Originally published January 15, 2011
At the beginning of my volunteering journey, I knew my past work and personal experiences set me up to prepared for community living, social concepts, and simplistic challenges that I would face on a day-to-day basis but found that I was far behind in understanding the abstract concept of whatever spirituality is.
During my orientation and continuing on throughout the beginning of my time in New York, people would talk about spirituality, spiritual journeys, “finding yourself,” and “defining yourself. “
I found my brain shutting down when I heard these questions because I thought they were pretty cheesy. I would look blankly at my supervisors’ or fellow volunteers’ faces when they would begin to describe spirituality to me – much like how I spent my years sitting in Mr. Demaris’ geometry or algebra classes. I just didn’t get it.
For some time, I felt inadequate and maybe far below of the league of my peers who seemed to be able to explain it to me.
When I was asked, “How is your spiritual life going?” I thought to myself, “Well, I’m not frequently going to church, I wonder if there’s even anything beyond this Earth, and I never pray… so it probably sucks.”
I felt like I knew what spirituality was, knew spiritual people like the Buddhists who can meditate for hours on end, but was nothing like them- nor did I want to be.
Being spiritual to me was reciting memorized prayers, genuflecting, being silent, obedient, compliant, altruistic, and all with extreme self-control- basically just another in the herd of a flock of sheep, or possessing a dishrag personality. To me, this is what I was taught how to be a good person, and student.
How was this supposed to bring me the inner peace people talk about? How was this being able to allow me to define myself if I have no voice or can only allow myself to think a certain way?
I hadn’t a clue how to even go about answering these spirituality questions, until one of my peers put it plainly to me that being spiritual and being religious can be two entirely separate entities.
When I picked up Richard Sax’s book, Girls on the Edge: The Four Factors Driving the New Crisis for Girls, I found some of his points to put some things in perspective.
By many objective standards girls today should be happier than their grandmothers were at their age with their increased choices and opportunities… but yet many girls are failing to develop an inner life, that sturdy core of personality that women before had in abundance. (6)
Being that things are material and superficial, many girls fixate on trying to define themselves as one thing by fitting into something tangible and real. Many girls try to fit in but stand out at the same time and want to define themselves as the smartest, the prettiest, the thinnest, the most athletic.. ect and fail to know themselves without those titles.
After reading Sax’s research and wisdom- I remembered my issues with wanting to be something –est but failing along with my confusion of being spiritual and religious- not what it was to be a good person, or to even be a person. I didn’t know who I was because I was mainly worried about how much I was working, how much money I was making, what grades I was getting, what size my clothes were, who I was impressing, who I was hanging out with, how easy going I was, and how much self-control I was exercising through working out.
People would ask me what I liked to do, and I would stare at them for a few moments, with nothing coming to mind and tell them where I worked or what I was studying and quickly turned the conversation back to them.
After many transformations in my life because of significant people and lifestyle changes, I’ve come to know life to be much better being “spirited” instead of religiously spiritual. For me, instead of seeking solace in external things and beings such as an ultimate power or material things, I am forced to take personal responsibility and value my abilities and self.
After a life of fitting in and not being noticed, I have found that life is so much better, and richer without being obedient to everyone else around you but to yourself.
Life is better when you get to taste the world, soberly dance on the sidewalk without a care of what those around you think, being able to strike up a conversation with anyone around you, express your opinion, and being comfortable hanging out with yourself for a whole day. These things make life more fulfilling and allows you to be yourself around….yourself.
A girl’s life worth living is one where she knows how to walk, talk, laugh, dance, smile, cry, shout, love, and hate, perfectly and sincerely. Which brings us back to simply being human.