Recently, I attended a social gathering (for use of a nice word) of drunken idleness that reminded me of a really dull night I once experienced in the middle of my senior year of high school. Garbage music and loud vulgar seemed to be making up for how boring it was. As the minutes went by I found myself examining my own life and how others view me.
This is kind of lame and I’d rather go home.
I was waiting for other friends to give me the OK that we were all ready to leave together. In the meantime, a friend seemed to make it their mission to make me “comfortable”. They were somewhat embarrassed on my behalf of the atmosphere and wanted to make amends for it. This friend kept personally apologizing to me when the blaring song blurted any swear word. It was not necessary.
Why are you apologizing to me? It’s a song.
And they kept making excuses on behalf of their friends’ behavior.
Why are you telling me this? I really don’t mind them.
They also made the most sympathetic expression when I said goodbye to them, upon heading off to the vehicle I came in. They were clearly relieved at the sight of me leaving, as they wouldn’t have to worry about me.
I admit, the party was neither exciting nor pleasant. It wasn’t my cup of tea but I didn’t mind being there… so why did this friend of mine feel the need to “comfort” me. Why did they find it necessary?
It left me unnerved and frustrated.
There comes a moment…
There comes a moment where you look at where you’re standing, in your shoes that are well broken into. Then you turn around and see where you’ve been. Pondering where you’d like to go, you reach that point where you exhale and admit to yourself words you’re afraid to feel.
I can’t do this.
I am so frustrated with the constant unnecessary sympathy and protection given to me. I can’t sit here like this.
It is very lovely knowing to have been in a community that I have chosen for myself. It’s one that did not come out of convenience, made up of no one who I went to high school with. They are friends who I found shortly after I started to really find myself in the better years of adulthood. The bigger mishap is that these are friends who have not seen me at my worst.
These are friends who saw me when I started to go, somewhat, in the right direction of my vocation to serve in the new evangelization. They met me desiring virtue. They met me trying to mend the mistakes of my past. They met me trying to make strides towards progress. I’m constantly surrounded by people who have not seen me at my worst. I have found myself on a pedestal.
Moment of Vulnerability
I serve as a youth minister, which somehow translates as naivety? As if I’m oblivious to the depth of sin and vulgarity. This, perhaps, is what is the most irritating and frustrating. If only they believed me that I know, I know too well.
If only they knew of the years spent in vulgarity and worldly praise. If only they knew of my coveting of satisfaction consolation in all the wrong places with all the wrong people, leading me to shame. I am very familiar with the tainted feelings of nights of regret and things I wish I could take back. In very familiar with the stinging hurt caused by being reckless, lost in my desires. It was through feeling the weight of these things within myself, looking in the Blessed Sacrament, that I eventually found myself building up the strength to try to seek emotional and spiritual healing.
That was awhile ago, and through much trial and error along with the gift of time… Granted, I’m a work in progress and trying to keep moving forward, I’m in a far better (and healthier) place then where I’ve been.
I shared all of this with my dear friend Sarah, a thriving and strong woman who knows the in’s and out’s of being in a ministry leadership position. I opened up about this struggle with her. Surely I couldn’t have been alone in this. One thing to know about Sarah is she’s feisty as she is wise and yelled “Why do people do that!? Do they not realize that it is through being buried under the weight of my own awful sins that has made me strive for the holiness that you’ve put me on a pedestal for!”
Where To Go From Here…
So here I sit, feet swinging on this strange pedestal. Here I sit, undeserving of any admiration or such high expectations. I am tasked to a higher level of character, to be virtuous. This is not something asked of my supervisors or the families I serve, but something I call myself to a higher standard. I remember what it’s like to live in those dark places and to waste my heart on petty and undeserving notions. I have nothing else to do but not pick at the undeserving labels and the somewhat fabricated reputation. In those moments of anxiety I will sit here, unapologetically myself… lowly but very open about who I am, where I’ve been, and where I desire to go.
Recently, I’ve heard from some more friends equally share their own experiences. Small ones, brief encounters in conversations with people they know and trust where they made liming comments. If you’re like me you often get comments such as “wow you actually drink?” or “you’re the last person who I think would get a tattoo…”. My constant reaction to this overly perky yet undoubtedly insensitive comments always leave me feeling defeated and insulted at the same time. Where are these commenters coming from? What is it about seeking virtue that puts us on a lofty pedestal unbeknownst to us? Yes I desire to dress modestly, I don;t get drunk… But I also love dancing and enjoying a good cocktail. I try not to use foul language, which is something I’m sort of getting better at, but I also love to speak my mind and find that a great strength. I try to love myself through dressing modestly and keeping a decent workout routine, but I also refuse to objectify myself and others.
I’ve seen darkness and I’ve experienced shame. But I’ve also seen great glory and beauty in humanity in the presence of the Kingdom of God…Just experiencing how good virtue is, it makes me want to be bold enough for martyrdom and members for social change, but also I want to remain childlike in joy, staying in awe of wonder.
Somewhere along the line this pursuit for virtue gets misconstrued as a contrived and frigid sense of perfection by others.
After all, there are worse places I could be.