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I Don’t Belong

There’s a certain feeling that home brings, that deep inner warmth that reminds you of all the little things stored there. The sound of your parents walking around, the constant sound of the washing machine because your house has 6 athletes who need clean clothes, the constant pile of shoes in the laundry room, your dad’s distinctive car horn to let everyone know he’s home, the way you just know when your mom made waffles for breakfast, and everything in-between. This warmth becomes a part of us, taking a piece of our heart to remind us that no matter what, home is our peace, our safety, our home.

There’s also a certain feeling that my university brings, that deep inner wonder that leaves you in awe of everything the campus and the colleges have to offer. The hundreds of scholarships and achievements listed on the walls, the statues and statements of hundreds of people far more successful than you, and the endless possibilities of everything that might happen. Honestly, it’s incredibly overwhelming. There’s the feeling of joy and belonging when you’ve found close friends, a sense of peace when you find out “I’m not the only one”, obnoxious pride when you finally get that seemingly-demonic calculus 3 assignment finished that grade you worked so hard for, that feeling of accomplishment when you look at a 3D-printed part and realize you made that, and so many more feelings you have yet to understand.

So if you were to ask me how I felt about college, I don’t have a clear answer for you. There’s a lot going on here, and I’m not quite sure how I feel about that yet. I will say one thing for sure though: I don’t feel like I belong here.

My friends here are the best and arguably better than yours. My floor is the best. My RA is the best, and all the activities and sports I’ve gotten involved in here have made everything absolutely fantastic, better than I’ve ever imagined.

But I can honestly say that I don’t feel like I belong at this college. I’m not good enough to be at this college. No, I didn’t feel as if I belonged at that scholarship dinner for Mechanical Engineers. I don’t feel like I belong in a field dominated by math, science, and boys, when I’d much rather be writing, playing guitar, or reading. I don’t feel like I belong in classes like Differential Equations, Theoretical Applied Mechanics, or my various design classes. I don’t feel a sense of belonging here; whether it’s in this major, at this school, or just away from home.

Maybe this is just a maturity thing, maybe I need to “grow up”, but I miss that interior warmth of home. I miss having a space of my own, I miss having a sense of comfort and peace, and I frankly miss a lot of things. I’m not an adult, I’m not ready to “make my own future” when I’m not even ready to make my own meals.

I don’t feel like I belong here, but I know this is where I belong. This is where I need to be.

I have my spiel about “wanting to help people, to serve them and do all I can to give them all I can”, but it’s ultimately true. I want to build things that improve lives, that gives people un-thought of opportunities, that give hope and joy to as many people as I can. That’s why I’m in engineering, because so many of our problems are physical. I want to help the disabled, to serve the poor, to use the world around me to change the world of someone else. I don’t feel like I belong in a world of suits and ties and “business professional”, but I know this ultimately isn’t about me; it’s about the people around me, the people that I hope to help. That’s what’s keeping me here right now, in a perpetual world of mathematical anxiety and scientific stress.

I’m doing a novena to St. Therese right now, and as frustrated and “existentially-panicked” as I am right now, God keeps telling me to wait. He’s telling me daily to trust Him, to love Him, and to stop worrying already. I’m not really supposed to know exactly what I’m doing right now, and, even when it doesn’t feel like it, that’s okay.

Because I am enough. I am strong enough, smart enough, funny enough, athletic enough, fashionable enough, and maybe even weak enough. I’m weak enough to see all my weaknesses, my “lack of belonging”, but overall I know that this is where I belong, even when I don’t feel it.

I belong here, because this is ultimately where God wants me.

And that gives me a much better feeling.

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Erikson and Summer: My Excuse to Make More Lists

Every summer, I start with ambitious dreams of all the fun things I’ll do; days filled with cross country summer running, afternoons spent hanging out at the youth ministry office, evenings filled with youth groups, bonfires, and graduation parties. I write lists of all the songs I’m going to learn to play, all the drawings I’ll finish, and all the crazy adventures my friends and I will go on. But none of that ends up happening, and while Netflix and video games and running are all great ways to spend time, I’m always slightly dissapointed when summer ends and I’m the same person as when I started, with nothing to show for the past 3 months of my life.

Bear with me here, because I’m about to let my inner “AP-Psych nerd”shine:
A guy by the name of Erik Erikson worked as a general psychologist, studying the phases of life and the choices we’re all forced to make. He proposes 8 stages of life, (which can be explored more here and here), all based on a central conflict. For example, he argues that in early childhood (2-3 years old), we go through a battle of autonomy vs. shame and doubt. We learn to devlop a sense of personal control, complete with a basic sense of independence. But if this isn’t done, shame and doubt sneak in, causing more shyness and dependence on other people. But who cares about shy toddlers, when The Office can be marathoned for days straight without homework to worry about? Here’s my point: Erikson argues that every stage has a virtue associated with it, and if we don’t pass that stage, we don’t get that virtue. If we do get through that stage, that virtue stays with us for the rest of our lives. If we learn a sense of independence as a 2-3 year old, that grows and develops more through childhood, eventually leading to more opportunity, increased self-esteem through adolesence, etc. Growing up doesn’t happen all at once: we won’t just be handed a box on our birthday with all the virtues we need for that year. The virtues and vices we acknowledge and develop now will be the exact virtues and vices we carry around for the rest of our lives. 

Summer as a teenager is a unique chance to grow and learn new things: we’re given 3 months completely to ourselves (almost), to fill with whatever we choose. I want to make this summer something more than just Netflix and video games and running, especially as I’m leaving for college in the fall. I want to spend these three months with the people I love most, loving them even more while I still have the time. I also want to focus on developing more virtue-based behaviors, because the person I am today determines who I am tomorrow. So here we go:

1. Go to daily Mass at least 3x a week.

2. Learn the rosary in German

3. Learn 5 new guitar songs

4. Memorize marching band music (although this isn’t much of an option…)

5. Clean my bathroom. Every Sunday. Without being told.

6. Pray a 54 day rosary novena

7. Get to confession weekly

8. Play guitar 3x a week

9. Write a blog post at least once a week.

10. Read 5 new books

11. Find a new job (in addition to my current one)

12. Volunteer with the food pantry

13. Go hiking with some friends

14. Learn to relax

15. Spend more time with my family

16. Draw at least 2 more pictures

17. Learn to love and appreciate people more

18. Learn to love and appreciate myself more.

19. Go through my massive amounts of meaningless stuff and donate anything I don’t need.

20. Make a rosary

21. Have all my PMT and school friends over for a bonfire

22. Watch a new documentary

Well, I was shooting for 30 (based off this Lifeteen post), and I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling 22 is a good place to stop for now. The overall point I’m trying to hit here is that I don’t want to waste my summer doing nothing, but I want to have fun, grow a bit (physically wouldn’t hurt either, but that’s not really happening anymore), and hopefully make more friends through it all. I encourage you to make your own list too, even if it’s for the sheer fact that lists are fun to make.

Get creative, get holy, and get some more fun out of your summer 🙂

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Grace isn’t always Graceful

“Sometimes grace is violent… sometimes God wants His life in you so much that it’s going to come in ways that mean you’re going to suffer. Not because He wills it but because He permits it. It says in Hebrews “I will shake you.” And I will shake all created things until all that is left is what is uncreated, what is unshakeable. Put simply — ‘Sometimes I’m going to let you suffer. I’m going to shake you free of all those things that you’ve put in place of my grace, in place of my life in you, until all that’s left is my life in you. Until all you can cling to… is me.’” – Mark Hart

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My Walk with God

For an hour of my life, on June 7th, 2015, I got to walk right next to God.

Literally. And holy poop, was I excited.

On the feast of Corpus Christi (the day we celebrate the body of Christ, especially in the Eucharist), our parish, like hundreds around the nation, held a Eucharistic procession from one of our church buildings to the other. It all started with a bilingual Mass in the first building, which was so popular people flooded both the chapel and the overflow in the basement. After Mass, everyone gathered outside, hispanic ministry and English ministry alike, to walk a little over a mile behind the Eucharist, with choirs and bell-ringing groups from both ministries leading songs and prayers the entire way.

corpus christi

As an altar server, it was my job to help the other two altar servers in charge of incense to keep the incense burning. But because of this job, it meant I got to walk right next to the Eucharist. For. Over. A. Mile.

The Eucharist is the perfect source of God’s love for us; it shows not only His glory, transforming something so basic into something so profound, but it also shows His silence, His humility, that He’s constantly with us no matter where we walk. He’s never giving up on us, never leaving us; He’s constant, persistent, and sometimes, He’s silent. He’s just there, waiting for us, waiting to love us with more than we ever imagined, but we have to make that choice to walk with Him. This is exactly why this hour became the biggest metaphor for my life.

During the walk, I spent the entire time walking next to the Eucharist, looking at nothing but Him as we walked along. I heard everyone behind me singing and praising God, in English, in Latin, and in Spanish, and I joined in (when I actually knew the language). I was walking along with Christ and with my community, and the entire time was rooted in prayer. I was walking hand in hand with my Father, and I felt like that little kid who gets overly excited about everything, pointing out every little thing along the way. “Look God, there’s my old elementary school.” “God, look at all these people behind us; look how much they love you!” “God, look how pretty these flowers are, and look at how cute that puppy is!” The point is, the entire time I was walking next to Christ, I felt safe. I felt comfortable and happy, excited to show God everything as we walked by it. I was content even to walk along the Eucharist in silence, happy to simply be in His presence. I in Him and He in me, rooted in community: and that’s all that matters.

Community is a MAJOR part of our faith too, and just as we're called walk with God, we're called to walk with others.

Community is a MAJOR part of our faith, and just as we’re called walk with God, we’re called to walk with others.

Occasionally, I did need to leave Christ’s side to go fill the incense of the other altar servers, and occasionally needing to flag people down to get/light more charcoal. It meant leaving Christ and walking a little ahead and/or behind Him, but it was done with the end goal of serving God. I served the altar servers, and they served Christ with incense. And this is what God wants in daily life too.

Yes, God wants us to walk with Him at His side, chatting away as best friends and walking in silence, simply content to be in His presence. But He also sends us out to serve, sometimes in ways where we might not be directly next to Him. But He’s always with us, and when we’re serving, it’s with the end goal of serving God.

Yes, there’s suffering. Yes, there’s doubt, and sometimes God sends us out into darkness before He allows us to walk with Him in the light again. But whenever I had to leave to help the altar servers, I knew God was always in my midst, whether or not I could see Him. I was doing His work, and after serving wherever I needed to be, I went straight back to Him.

As the Potterhead I am, I’m almost morally obligated to end with this quote:

“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

Christ is the same. Walk with Him in the light, and when He sends you out, know that the Light still remains. So walk with God, and when He sends you out into darkness, whether to serve or to learn, don’t be afraid to turn back to Him, constantly reminding yourself of the God that loves you, that cares about you, and that never leaves you. Even in desolation, in darkness, in painful silence, remember to turn back to the light, even if you can’t see it.

+TTM

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Growing Up Millennial

The Captain's Speech

Screen Shot 2015-05-09 at 3.54.51 AMAs a person born in the 90s, I am classified as a millennial, which means I am everything that is wrong with the world today. I stare at a screen instead of talking to people. I expect everything handed to me. I am lazy. I binge watch television shows. I overuse the word “binge”. I expect a trophy when I fail. I take selfies everywhere. I am narcissistic. I am entitled. I don’t read the newspaper. I spend too much time on “The Twitter.”

Or at least that’s how I’m categorized.

As if I’m a book and my date of birth is the summary on the back, telling everyone exactly what I’m about.

I feel as though there is a sense of pride that people have for growing up when they did. I look back on the 90s and am thrilled to call that decade my childhood. Just as people born in…

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Pro-lifers: Don’t Just March, Move.

All life matters. From womb to tomb, being pro-life means defending it all. Gay, straight, black, white, rich, poor, male, female, it all matters. And if you have received any other message from pro-lifers, I’m sorry. I’m sorry we failed to love the way we ought, and I’m sorry we failed to defend human dignity in the case.

But today and this week, we march to defend life in a world that threatens to destroy it.
We march to defend life.
We march to defend everyone’s right to be happy, whether they’re alive or not. We march to defend the right to walk down the road without fear of being hurt based on your personhood,
We march for the right to have your name recognized and respected.
We march for the right to be alive.
We march for the right to simply be a person with rights.
We march to defend human dignity, because being pro-life isn’t about fighting death; it’s about protecting life, all life.

As pro-lifers, this means we do need to be out helping women. We need to be helping them when their pregnancy hits the hardest, when their child is born and their faith is tested. We need to be fighting for the elderly, when their right to life is also threatened by euthanasia. We have a responsibility to step in whenever we see any insult to human dignity, whether that’s harassment, racism, poverty, hunger, or even prostitution. Being pro-life means standing up for all lives, not just the one’s you feel comfortable with. Prostitute or priest, born beggar or born famous, it’s our job to protect them.

Is it hard? Of course. Of course it’s messy, because life is messy. But the alternative is losing the life of a human person, and we CANNOT accept that. Every single person means something. No exceptions.

Are we against abortion? Yes. But that’s a side effect of being pro-people, pro-human, pro-happiness, and pro-life.

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Throwback Thursday: Fr. Romke’s Homily

Today’s post throws it back a whopping eight days ago to a homily given by one of the best speakers I’ve never officially met, Fr. Romke. He spoke at a retreat I was on this past weekend, and although this isn’t that talk, it’s still worth listening to. I mean, anything that skillfully combines the perfection of God with the perfection of Sherlock Holmes must be fabulous. Check it out!

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I’m Not Giving Up

I’ve been thinking a lot about failure lately. Specifically, not doing anything important with my life. The last time I stressed obnoxiously about this was leading up to the March for Life in D.C., and it wasn’t until we were in a Basilica for 6 hours waiting for Mass to start that I finally talked to someone about it. I started off just chatting with my youth minister, and it turned into an “I-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing-with-my-life-and-I-want-to-be-important-but-I-don’t-know-how” conversation with him and several other great people on my peer ministry team.

I want to say that my youth minster said something that I never thought about, that he totally changed the way I’d been thinking up to then. Instead, he said something that I didn’t want to hear, and subsequently scared me at the time. He told me that maybe, just maybe, the greatness God had planned for me wasn’t the type of greatness I was thinking about; that maybe, just maybe, God needed me to be “normal” in society’s terms. He went on to tell me the amount of grace and holiness it takes to be a mother, and the strength needed to reach out to the people around us.

But then he did say something that, at the time, I totally underestimated. Dan, my youth minister, told me to stop worrying about my own definition of success and instead focus on God’s definition of success; to ask God what He wanted, instead of relying on myself to “matter” and fill this mental hole I dug myself into. And after that conversation eventually ended,  I remember praying “God, what do you want?” The second I took the focus off of myself and stopped trying to do it all on my own, the pressure blinked out of existance and I finally felt at peace. I was so focused on myself, I forgot what it really meant to live for God. I was doing all the things, but for all the wrong reasons.

Back to today, where I’m hit with that same desperate feeling of “what am I doing with my life?” I can’t sit down to watch TV without feeling guilty that I’m “wasting time”, and there’s a lot of fear going on, especially (as Augustus Waters knows) the fear of oblivion, doing nothing and becoming “nothing”.

But here’s the catch, something that I realized back when my parish hosted a Matt Maher concert: oblivion is not an option, and neither is fear. And this is life’s greatest adventure, to live this out to the fullest. And in those moments of doubt, when you feel like you’re struggling to be even slightly important, stop focusing on your own version of success; trust God, because it’s in these moments that He’s the closest to our sufferings.

Right now, I’m not really sure where my faith is. I’m slightly confused, equally scared, and ultimately forced to trust God because nothing else works. This Advent has completely been God asking me to trust Him, and it’s really really hard. But these moments of doubt are a good thing, because God uses them to prepare us for something bigger. When you want to get stronger, you can’t keep benching the same weight. What was once a challenge is now a warm-up, even if you feel great when you lift it. But if you stay there, you’ll never grow stronger. It’s only when we pick up the heavier weights, going back to struggling and strain, that we ultimately get stronger.

God is the same way. Sometimes our faith is challenged as a means to grow stronger, to prepare for gifts and talents that right now, we couldn’t handle. Wherever you are, use these last few days of Advent to grow stronger. This is how God leads us to success and ultimately His will, even when we feel like we’re doing everything wrong. God has a FANTASTIC party planned for Christmas, and he wants you to be a part of it. But first, it’s preparation time.

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Letter to Myself: Cross Country

Dear Tatiana,

So if you’re reading this, it probably means you have a race today. And knowing me, you’re probably a little nervous. It’s probably all you’ve thought about all day, and you feel like you can’t think about anything else until the race is over.

Stop that. Stop worrying. Please.

I’m writing this on the car ride home from my Antioch race, senior year. Man I love that course, but today was a hard day. Cold, lightly misting, and not a ray of sunshine in sight, it was easy to see why people psyched themselves out about the race. Even on my team, girls were complaining about the weather and half-joking about how poor their race would be. Tatiana, don’t listen to that. You know you fight, and you fight hard. During my race today, I told myself I just had to make it to the 2nd mile mark before I could drop out. My first mile was a lot of back and forth, with a good start but falling back a bit, running ahead to keep up, and then getting passed again. The first quarter of the 2nd mile was rough, but I made a decision: I would not quit. I wouldn’t drop out, I wanted to finish.
I finished that 2nd mile strong, but slightly hurting. And when that 3rd mile came around, I was ready. I ran hard, I fought, I raced. Tatiana, that’s what you can do. You know this. Go work hard, and don’t give up. Because you enjoy this, and when you cross that finish line, and all those volunteers make you you through the line but all you want to do is collapse, you know you enjoy cross country.

So go have fun today. Don’t stress about trying to be the #2 runner, go work hard and be proud to be PR. Your shins are fine, you can run. Don’t let yourself mentally check out, don’t tell yourself you can drop out. Because you know you won’t, and you’ll just regret not running harder in that part. I feel it now, looking back on that 1st mile. Do your best, because you deserve the best. You got this.

Whatever the reason, during whenever season, I will run with joy.

Go kill it.

Love,
Your younger self (10/4/14)

p.