and I am ever grateful to Father who decided I should be enrolled in RCIA. But chastity was an area where I was simply too young to comprehend what Father was teaching us. There was failure also on my part, since I didn’t try that hard to learn to understand. I thought that believing it was enough.
I never wanted to be in a romantic relationship. I was in all other senses perfectly average – I had crushes and would gossip with my friends about the boys we liked or thought were cute. In other words, I was a teenage girl. But I never actually wanted to be in a relationship. In hindsight, I think this was a sign that I was not called to marriage. But to me (still very much in denial about the possibility of a religious vocation) it was just strange. Why didn’t I want that? It was normal, right? I wanted children, I had that natural instinct (as I think almost every woman does). So why did I not want to be in a relationship? I understood marriage came before children and to get married you have to be in a relationship with someone first. I was very confused. As I went to university, the feeling of confusion just got worse. I felt like there was something wrong with me. I was struggling anyway and it just added to my anxieties – it was just another reason why I didn’t feel like I fitted in.
I was unhappy. It’s as simple as that. But the people around me seemed happy, they were fitting in and were enjoying university. Why couldn’t I be like that? In my desolation, my (erroneous) conclusion was that I was clearly missing out by not being like them. So I started being like them. I went to the parties and the nightclubs and played the drinking games. I fell into thinking that this was simply the way of the world. I fell even into their way of relationships based on sex and little else. I think I knew in my heart it didn’t make sense but I was so lonely and so desolate I was desperate to feel included and thought living like everyone else was the way.
It sounds counter-intuitive but it took another immoral relationship to make me realise how vastly I had fallen. I met a new group of friends and I immediately became close with one of the guys there. It sounds so cliché but we just clicked. He actually liked me for me, not as an object. Though we never had sex, we fell far from having a chaste relationship. Our relationship (I’m hesitant to call it since it wasn’t really that but it’s the best word I have) was short-lived since he found a job in another city but it made me realise again that sex was something worth treasuring. I was also now finally really old enough to understand what Father has taught in RCIA and motivated to try and understand the virtue of chastity. And I did just that and I have never looked back since.
Sometimes people ask me if I regret that part of my life. I am sorry for my sins, yes. I have repented of my sins, yes. Should I have made different choices? Yes. But my philosophy has always been that one cannot change the past so dwelling on the way things could have been does not achieve anything. I learnt something from that part of my life and in the end I think that is what is important – the mistakes have been made and are set in stone, but if I learn something from them then I have at least taken something good from them. It is not our past that makes us who we are, it is what we take from that past that does.