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Coached by College: Change and Growth in Adulthood Chapter 1 (Part 1)

While eighteen may be the legal age of adulthood, I was definitely unaware about what adulthood then. May 20, 2018 marked the day I began my journey towards adulthood chapter 1, otherwise known as college. That summer was the preparation for a chapter in my life that would take as many twists and turns as the chapter that was high school. Yet, I was perhaps overly optimistic or naïve about what it would be like. Certainly, I did not plan on staying in undergrad for five years (which is what happened), but that was the journey God led me on. Though, yes, it awarded me some freedoms which I otherwise may not experience in my current post-graduate adulthood, I found in many ways college was more of a precursor to adulthood. This precursor pruned many aspects of who I am and allowed me to discover important truths about life. Well, perhaps before I get into reflecting on my time in college as a whole I should say in the open what this paragraph implies, I graduated.

Mary stands under an Our Lady of Lourdes statue in the Grotto  at Franciscan. She wears  a multicolored dress and tan high heeled sandals with the cap and gown.
I stand, in full graduation regalia, under the Our Lady of Lourdes statue in Grotto at Franciscan.

Graduation was a hectic weekend. From the banquet to the baccalaureate mass to the actually ceremony, it felt like the weekend never slowed down. In the week or so leading up to it, which did include finals, I realized despite my love of learning I was ready not to have a grade tied to that learning; while I do love school, I was growing tired of the classroom. Even so, college stands out as a time of tremendous trial and triumph, where I truly believe God worked to continue forming me into the woman I was created to be. This remains true regardless if I consider where I attended, be it Ball State or Franciscan. Each university gave me different experiences, which I thank God for and can not be more blessed to have experienced. Yet, the biggest lessons I learned in college encompass both schools. A long list of these lessons could readily be produced if I tried or spent several hours contemplating the question "what did I learn in college?"; in an effort to discern the most pivotal lessons, I discovered 5 which really stand out: Living with other people is hard, my faith is deeply part of my identity, split second decisions aren't always bad, extracurriculars are important, but don't overdo it, and planning helps. As I have a lot of thoughts to share on each of these points, this post will be the first in a series. I hope God helps you glean what you need from it. Now, Let's dive in

Lesson #1: Living with other People is hard

This lesson encompasses the whole experience of having a roommate. I did grow rooming with my older sister for many years, but that is not the same as what I experienced in college per se. In five years, I had a total of eight different roommates. Each experience taught me something different. So let's begin with roommate #1.

Roommate #1:

I met my first roommate during the summer of 2018 through the Ball State Class of 2022 Facebook page. Her name was "Sally". We had a couple conversations through FaceTime and seemed like we'd get along. Things didn't turn out that way. Now while I am capable of being organized, I do struggle to keep organized much of the time. Disorganization appears to be a symptom of my anxiety. However, it also becomes a source of anxiety because I know others may not like it or it is unpleasant to look at. Unfortunately, it was this disorganization which most irked "Sally". Now, one valid frustration I would say was that the room wasn't tidy when her family came in for Labor Day weekend. I do not however, know how messy it was because it's been years and it was also cleaned up by her and her mother. At the end of that month, "Sally" sent me a text which at the time hurt badly, and told me in so many words that I was being a terrible roommate. I did try to do better, but it just wasn't enough. "Sally" decided to moved out.

This decision to move out was not made mutually. I wasn't even informed "Sally" desired to move out, but I simply began to notice certain decorations coming down (it was nearing Halloween). I would eventually discover "Sally's" wish to move out from the RA. The three of us would meet and discuss the roommate relationship. However, in that meeting, I felt like all the blame for the breakdown of the roommate situation was being placed on my shoulders. While the timeline is not clear in my head any longer, I do believe at some point prior to this meeting and prior to "Sally" moving out, some hurtful words were said and I tried to address them. In addressing them, I was then told by "Sally" that I was not ready for college. These words would dig deep under my skin (by my own choice) and I would develop a deep self-doubt for, I would say, the remainder of college, or at least that year, that I wasn't ready for college. For about a month or so I was on my own, then came my second roommate.

Roommate #2:

My next roommate, Hannah and I only lived together for Spring 2019. I did not know Hannah well. A myriad of circumstances probably contributed to it such as she was in a relationship. We were also rarely in the room together so that also meant we didn't have the time to get to know one another. I did reach out and invite her to a retreat that I was helping with, but her work schedule prevented her from going. Though one conversation remains in my mind because I was acting prideful during it. She was talking about a struggle in her life and I tried to correct her on the Catholic faith not realizing she'd been raised Catholic. Unfortunately, others made her feel wrong for struggling with her cross. During this time I would be discerning who I would room with the following year. So now let's talk about roommate #3.

Roommate #3:

My third roommate, "Daisy" and I met at the end of the Spring semester in 2019. I looked like we would get along well. We were both Catholic and both English majors. But unfortunately some of the same of issues that caused problems with "Sally" cropped up with "Daisy". However, a big difference was that it appeared to me that "Daisy" was willing to do what it took to make things work. Therefore, when things started to get tense she went to the RA and a conversation was started about how to make our situation better. We agreed upon some guidelines about cleanliness and how to navigate future issues. A written poster of these guidelines was written up and hung on the back of our door. The guidelines, unfortunately, did not have their intended effect. I ended up feeling trapped by them, as if they were a shock collar. "Daisy" and I decided it best to part ways. Now time for number 4.

Roommate #4:

Sabrina would be my next roommate. She herself had issues with her previous roommate, but I don't much recall the issues. Covid meant we only were roommates for half the semester; Ball State decided to ask the students to vacate campus at the end of March. I left as soon as we were told this would happen. So let's move to the second Covid roommate.

Roommate #5:

Madelyn was possibly my best roommate experience at Ball State. As far as it goes, I cannot remember any issues with this one. I do recall however it was many a time one of us having to hide in the closet to talk on the phone. Fun fact about Madelyn and I, we'd actually met several years before at a High School Journalism Camp at Indiana University. She did end up moving out, but it had nothing to do with any issues. I speculate it might have had to do something with Covid, though I can't say for sure. All I know she did tell me it had nothing to do with me. Madelyn would ultimately be my last roommate at Ball State as the next fall I would find myself at Franciscan (more about this in Lesson 2)

Roommate #6:

Well, time to talk about Emma. Emma was one of my best roommates overall. She and I had several similar interests such as Jane Austen, but she crushed my spirit by revealing my favorite adaptation of Emma (I believe) was her least favorite. It was in part because of her I finally began to read the Jane Austen novels. She also helped me through some rough times and eventually started to show me the power of boundaries. One of the ways she helped me the most was that she made me she my relationship with "Sally" in different light. I realized that perhaps I wasn't as understanding as I could have been with "Sally". While I believe we probably would have been roommates into the Spring semester, that did not happen because of a study abroad situation. Now on to the shortest of all my roommate experiences roommate #7.

Roommate #7:

Spring 2022 began with a new roommate. We were getting along fine. However, due to preferences about safety and other factors, within a few weeks, I was living solo. I enjoyed it. I ultimately decided after some reflection in Summer of 2022 to request a single room for my last year. However, God had other plans and I ended up rooming with roommate #8 for my last semester.

Roommate #8:

My last roommate, Grace happened quite by surprise. I actually believe I met Grace because we had a class on the Old Testament together in Fall of 2022. She'd been someone I wanted to get to know. However, initially, I learned she intended to do a semester online in Spring 2023. A phone call between us changed all that and within a few days I went from being in a solo room to having a roommate. We got along fairly well. She saw me go through the ups and downs of my first relationship. She would ultimately see two very different Marys; I wasn't even cognizant of this until I asked her about how I had changed once I was no longer in a relationship. I do also wish I had got to know her more than I did. However, that could just be a result of the grade difference and honestly our schedules.

Lesson #2: Faith is Deeply Part of my Identity

I have always been Catholic. Of course, I did not initially choose Catholicism for myself as my parents had me baptized as a baby. I grew up with some knowledge of my faith from my parents and then from 13 years in Catholic education. However, I am not certain how deep my faith really was. I was involved as much as I could be in youth group. I attended the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC), twice. I also would often suggest different Catholic topics as stories for my high school newspaper, The Megaphone. Though I really only did two stories overall that I can remember, I learned a lot from writing those stories. Now, I knew I wanted to get involved in my on campus Catholic community in College. I do remember that when I visited Ball State, my mom, a friend, and I did stop by the Newman Center. I remember the way in which I was received with such a warm welcome helped me be drawn to come to Ball State. I will admit being involved in the Newman Center did help with the transition to college somewhat. It wasn't perfect however. At times it felt like there were cliques which you wouldn't be a part of, though you may have friends who were. this at times made it feel difficult to have friends; honestly, the lack of communication from many after I left makes me wonder if these "friendships" were less deep than I thought even if we did have the faith in common. Regardless, it was at that Newman Center, St Francis of Assisi Parish and Newman Center, that I started growing deeper in the faith

Three things were quite different for me at St. Francis or at least I observed three customs which I had not much experienced growing up. One was that once a week, on Thursdays, the mass was said ad orientum (I know there's obviously a red squiggle under at least one of those words, and I'm speaking gibberish). Ad orientum just means towards the east. It is the traditional posture of the church to say mass this way to face the rising of the sun. I personally find that it helps me better focus on the mass than when the priest faces the people.

Second, I saw many of my peers receiving on the tongue. Now, I don't necessarily believe receiving on the hand or receiving on the tongue is inherently more reverent. I, however, felt a call to receive on my tongue myself.

Last, I began to veil. Again part of my interest in it began because of the number of young women I saw veiling at St. Francis. Also, I joined a bible study in which during the second semester of Freshman year the study focused on 1 Corinthians which discusses veiling in ch. 11. While there's many opinions and interpretations of this passage, I think it should be respected that even if the cultural milieu has changed some significance can still remain. I find that for the most part wearing a veil for me helps me focus more on the mass. I see it as a recognition of my dignity as a daughter of God and temple of the Holy Spirit; I feel it draws me to remember I am in the presence of God, particularly Jesus in the Eucharist (which I also saw veiled at St. Francis). With all this growth, I became acutely aware of how my education interacted with my faith. Unfortunately, it was not always a positive relationship.

The classroom suddenly became difficult to be present in at times. I began to feel quite a bit of fatigue in which the joy of defending the faith became challenging to maintain. I began to feel I did not belong ,and perhaps never did belong, at Ball State. I won't speak at length about specifics as my experiences were covered here. While not the sole reason these classroom battles I ended up at Franciscan. Franciscan may be Catholic, but that did not mean I was completely inoculated from trials. The only difference was these trials came from those who I believe(d) desired holiness as I did.

When I was at Ball State, I met my good friend, Mikaela. Through her I learned more directly about the Old form of the liturgy typically called either the Latin Mass, TLM, or extraordinary form (however, this terms is now outdated as per Traditiones Custodes, an encyclical by Pope Francis; through out this post I will use the term TLM ). While there was an intention to attend with her at some point, but this never happened. In my last post, I revealed that I attended it for the first time with members of a groups called Juventutem. This group promotes TLM liturgy. Until recently, they even arranged a monthly TLM on campus; however, the bishop of the diocese of Steubenville decided to restrict the celebration of TLM to the local Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) parish.

TLM liturgy did open up a new way for me to look at the faith. I find it incredibly beautiful and I know for 500 years it was the norm in the church nourishing the saints. Now, I am deeply passionate about learning more about the faith. The downfall of this is that if I perceive people believe what I do and these people seem more knowledgable than me, I can uncritically examine the statements they make. This pitfall appeared in my experience with Juventutem.

Much of the information I heard in Juventutem was from the Youtube Channel, Sensus Fidelium. My year in the group was often highlighted by viewings of this channel or maybe talks by members of the group. First when I was just absorbing the information provided I felt I was learning the truth. But I never really questioned whether it was really the truth, because the information was often from homilies I just assumed it was true. Even eventually, when I was encouraged to seek the knowledge of a priest, it was hard to actually actualize it because of what I had heard.

The unfortunate experience I had was that I started to become someone I did not like. I became arrogant about what I had learned. I shared information with my family as a crusader to get them to see the truth. When I doubted myself on a certain point, and I asked Juventutem members I accepted what they instead of perhaps going with my gut. One such case was that I was told it was permissible to say for my birthday I wanted my family to attend TLM. While on the surface it seems uncontroversial, if examined, it is obvious that it is manipulative; it would be forcing them to do what I want them to do, not allowing them to choose to attend TLM because they see positive affect in my life from it. While other instances of questionable advice or information exist, this at least shows the tendency of what I heard from members of the group. Though eventually this group realized some of its issues, I decided to take a breather from the group for a semester, which turned into the full school year. In the end, the more time I spent away from this group the more I felt like my self and as if I was returning to the person God made me to be.

Conclusion of Part 1

While I may not have known what adulthood chapter 1 held in store for me, I am blessed to have learned so much in it. I grew in my understanding of how to live with other people. It may not be admirable that I had 8 roommates, but it certainly did learn so much; I realized my pitfalls and tried to work on them. Though some of these lessons were discovered after the experience ended, I became a better version of myself. I now know what to do in future roommate experiences. My perspective on faith and my faith radically changed. I was drawn deeper into it. However, I allowed my passion to lead me astray as when I began seeing red flags I ignored my gut. I allowed my desire to learn about the faith to control my practice of prudence and my application of my intellectual gifts given to me by God. The peace I have felt after breaking away from some toxic groups (not that the group is toxic now as I distanced myself from them) made me realized how the Holy Spirit works. These two lessons may be pivotal, but stay tuned for Part 2 for more merry lessons learned by me in college.

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