Happy Ash Wednesday! Today marks the beginning of the 40-day journey before Easter. It’s a time marked with sacrifices and tuna fish, and the struggle of giving something significant up for those 40 days. I usually like to do something relevant that is frivolous and doesn’t better me as a person, so this year I decided to give up shopping (my go-to for the last 3 years or so) and wine. These are important because those are the two things I’m well-known for. Those who know me know I love my wine and have a crazy shopping problem, so giving both those things up is going to be a challenge. Also it should be noted that this is a weird time for me to be giving up wine, considering my boyfriend just started Ranger School and my stomach has been in knots 24/7, and will continue to be until he graduates, so wine would’ve been my regular companion during this time. But the fact that it’s going to hurt is what makes it a worthwhile sacrifice.
I’m actually really looking forward to Lent this year. It’s the first time I’ll be away from family and have their support during this challenging spiritual journey, so I have to do a lot of soul-searching on my own. One thing I’m excited to use as a resource is my new Lenten journal and Stations of the Cross cards from Blessed Is She. I purchased them a few weeks and cannot wait to delve into it tonight. I’ve found that need to work on my communication and personal prayer life with the Lord, so I think this is the perfect time to start. I’d like to have a dedicated time for prayer each night, which is something I’ve been slacking on. I know it’s not going to be easy, and honestly thinking about it sometimes just scares me, but I think the same can be said about any good thing in life.
Today, Ash Wednesday, marks the beginning of Lent. As a Catholic, I’m sitting here writing this with ashes on my forehead, a reminder of the fact that I am a sinner who is called to repentance, like everyone else. To be honest, it is always a little weird for me when I’m walking around the city and people just stare at me. And though that might make me feel momentarily uncomfortable, I also feel happy when I see other people walking around with the ashes on their foreheads. It’s almost like a symbol of unity, like we’re all in this together, which really, we should be. After all, the main reason for Lent is to prepare for the death and resurrection of the man who died for us all, so it would only make sense that we all embark on this journey together!
Lent is a time of penance, a time for sacrifice. It’s more than just giving something up and hoping we can last the 40 days without it. This year, like I’ve done for the past two years, I am giving up shopping. Trust me, this is a lot harder for me than it sounds! I have a self-diagnosed online shopping addiction. I shop online at least three times a week. The other four days, I’m usually browsing the websites, trying to decide what I’m going to buy. So yes, giving it up for 40 days is not going to be easy, but I’m going to give it all I’ve got in order to make it through. I’m also going to try to make it to daily mass. I’ll have to wake up earlier every day to make it to work on time, but I think this is exactly what I need in my spiritual life right now.
I’m suspending my Netflix and Hulu accounts for Lent as well, as I am the queen of binge show watching. No time like the present to nip that bad habit in the bud.
I know it is going to be a difficult Lent for me this year, but that’s the point: I need to give up the things that hold me down, and prevent me from furthering my relationship with Christ and the Church as I want to. This journey has only just begun, but I know that at the end, it’ll all be worth it. The difficult things usually are.
A conversation with two of my coworkers yesterday made me realize how grateful I am that my parents decided to homeschool my sisters and I for our high school years. When the Catholic school I was attending during middle school closed after I finished the 7th grade (due to lack of students), there were two choices: attend another Catholic school in the area (that was overcrowded) where most of my classmates were going, or homeschool, like my older sister Jenny was. After much consideration, my sister Ana and I, who was in the same class as me, chose to be homeschooled. And it was one the best decisions of my life. The first year, 8th grade, was the most difficult. Getting into the swing of things took some time. Actually, it took the entire year! By the time we started high school though, we were already adjusted and used to it. Long story short, 5 years later we were a part of the graduation ceremony in Virginia held by the program we studied through. Its been three years since we graduated in May of 2010. A lot has happened since then, of course, and definitely a lot that I never planned.
However, all through high school and even now, whenever I tell someone that I was homeschooled, almost everyone says the same thing: “Really? You don’t seem like you were home schooled” What? Why? What does that even mean?! I guess this is because of the stereotypes that exists about homeschoolers, which I should point out are completely ridiculous. Sure, there are probably some homeschooled kids who actually really do live up to the stereotype, but not all of us do!
Another famous question my sisters and I were asked was, “Do you have any friends?” Yes! Plenty! Friends from youth group, most of which are still my best friends to this day. And last but not least, my favorite question of them all “Don’t you feel like you’re missing out on the real high school experience?” Drum roll please…No, I don’t feel like I missed out on the real high school experience. What did I miss out on? Heartbreak? Betrayal from close friends? I don’t mean all high school is the same for everyone. I’m sure for some people, its a wonderful time, but personally, I don’t think I missed out on much.
Homeschooling isn’t for everyone, of course. It takes determination and lots of discipline. I’m grateful I did it though. How else would I have been able to live in Puerto Rico for two months while continuing my high school education at the same time?