Sunday Sermon

This past Sunday was the third of the month; in my parish, that means the deacon, rather than the priest, speaks the Homily. For anyone who doesn’t know, in a Catholic mass the Homily occurs after the three Bible readings. In the Homily, the priest or deacon tries to explain or add insight to what we had just heard. Usually, I don’t particularly like when the deacon at our church does the Homily. He’s not terrible, he just utilizes the same writing technique every time, which, as a writer, tends to get on my nerves.

However, this Sunday was different. Saturday night I randomly woke up and felt empty inside. “There is no God,” I thought to myself, not sure where this sentiment came from but believing it nonetheless. The next morning I didn’t feel as faithless, but could not fully trust in my religion, even though I still prayed and sung throughout the Mass.

As the deacon performed the Homily, my mind drifted between listening intently to what he had to say and wondering whether I should apply for that campus job. Fortunately, I tuned in to hear a beautiful comment  from our deacon.

“We seem to focus so much on who we think should be saved. Instead, let’s focus on strengthening our own faith.”

This is a really important idea for Catholics and other Christians to hear in a world where people march against gays and abortion or condemn the use of birth control. Sometimes we spend so much energy, resources and time attempting to persuade others to do “the right thing” when we could be improving our own religious dedication through prayer, service and love. I literally smiled in church, relieved to hear this statement after hearing our priests discuss the evils within our modern society every so often and how we must be the metaphorical light of the world.

Furthermore, this is an attitude someone of any race, gender, nationality, age, and yes, even religion, could adopt. Changing others is difficult, especially when dealing with a) those who do not wish to change, or b) opinions rather than fact. This does not mean abandoning our own beliefs and submitting to someone else’s views. Rather, we should concentrate on enhancing our way of life instead of attempting to change others, because no one can claim they live a perfect lifestyle.

This wasn’t the end of #quotableChurchmoments. During another part of the mass, a lector reads a list of intentions, or things we want to pray for. After each intention, we all say “Lord, hear our prayer”. This was one of the best intentions I have ever heard:

“We pray for all those who are searching for God, that they may be enlightened so that their natural goodness will shine through”. 

Anyone who has studied Classicalism and Romanticism knows most religious institutions, especially the Catholic church, follow many classical beliefs, including the idea people are born evil and must be taught to be good. Contrariwise, this prayer recognizes people are children of God and therefore naturally good creatures. Beautiful.

Though these experiences have not reinstated my faith to its full health, this Sunday sermon made me hopeful for alterations in the attitude of the world and hopeful for my own future. As I look forward to college with excitement, anxiety, and some fear, I know this will be a time of change and self evaluation, of figuring out who I am and what I want. Through my own natural goodness, I can strengthen my faith and achieve my full potential in whatever I’m supposed to do on this earth.

*Note-all comments are paraphrased.

Changes

Hi everyone. Again, sorry about a nearly month-long hiatus. Soon after posting “Waking Up Happy”, I started dealing with some pretty bad depression (the worst I’ve had in a long time), actually skipping work because I felt so bad. Though I have been feeling better for about a week, I’ve been preparing for the so-called next chapter of my life: college.

Other than excuses, I have some pretty significant changes I’ve experienced in the past month or so. After over a year of enduring depression, my parents-well, mostly my mother-caved and agreed to take me to a psychiatrist before I go to college. I was exceedingly anxious prior to visiting the doctor, knowing that I usually cry when discussing this topic. And, of course, I did cry when he asked me to start describing how I had been feeling. We discussed the symptoms of depression, how depression affects the body, and how antidepressants can help.

I was relieved when he told me he certainly believed I had depression; I had been clobbered with self-doubt, wondering if maybe I wasn’t really depressed and was just going through a rough patch in my life. But depression is a real illness, which can be treated just like any other disease. When we started discussing antidepressants, my mom related her worries, and pointed out that, based on the symptoms he had described, most of the people she knew could be depressed.

He then related the most important symptom of depression: the disease affects one’s life and prevents one from functioning as they would without the depression. Though she claimed she did not see it interfering with my life, I reminded-or rather confessed-I had skipped work and school because of how I felt. The psychiatrist also stated I had been trying to solve the issue through other means, particularly therapy. Though I feel therapy helps me tremendously, I seem to have reached an impasse and can no longer progress forward in healing.

Soon after, I was prescribed some antidepressants, and have been taking them ever since. It’s been about a week now. In the past week I’ve had trouble sleeping, but I’ve started to fall back into my pattern, and last night got 7 whole hours of sleep.

I’m also looking forward to college more than I have thus far. Prior to this week, I’ve been terrified to embark on my college adventures, to the point where I was dreading my departure date. For some reason-maybe after talking with my roommate, feeling less depressed, rediscovering my love for biology, or a combination of the three-I’ve become obsessed with going to college. It’s one of the first things I think about when I wake up and the last thing on my mind before I fall asleep. I’m done with paint crew, my summer job, and just want to get back to academic work.

Salutatorian Speech

Just thought I’d share the speech I made almost a month ago [insert gasp here] when I graduated from high school. I decided my theme should be “Time”, since I have had such difficulty with nostalgia, growing up, and preparing for the future. And yes, I did reference Mean Girls and quote Doctor Who.

“Good evening parents, teachers, board of education members, siblings who are wondering why they have to sit out here just for that ten seconds during which their brother or sister get their diploma, and, most importantly, the Class of 2014. Graduation seems to always focus on two things: the past and the future. This fall the Science League participated in the Ocean Science Bowl at Rutgers, and we decided to commemorate this experience by buying a fish for Mr. T’s classroom. We named it Fetch, both because this is a type of wind pattern which causes waves, and because of the movie Mean Girls. So, Class of 2014, you’re welcome, we made fetch happen. All of us, no matter what we have been involved with, have these inside jokes and special experiences with those we are close to. Though I cannot name all of these, because they are your own individual experiences, I really hope these are the things you remember about high school.

As a wonderful friend reminded me while I was writing this speech, graduation is not about perfection; we’ve already passed all our classes and possibly trashed old papers. We’re done. Graduation is about honoring us. Let’s honor our high school adventures and the teachers who have enriched our lives. Sorry Ms. F, there are no Shakespeare quotes in this speech. Let’s celebrate each other. Though I am honored to be your salutatorian, there are so many of you out there who are just as or more qualified to speak to our class. You are experts in political science, chemistry, or theatre. You are incredible dancers and athletes. If you are artistically inclined, I envy you, because five year olds have been disgusted with my drawing skills.

Finally, we look towards the future. Elton Pope, an obscure character in a TV show called Doctor Who, states, “When you’re a kid, they tell you it’s all… Grow up, get a job, get married, get a house, have a kid, and that’s it. But the truth is, the world is so much stranger than that. It’s so much madder. And so much better.” Some people say our high school years are the best years of our lives, but I challenge you to get better and better each year. As we look forward to our futures, I challenge each of you to depart from the norm and create your own strange, mad, better world.

My final advice to all of you is to take time. Take time to figure yourselves out, to realize what it is you want. Go out, live, take risks, make mistakes, come back to square one, try again. Fail as much as you possibly can. Take time to be open to new ideas, and to love and be loved. Take your time growing up, and don’t forget to be a little immature and rowdy every now and then. Congratulations Class of 2014, and good luck, though I know you will not need it.”

To Science Or Not To Science

The ever-closer prospect of college has caused me to reevaluate my life decisions and goals, which also includes my projected major and profession. I’ve been told it’s silly for anyone to expect an 18-year old to know what they want to do in their adult life. I’ve also been told I need to think about these things so I have some sort of direction and don’t ignore the future, which I have a tendency to do because I am incredibly nostalgic and hate the idea of growing up.

Going into the college search, I was certain I wanted to pursue biology with a concentration in molecular genetics. AP Biology was my favorite class in high school, and it’s interesting and cool. Science jokes, pick up lines, and puns make me excessively happy. However, I received my AP Chemistry score back today and received a 1. I remember the day of the exam I was really depressed and essentially gave up when I reached the open ended section, but…really? The lowest score possible?

Other things have also caused me to question my decision to enter the science field. My second favorite class in high school was AP English, in which I excelled notwithstanding it being considered one of, if not the most, difficult AP class in our school. I graduated with the highest overall grade average in English for my entire grade. My AP English Literature and Composition score was a 5. My ex once told me he knew I was good at science but never really knew that it interested or captivated me as much as, for example, English literature.

But was this last statement an accurate description of my feelings or a sign that, perhaps, he didn’t get me as much as I thought he did? Or is it neither, and simply a reflection that, though I love science, it’s not something I excessively fan girl over?

I have difficulty with self-esteem, and not feeling good enough often plagues me when it comes to the sciences. I’m terrified to begin my biology and chemistry courses in college for fear of being behind in my studies. However, what could I do with an English major that I would enjoy? I don’t want to be a teacher, and pretty sure I wouldn’t want to be a college professor. I don’t want some business job, unless it’s for something I’m actually interested in. Perhaps an editor or writer of some sort? But journalism has never intrigued me.

Furthermore, why should I let anyone else get in the way of what I want? If I want to be a biologist, even if I’m better at something else, who’s stopping me?

But what do I really want? That is the question.

Summer Goals

I essentially have three goals for this summer.

1) Learn “Let It Go” and other songs in German. I was torn when making class decisions for college on whether to take a) Shakespeare’s Sisters, an English seminar that I really did not need but would enjoy, or  b) German 201. If I enrolled in the latter  it would prevent the loss of any of my German skills by waiting to enroll in the class at another time.

I was really close to going with the English seminar, which I had my eyes on from the first time I looked at Gettysburg’s courses, but I ended up making the more rational decision and choosing German 201, which I believe I will love. I plan on taking an English course to fulfill one of the liberal arts curriculum goals, and using Introduction to Creative Writing as my arts requirement. My schedule at the moment, other than German 201, includes Math 111 (Calc 1), Bio 113 (the fall companion to an application-only research based course in the spring, Bio 114 Phage Genomics), and Chem 107 (Chemical Structure and Bonding). The schedule is pretty busy. Math 111 meets Monday thru Thursday; other than lectures, I have labs for both Bio and Chem and a German conversation/discussion once a week. However, I am very excited about all my classes.

2) Come up with at least one question to ask my Biology professor. He sent all of us (from the Bio 113 class) an email concerning general Gettysburg advising on housing, buying books, etc. He also discussed our homework over the summer, which was good, because I completely forgot about summer homework and would not have even thought to ask my other professors (which I will do now).

Finally, he said we are free to ask him whatever questions we want, whether it’s about college, our courses, or general science questions. I want to look at all the information he has sent us and ask a really good question; I’ve had issues with asking questions/asking for help in the past so I want to break that habit as soon as possible. A fresh start for college, yanno?

3) I want to speed walk as fast as my paint crew supervisor. I don’t think I have mentioned this before, but I did get the same summer job as last year, painting for the school district. He has decided to wait to name managers to see who can handle it all best, so I am not sure if I will procure this position. I am not a very take-charge type of person, which is why I am dubious of my chances. Besides, I don’t think I really want to be a manager anyway (grr stupid lacking ambition when it involves something new or taking charge).

Anyway, you do not understand this man’s speed. He does not even pump his arms-he just goes. You literally run to keep up with him or else he will turn a corner and you will not know where he went. The only way you know he is coming before he gets to you is the keys he keeps on his belt all the time jingle and jangle obnoxiously loud. You can hear him from down a hallway, which gives you just enough time to turn off any inappropriate music you may have been playing. Last year my friend’s IPod was magical. We had it set on the musicals station, and when the supervisor was not around it would play Avenue Q and Spamalot, but just before he would walk by it would play Aladdin or the Little Mermaid.

I digress. It’s good to have goals, right?

I’m a high school graduate!

Last night was my high school graduation. While I was at the actual ceremony, I had a headache, nerves about making my salutatorian speech, and the sun in my eyes for most of the evening. I was also hot and sweaty from sitting in the sun, and therefore did not feel the reality of graduating sink in. I felt like I took everything in, as well as I could; I watched closely as all of my classmates graduate, hugged a bunch of teachers, and danced to “Happy”, which they played after the formal ceremony was over and we were all set loose to roam around the football field.

This morning the realization hasn’t fully sunk in yet, but I’m panicing about nothing in particular, so I’m starting to get there. I’m really stressed this morning because there is so much I have to do today. The fact high school is finally over also makes me feel a little depressed…there’s a lot I wish I had done better. My salutatorian speech was okay, but not exceptional or personal at all. Most people did not laugh where I expected them to, and that discouraged me. I did not feel bad about it last night (I was too in the moment of graduation I guess), but now looking back I feel a lot worse about it.

Even though I spent the night with my two best friends in the world, I feel very lonely. Or maybe that’s why I feel lonely? I had the option to go to Project Graduation, essentially a party the school hosted at the Funplex after graduation, but because my two best friends were not going, I chose not to. Either way, not many people reached out to me before, during, or after graduation to talk or share congratulations. I did not anticipate this post becoming miserable, but that’s sort of what happened.

Though I sort of feel like a wreck now, last night was pretty beautiful, even though I had not been hit with the full force of graduating. I feel it’s going to be coming on very soon though…it’s so scary being an adult now. I think once I start making my to-do lists, organizing everything in my life, and completing tasks, I will feel much more at peace.

I’d like to close by sharing the quote I used in my graduation speech.

“When you’re a kid, they tell you it’s all…grow up, get a job, get married, get a house, have a kid, and that’s it. But the truth is, the world is so much stranger. It’s so much madder. And so much better”

-Elton Pope, Doctor Who

P.S. I know that’s not the whole quote, I cut out the “so much darker” part because I did not want to be more verbose than I already was, and because talking about a “dark world” during graduation seemed a little too weird for me. If you wanna read my whole graduation speech, I’m going to make a page for it.

Ungrounded

Whereas last week I did not blog because I was just so gosh darned busy, this week I was plagued by senioritis, depression, and anxiety. I’ve been having a lot of mood swings lately. One minute I’m laughing at a joke my math teacher made or enjoying hanging out with my two fellow lab techs (my best friend and my ex), and the next I am musing how my math teacher stands for so much I hate in the world or despising (and being quite jealous of) my ex for explaining to a teacher how he was given a research intern position at his college over the summer. Just a minute ago I was motivated to write a blog and then poetry, work out, and start making appointments for paint crew as well as summer plans, and now I am amazed I have enough energy to write this simple post.

I feel ungrounded. As if I am just floating around in the middle of space, in the middle of the universe. I am very unattached to reality. I am floating through rough waters in a tiny boat without an anchor or a safe harbor to pull into. As the school year comes to a close and I am almost done with high school forever, I sense a tremendous lack of direction in my life. Previously I have always had an immediate goal to attend to: get an A on the test, do homework, go to a club meeting, prepare for prom, etc.

I still have objectives I need to achieve, such as filling out paperwork for college. However, all of these goals are seemingly abstract. I will be attending college in the fall, but this reality is still surreal, and therefore I cannot perform tasks for college without feeling more ungrounded than before. I was supposed to make my list of things I’ll need for my dorm and create a registry at Bed, Bath and Beyond, but did not get farther than signing up with my account.

In addition to this crazy senior feeling, I am suffering an inescapable case of senioritis, so my lack of motivation has really affected me; for example, I put off a project that was due today, and therefore spent last night completing it. In reality it would not have been too bad because I had finished most of it in class and just had to add some pictures, do a works cited page, and write a final paragraph, but I kept procrastinating and ended up going to bed past midnight, then waking up at 5:10am to finish.

This procrastination and the fact I had to present my project caused my anxiety to increase twofold. This troubling groundlessness-a lack of a sense of direction-also causes my anxiety and depression to skyrocket. I want to be active and work towards a goal, but I feel as if I have nowhere to aim anymore.