I have been commuting from my parents’ house in Weymouth to Boston for work every day for almost six months now and I have yet to find purpose in begrudgingly packing myself into the bus and subway like a sardine for an hour and a half each way. I spend most of my time daydreaming how nice it would be just to escape to anywhere else, any place that gives me breathing room. Ironically, I was ecstatic for this very quotidian existence as DisO wrapped up and I cleared out of my placement office; I had high hopes for autonomy outside of intentional living. But the grass always seems greener on the other side. Frankly, most of the things I do on a daily basis now, I do alone: commuting, working, exercising, eating, just to name a few. I find myself in these moments wanting to invite God to join me in the accompanying bus seat or at the dinner table, and I reminisce sharing these daily rituals with my community last year. Their presence pervaded the minute details of my routine in Houston. Each lonely task today uniquely connects me to them and makes me feel closer to God.
I am riding the 222 bus to the red line as I write this, and Michael is here with me. With both of us fresh off of collegiate athletic careers, Michael and I were determined to GRIND every morning before work. The only flexing we did most mornings was rolling over to hit the snooze button, but on a good day, we would saunter down Polk Street to the 40 bus stop. We partook in a hearty granola bar breakfast as we sped toward downtown and simultaneously motivated each other with exclamations of “Today is THE day!” in between bites. Despite barely being awake and still sore from the day before, I loved every morning workout with Michael. He always made sure I got my miles in and embraced my short shorts with gusto. Even when we did not work out together, I would exercise after work, because I knew Michael was taking care of his body at the gym. It was the loving and supportive kick in my ass that I needed to practice self-care during the year that I needed it the most. Michael, and God, were watching out for me.
I am blessed to be back in my parents’ house while I save up money for law school, and I’m not ashamed to say that my mom still packs me a lunch with my name on it. While I conjure up a new and exciting way to make four eggs over hard at home, Kate is sitting at the table behind me, ever ready to listen (because we live so close, sometimes she’s actually there!). Our community created an addendum to the commandments, also known as our chore chart, which decried that two people would be tasked with making dinner. This design ensured that someone with cooking experience could guard against the innocent, but sometimes dangerous, inexperience of their partner. In other words, Kate was my cooking angel. I always looked forward to that time with her, and I would find myself opening up about the emotional strain of my placement, my break up, my anxiety about the future, and everything in between as I poured too much salt into the rice pot. Kate never judged me. She, and God, just listened.
When I need to take a break from reading on my commute, I’ll parry with my phone over a game of chess. I get my ass handed to me on silver platter regularly, and I’m pretty confident that my phone gossips about how bad I am to my laptop while I’m asleep. I liked playing with Liana much better, not because I ever beat her, but rather because she was low key just as competitive as me. Our greatest battlefield as a community was Jack Box games, which included online drawing, trivia, and word play games that truly set the world on fire in our living room. Who ran the table almost every night? Liana. Who rose out of the ashes of defeat for a dose of vengeance the next game? Liana. She reigned supreme from her corner seat on the couch, her blankets and pillows a mighty fortress to her queendom. The sight always made me giggle, even as I schemed up another tactic to overthrow the crown. In that way, Liana and God kept me joyful.
Coming home after JVC redefined my role in my parents’ house, and I try to contribute more than just my presence to the shared space. Most of the time that manifests itself in dish duty after dinner. I actually enjoyed washing dishes in Houston and have a love/hate relationship with the dishwasher at home. Now when I wash dishes, I look around the kitchen for Mariana’s company. She exhibited a deliberate, yet gentle, demeanor to the task. Sometimes we would lightly chat about each other’s days, but many times we just enjoyed the quiet as dishes and cutlery passed from hand, to sink, to drying rack. After hours of constant requests and clamor for attention, the healing peace restored my energy and patience. Most of all, Mariana and God’s company brought me hope for the next day.
As a future law school student, all I dream about is a shorter commute, the LSAT- school rankings, average scores and GPAs, personal statements, and the list goes on. I’m studying now to take the test a third time and I can feel Abby’s supportive scratch on my shoulder. Abby was an anchor for my transition from college to JVC, especially with getting my arms around my placement site. The work, while infinitely valuable, demanded constant emotional energy and left me sleeping on the living room couch most afternoons. I struggled to stay motivated and loyal to my personal goals, whether it was studying for the LSAT in the morning, volunteering on Beto O’Rourke’s campaign for Senate, or just being social on the weekends. Nevertheless, Abby persisted. She always affirmed my efforts with small, gracious gestures: patting my shoulder as she walked by to prepare for her day, leaving me extra coffee in the pot, and even waiting some mornings to have breakfast with me. These acts of kindness would make my day. They helped me regain belief in myself, because I knew that Abby, and God, believed in me.
As I miss and cherish these small acts of accompaniment and support from my community, I become increasingly grateful that God put them in my life. Seeing how much communal living has influenced my spirituality with God today, it makes me look back and revisit my feelings towards the Church.
Growing up Catholic, the mandatory nature of mass every Sunday seemed more and more laborious as I grew up; somber services filled with shaky sermons didn’t seem to bring me any closer to God. The collective act of sharing in spirituality with a community was lost on me, and I slowly came to think that my spirituality was only determined by personal relationship with God. I found this relationship in college through social justice and solidarity with marginalized groups of people. I projected JVC to bring much of the same, and I was by no means disappointed. However, living in community exposed me to a different side of spirituality.
Now, even though I am still wary of hierarchical religious institutions (which is for a completely separate post), I find myself yearning for that sense of spiritual communion with others. While I journey forward with hope, I will be forever indebted to my community in Houston for not only tolerating my weird habits but also for sharing their faith with me and lovingly welcoming me to do the same.
Photo by Viktor Forgacs on Unsplash