“When I say my name I hear a burned-down church.” - Bob Hicok, Elegy Owed
You would think that I was paying attention, given that I was in a church, sitting in the hard wooden pews during mass. You would think I would listen to the Portuguese sermon, resting on the lilts in the priest’s "Pai Nosso" and laying my head on intonations. You would think I would try to feel the serenity imbued in the hymns and spend the rest of the hour trying to compress all that is holy into a eucharist and swallow it, nesting it in me.
But I wasn’t.
My mind was racing, a million locusts a minute, crawling against the stained glass windows, banging its fists in rhythm with the wind. What stories the walls could tell, holding gems like insects in amber—how many salvations, how many sins. I wondered if the confessionals ever smelled like something other than disappointment. A cocktail might taste better than regret. God, I wish I could sit here and focus and reflect on my life choices like I’m supposed to—or maybe I’m not. I don’t know.
I watched the clock in bated breath.
The last prayer was prayed, the last praise preached, and the devout filed out in silence, returning to their lives of mundane mistakes until they came back on their knees next Sunday, looking for forgiveness. And I would join them in rote, silent solidarity.
Memorial Church sits surrounded by metal bars and barriers. The Church is currently closed for the rest of the year due to renovations slated to end come spring 2017. For now, Sunday Worship falls under the stained glass windows of Annenberg at brunch instead of between the wooden pews. The confessionals are left hollow. Yet, the mistakes continue to pile up—not out of spite or increased depravity but by twisted destiny, as if the world refuses to pause misfortune where sources of distress-relief deflux. How rude.
The weeks are no less holy than they were back home, where Mom would wake you up, and the family would dust off their Sunday best to go to worship out of faith or routine or an uneven mix of both. But now, Mom isn’t sleeping in the top bunk. It’s your roommate who, back in Boulder, would go to parties every night and wake up hungover every morning, and he brought that attitude to college with him. It’s not your scene but you go along with it anyway, try to live the “college life.” "This is wrong," you think, as you trudge through the Yard looking for a party at two in the morning. "Four Avé Marias, two Glórias." That’s what you should be doing right now. But even still, you go out on Saturday nights and wake up Sunday afternoon, and the world passes you by outside Annenberg’s windows and you’re content with who you are, what you believe, but there is this sneaking feeling wrapping its hands around your neck, whispering that you’re doing it all wrong. "Como era no princípio, agora e sempre." You hold your hands together in rote over your green tray. "Amen."
College has taught me many things. It has shown me freedom, given me the tools for change and expression, presented boundless opportunities—but it has also shown me I am my own person. I may not find myself between the arched ceiling and the marble floors, but God does it feel holy when it’s four in the morning and the Charles is still and the air is calm and the conversations are easy and I can breathe, God I can breathe—the world waits in bated breath for me, spinning on my terms.
The change might not be comfortable at first; you may despise yourself for not sitting in the pews, going to the mosque or sitting in temple like you were raised—or you may still go to your chosen place of worship. And that’s perfectly fine. But if you find yourself staying up late and sleeping in on Sundays, this does not necessarily invalidate the way in which you participate in a belief system or understand yourself. Introspection comes in a spectrum; faith knocks on the door differently for everyone. The answer is not in hating yourself for adopting a different version of self-understanding as you transition through a different part of your life; it’s those moments that make you most complete. Whether they may be in a prayer room in a mosque or synagogue or within yourself, the goal within any belief system—and really, the goal in life—is to find, and do, whatever makes you happy.
Jessenia Class '20 is Crimson Editorial comper living in Canaday Hall.
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