Why I Refuse to Call Myself "Trash"

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I have a love-hate relationship with modern day slang. I had to deal with “swagger” being a thing during my college days, but nowadays, the latest millenial slang is pretty good. I love how “goals” is a thing along with “#squadgoals” and #relationshipgoals.” We all should have goals and aspire to have an awesome life. I also love “slay,” cuz, you know, vampire slayer lover here!

There is one word I refuse to use in reference to myself, though: Trash.

Whenever someone refers to themselves as “trash,” it means that they devote themselves so much to a fandom such as the DC shows, or to a celebrity.

It’s kind of ironic that the generation that gets called “narcissistic” refers to itself as “trash.” As if millenials don’t have enough self-esteem issues!  I get that the people of Tumblr and Twitter don’t actually mean to compare themselves to garbage, but the problem is that they forgotten that the words that we choose to call ourselves have a powerful impact on ourselves.

You know what else gets called trash? Homeless people, prostitutes, and aborted babies. No, you’re not special snowflakes, fellow millenials. You’re not entitled to whatever you want just because you want it. But at the same time, stop calling yourselves trash when you talk about how much you love something. Every single human life, no matter who they are or where they live, has a God-given intrinsic value. It’s like what Peggy Carter said in the Agent Carter season 1 finale: “I know my value. Anyone else’s opinion doesn’t really matter.”

Millenials of all ages, know what you are worth by being humble.

“Wait, what?” you ask. “How does being humble help us understand what we are worth?”

Once again, we come to a seemingly impossible paradox. Humility is not thinking the worst of yourself. It’s knowing that you can always do better. It means not seeking out attention for the sake of stroking your own vanity, but at the same time learning to give credit when credit is due. Be proud of your accomplishments, but don’t rub them into everyone’s face. And most of all, don’t go for a minimalist spirituality by thinking “Oh as long as I don’t do bad things, I won’t go to Hell.” That’s not how it works, honey.

There’s a wonderful prayer called the “Litany of Humility” that spells out what it means to be humble. It’s a prayer I highly recommend you contemplate this Lent. I often pray this during retreats. My favorite part of the prayer is “That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.” It reminds me that we are all called to holiness and that God wants us to love ourselves as much as He loves us. That does not mean referring to ourselves as trash or by becoming narcissists. It simply means knowing our own value. We are worth dying for and as such, we need to live for Him.

An Open Letter To Rowan Blanchard

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Dear Rowan Blanchard,

You don’t know me. I’m a huge fan of Girl Meets World and I love your character. I also love that you’re using your status as a celebrity to promote gender equality with He For She.

However, there are some things I want to talk to you about. I am really, really glad that you came out as questioning your sexuality and that you were honest about how you see yourself now. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for you. I know right now there are a lot of parents who are probably concerned about you questioning your sexuality. What concerns me more, however, are the people who want you to just pick a label.

You said “In my life – only ever liked boys. However I personally don’t wanna label myself as straight, gay or whateva so I am not gonna give myself labels to stick with just existing.”

The problem is that we live in a world of labels. There is nothing wrong with being a woman or being of a certain race or ethnicity or even being attracted to the same gender. The problem is when we choose to define ourselves by just these things. The things that are in our lives are just parts of who we are and not the sum or the whole of who we are. So while you are in the process of defining yourself, you need to find something that’s constant. I’m not talking about the culture that you’re in now, though. I’m not even talking about believing in yourself.

I know that the people you hang around with aren’t exactly keen on the idea of God, let alone religion. But God is the one constant in life that you’ll find that you can always count on. He never changes. He is a merciful God and he loves you as you are right now, questioning sexuality and all. So if you’re trying to figure out who you are, look to God. See how He sees you. You might be surprised at how your life will change when He is at the center of your life.

Sincerely,

Monique

10 Tips on Learning How To Date Like An Adult

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There’s this funny commercial from Match.com that kind of sums up the three paths people tend to go when it comes to dating.

The first extreme, as you can see in the commercial, is that people want sex and they want it now. Think Sex and the City or Girls (which is really a poor man’s Sex and the City, in my honest opinion). Teenagers especially are filled with lust. I still remember listening to Leah Darrow’s testimony about how her friends were pressuring her to have sex after Homecoming back when she was just fifteen years old. Many Catholic chastity speakers like Jason and Crystalina Evert preach about the importance of being chaste. Arleen Spenceley said that chastity isn’t abstinence but “a virtue that aims to integrate sexuality with the rest of the stuff that makes us human.” The thing is, though, learning how to be chaste is only the beginning.

The other extreme people go, and this applies to people who misunderstand chastity, is an overemphasis on marriage. Marriage is beautiful, marriage is important, and yes, young adults should date with the intention of eventually getting married. But marriage shouldn’t be a be-all, end-all when it comes to starting out. The way people meet will always be different and I can’t speak for everyone on how one should start out a relationship aside from the fact that you need to treat the other person with respect because they are your brother/sister in Christ, not the fulfillment of your fantasies or someone you’re entitled to have.

Dating as a young adult is vastly different from dating in high school or even dating in college. In this new stage in life, some young adults are already getting married and having babies while other young adults are searching for full-time work and binge-watching shows on Netflix and aren’t ready to settle down but are still going out on dates. I’m gonna be addressing the latter group here. This list is for those who are just starting out in the weird world we call “dating.”

1) Don’t stay stuck in the past. The first thing people need to learn when it comes to dating as an adult is that this will be an entirely new experience so don’t compare the person you’re dating to past relationships. You don’t want to compete with the ghosts of your significant other’s past so don’t put them through the same comparison process. Also don’t compare yourself to how you were in past relationships, either. Learn from the past, but move on from it.

2) Don’t be pressured to go the whole nine yards. If you’re just starting out, it’s good to go out on group dates where there’s less pressure or meet the person at events where there will be lots of people. You don’t have to start out with the whole flowers and dinner kind of date. Go bowling or play laser tag or volunteer together. If it doesn’t end up working out with them, at least you had a good time.

3) Don’t let your relationship define and consume you. Love as adults isn’t obsessing over the other person the way you would over your favorite TV show or sports team. Adult love means that we come into the relationship as ourselves and the best kind of love is one where we maintain our authenticity and integrity. You shouldn’t bend over backwards to try and please the person you’re with. Real love is the kind where the one we love stands beside us instead of making our choices for us or trying to take the parts of us that they like and putting the rest of us in a box. If the person you’re dating seems to be a control freak, get out of that relationship ASAP!

4) You are not entitled to have a relationship just because you want one. Let’s say that you have a crush on somebody and you’ve had feelings for them for a long time. Then you ask them out only for them to turn you down. As someone who’s been “friendzoned,” here’s some advice. When the person you want rejects you, you have to accept it and move on. Don’t beg or lash out at them or take your anger out on someone you see as “competition.” Your heart is going to break, but you can’t hate a person for not wanting you.

5) It’s okay to avoid exes. If you had a particularly awkward rejection or particularly sucky breakup, you do not have to talk to your ex if you run into them somewhere. On a related note, don’t stalk them on social media either. Defriend and unfollow ASAP from every social media you have connected with them. Delete their number. You can’t heal from the hurt if you keep thinking about the person who caused it.

6) Don’t put so much importance on being “official” right now. Give the relationship time to grow before anything becomes “Facebook official.” Chances are that you’re still getting to know the person you date. Take it easy on yourself and start out as friends. Life isn’t like a Nicholas Sparks or a Hallmark movie where you meet the right person right off the bat. Some relationships take time to grow.

7) Don’t be a perfectionist. Girls especially have a tendency to read into every minute detail and action that goes on during dates. I implore you to put aside the worry. There’s also a tendency for people to hold the one they’re dating to impossibly high standards. Don’t write off a person just because he showed up five minutes late or you don’t agree on everything. Focus on what’s important. It’s more important that the date showed up at all rather than promising something and not showing up without a very good reason for standing you up. It’s more important that you agree on, say, what beliefs you share and how much you actually value those beliefs than whether or not DC is better than Marvel.

8) Chastity is still important. You don’t have to hold hands or be touchy-feely with the person you’re dating if you are uncomfortable with that kind of affection. There are many ways that people can express their love for someone else. That being said, physical and emotional chastity are always going to be important when it comes to dating, even when you’re starting out. This is why you need to take things easy because putting your whole heart into something that’s just starting out will have major consequences later on.

9) If you’re dating someone who doesn’t share your beliefs, proceed with caution. While flirt and convert is a very popular catchphrase amongst Catholics, you don’t want to date someone with the sole mission of trying to change them. You can’t force someone to change unless they themselves want to change. The person your dating is still a person, not a project. It’s good to hope that the life you lead will inspire the person you’re dating and if you’re like me, your faith is probably part of everything that you do. But when you just start out with a person, it’s better to keep evangelizing off the table for the time being.

10) Pray through everything. When you first meet someone, pray. When you’re just starting out as friends, pray. And regardless of whether things progress into something more than friendship or if things stay platonic, you need to pray. God is the one who created your heart and He will get you through whatever happens. Offer your heart to Him so that if it breaks, He will fix it. Pray for the person you’re dating so that they will be led to whatever God wants from them.

The point I’m making from this list is that real, authentic, grown-up love isn’t about getting what we want all the time. It’s not about the emotional highs or kissing or being “Facebook official.” It’s about wanting the good for the other as other. It’s about learning more about who we are when we’re around other people.  And when we start out in this weird world we call “dating,” we still have marriage in mind, but it’s not an urgent matter. The more important thing is to treat the person we’re dating as just that, a person, an equal.

Reach Out to The Truth! – The Last Night of Cafe Catholica

The best people in life for free.

The best people in life for free.

 

If there’s anything I learned from my last night at Cafe Catholica, it was that appearances can be deceiving and truth is something that doesn’t come in an easily appealing package. Nevertheless, we must always reach out to the truth because we find the beauty and goodness hidden within it.

The first reading from last night is a classic case of idolatry in the face of fear. The Gospel doesn’t seem like it relates to the first reading because it was just about parables. The priest who celebrated Mass last night said in his homily that from the outside, the Kingdom of God looks boring because it can’t be contained. It liberates us from earthly attachments. When the Isrealites were faced with the quiet mountain instead of the show of light and fire from Mount Sinai, they forgot everything that God did for them and turned to an idol instead. It should be noted btw, that I wasn’t exactly laughing when the priest re-told the scene from the reading where Aaron said “We just put the gold in the fire and the calf came out of it.” I get that it’s supposed to be a joke, but I don’t find it funny. A lot of others in the church did, though.

The priest said that we are no better than the Israelites. We forget the way the Lord has transformed us and the works of God that we see in our everyday lives. Instead we seek emotional highs. Wasn’t there a Blimey Cow video or two about that?

And they also did an awesome video about idolatry as well.

I think my favorite part of the homily, though, was when the priest said how he wished the Kingdom of God was more like the battle of Mordor. I genuinely laughed at that part because if you want an epic battle, wait for the apocalypse. The truth is, he said, that the Kingdom of God is less interesting than an epic battle. It comes disguised in the ordinary. Here’s how I would compare it.

We wish that the Kingdom of God was like that excited, energetic kind of happiness we feel during our birthday or the holidays or when it’s easy to celebrate. In real life, the Kingdom of God is more like a warm glow, a soft candle light burning in the night. The Kingdom of God isn’t so much like a huge bombastic rock concert as it is more like a choir singing in harmony sometimes and having a random jam session the rest of the time. It’s a hidden treasure and it’s worth finding.

The lecture last night was a lesson in apologetics. The guest speaker, Dr. Christopher Kaczor, talked about the 7 Big Myths About the Catholic Church. He focused on myths believed by secular society and the common theme about all of them is that the world perceives the Catholic Church as an embodiment of hate: It hates science, women, happiness, gays, gay marriage, children (because of the sex abuse scandals) and love (because of its opposition to contraception).

The truth, of course, is that the Catholic Church is a church of authentic love. The Church embraces a relationship between faith and reason. Many of the biggest names in scientific history are Catholic. I also learned that many cathedrals in Europe also functioned as solar observatories. The Church loves women. (Hello, Mary Queen of Heaven and Earth!?) The Church takes care of the world by serving people in need, therefore making billions of people worldwide happy here on Earth. We also teach about forgiveness, the dangers of greed, and gratitude. We celebrate a thanksgiving with every Eucharist.

We love everyone without exception, but that love doesn’t come in the form of just being nice all the time. I can’t speak for all Catholics, but know that when it comes to the LGBT community, most Catholics are trying to understand it. We are not being bigots when we say that we oppose gay marriage. We just want people to understand that there is a more authentic love out there. No the Church is not always nice. But as they say in Into the Woods “Nice is different than good.”

If there’s one myth/cliche that I hate seeing in TV is the pedophilic/evil priest because while there are issues with that going on in the Church, the world wants to make everyone think that all priests are perverts with issues. That is so so far from the truth. There is no relation between abuse and celibacy. There are also other kinds of people who do the exact same thing but don’t get the same attention. I always believe in speaking well of others and like to see the good in people. I wish more people could do the same and be forgiving about this. You can’t dismiss an entire religion for the actions of a few.

The truth is that the Church loves children and the family. Children are a source of joy and help us to be more grateful. They help us to grow in humility and teach us the value of life and give it meaning again.

The best thing I got out of Cafe Catholica overall were all the new experiences. I sang in a choir. I made new friends. I had a major boost in my social life in the form of hanging out with my new friends. I learned new songs. I learned to be brave and take risks. I learned to find happiness in setbacks. I learned to not be afraid. I learned to move on from my past. I learned to value myself. I didn’t learn these things from any one homily or something a guest lecturer said, but from all of these experiences. I learned these new things by doing them.

If there’s one thing I want to say to anyone who wants to be more involved with their diocese, I highly recommend volunteering for events like this. Take a chance and try something new, like singing in the choir or being a lector at your parish. Be a Catechist or part of youth ministry. You never know where these wonderful new things will take you.

 

Regardless of Warnings, The Future Doesn't Scare Me At All

Looking into the future of the Catholic Church is a lot like somebody wondering if they’ll ever find love again after a series of heartbreaks. It doesn’t seem like any good will come with all of the persecution, the indifferent (at best) or hostile (at worse) politics and entitled brats that populate the majority of Tumblr who attack the Church on a daily basis. And yet, in spite of everything, I still feel like there is hope.

 

There is hope for a bright future when you see young adults spreading their love for the Church in New Media:

 

 

There is hope when the entire world can relate to the joy found in the eyes of a Catholic priest who happens to be a Star Wars geek:

 

There is hope when even the combox trolls of YouTube see evidence of God through his servants: 

Photo courtesy of Introvert Apologist. The term you're looking for is "Father What a Waste"

Photo courtesy of Introvert Apologist. The term you’re looking for is “Father What a Waste”

 

I see hope for the future of the Church every time I staff at Awakening retreats.

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Copyright to the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston office of Young Adults and Campus Ministry.

 

In the hundreds of people in my diocese attending Mass on a Monday afternoon for Cafe Catholica. 

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Posted with permission from the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston

 

In the millions of young adults who march for the rights of unborn children…

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In the millions of people who come to World Youth Day

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It’s too easy to be pessimistic, even fatalistic. Sure, all these people show up to these events, but how Catholic are they really? God only knows. We can’t write off people who want to be part of the Church, but seemingly falter. We can’t write off Pope Francis and say that he’s a bad pope in spite of his flaws. We can’t dig foxholes where none are required.

GK Chesterton said “Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.”

Like people who’ve been burned by love affairs gone wrong, many Catholics build up walls and put armor around their hearts, keeping outsiders at arms’ reach and daring the world to prove them wrong. They do this in the name of protecting themselves and defending the church, but in truth, it’s a very selfish action. When we find people who want to understand the Church more or even your everyday “spiritual but not religious,” we have to consider where they’re coming from in order to evangelize. If we approach them with all of our armor, it just ends up alienating them.

A small example can be found in something I encountered recently. A person who considered themselves spiritual but not religious posted a quote that I found inspiring, but in the caption, they asked why religion and philosophy were taught instead of affirmations. Being someone who went to a Catholic college and minored in philosophy, I felt like I needed to defend what I learned. But I did so with as much love for the person I was commenting to as much as the love I had for the things that made me who I am.

I said: “I love your quote because it reflects on what I’ve been experiencing recently, but part of my transformation happened through what I learned from religion and philosophy. There is beauty to be found in them. It’s through my faith that I gained the courage and the desire to change. It’s through philosophy that I learned what kind of ideals I should strive for. I definitely agree that having an attitude of gratitude helps as well.”  I was glad to see that they responded positively to what I said.

 

Be not afraid, fellow Catholics. We are in a future not our own, but if we approach the future with an open heart and focus on just being friends with those we dialogue with as opposed to turning people into “projects,” then the future of the Catholic Church will be a bright one.

Unconventional Happiness: Things I Learned at Cafe Catholica

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Lawrence.

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Lawrence. If you’re wondering where I am, I’m hidden behind the post in the choir loft.

The topic for last night’s lecture at Cafe Catholica focused on happiness and the decisions we make. I also did a bit of Mass Journaling this time. The readings from yesterday were part of the “tough love” readings in the Bible that many people would rather avoid reading, but as Fr. Ray Cook (the celebrant) said “We have to walk through the bad things. The readings always have things to tell us, but we always focus on ourselves, on things that make noise.” Although he never quoted Mother Teresa, I felt like Fr. Ray’s homily echoed the idea of God speaking in the silence of our hearts.

Last week was a real treat for me because everything was new and exciting, but this week, I had to take a step back and not get overly excited. Part of that meant trying not to sing as loudly so that I could harmonize with the choir (a problem stemming back from my children’s choir days). And when I didn’t socialize as much as I did last week, I accepted that sometimes, it’s better to just enjoy whatever small talk you make with people. You might find things about your friends that you never knew and will learn to appreciate.

Tonight’s speaker was Sr. Mary Guido, a Cenacle sister. She opened her lecture with this question: Have you ever allowed God to ask “What do you need from me? What are you looking for? What do you want?” The answer of course, can be found with the classic St. Augustine quote “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” God calls us to happiness, to be one with Christ, to have a union with God, others, ourselves, and all creation.

The rest of the lecture looked into religious life and decisions in the modern world. It amazed me at how much of religious life can apply to laypeople like me. An example of this can be found within the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. These vows aren’t just for priests, monks, and nuns, but for everyone. The vow of chastity means loving completely, without exception. There’s a wonderful video from Fr. Robert Barron that explains the kind of love Sr. Mary is talking about. It’s not the romantic, emotional love that’s seen in a Nicholas Sparks movie. It’s an unconditional kind of love that takes us outside of ourselves. The vow of poverty means remembering that the things in our lives are not our gods. The things that we want to have are just means, and not ends. And the vow of obedience meas listening to God, completely surrendering ourselves to Him.

How does all this apply to discernment in the modern world? The word “discern,” according to Sr. Mary, means to sift out things, getting to the heart of the matter. It’s not necessarily “What will I do?” because we are all called to be saints. We are all working towards Heaven. The real question is “How?” Echoing what Fr. Ray said before, Sister Mary said to notice times of peace within ourselves. We won’t always get it right, but our actions will either lead us closer to God and away from him. She recommends keeping a record for a month and see what caused anxiety and what things caused peace within our daily lives. She also recommends getting a spiritual director. She ended the lecture with a quote from Fr. Pedro Arrupe:

“Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love and it will decide everything.”

 

 

"But They're Not My Type!" – Balancing Standards and Flexibility in Dating

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As many of you know, I’m a huge fan of Taylor Swift. I really hope I’m not jumping the gun when I say this, but as I showed in a previous post, I’ve been very supportive of Taylor Swift’s recent relationship with Calvin Harris. Her recent posts on Instagram (as well as one post from Calvin Harris) has only made me all the more excited. But what makes this particular relationship interesting, aside from the fact that Taylor is being open about it, is that before they met, Calvin Harris didn’t consider Taylor Swift to be his “type.” Given what I know about Taylor’s relationship history, Calvin wasn’t someone she would’ve considered dating in the past, either.

We all have this image of the “type” of significant other we want to have. We have an idea of what love is and what the perfect relationship is. If you asked me what my type was, I would show you a picture of my favorite vampire from Buffy, the one with the bleach blonde hair, gorgeous blue eyes, and bad boy attitude all wrapped up in a black leather duster. My relationship history, however, has been very different from that. I dated different types of guys in the past: a dry-witted boy next door who liked The Godfather, a wild-eyed bad boy that always made me laugh, and a guy that I met in a ballroom dance class who couldn’t sing on-key to save his life. Growing up, my “type” was similar to the one I still have, except I wanted a nice, romantic guy who was taller than me and a big brain. There were parts of my “type” in each of the guys I crushed on and/or dated, but none of those guys were everything I pictured in my head.

It’s one thing to have standards when it comes to dating. We need to make sure that we’re safe, after all. But life can’t be like The Ugly Truth or Hallmark’s The Wish List, where a girl has a long list of things she wants in a guy and judges every guy she meets based on that one list. When it comes to dating, you gotta be flexible to some extent. What exactly is a “deal breaker” for you? There are things to keep in mind, like making sure that we stay chaste when dating and not go after married men, but we shouldn’t turn down a guy just because he doesn’t dress nicely or likes a kind of music that we’d rather not listen to.

Dating in the 21st century has turned into a balancing act: making sure you stay safe, but at the same time being willing to risk your heart. You have to think ahead, but enjoy the moment at the same time. Most of all, you have to be sure that you still love God and yourself and not make an idol out of the person that you’re dating or the ideal relationship you have in your head.

Relationships aren’t fairy tales that end with a happily ever after. They’re messy and broken and change as we get older. Relationships are a lot like this spoken word poem by Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye:

The best advice I can give about dating and relationships is to offer it up to God. Just when you start to accept that you’re single and not ready for a relationship, He’ll probably turn around and surprise you. After all, as they say “Man makes plans, God laughs.”

 

Seize the Moment Because Tomorrow You Might Be Dead: Things I Learned At Cafe Catholica

Last night, I ventured into my diocese’s annual Cafe Catholica, a young adult event that takes place in the summer. Throughout the month of July, hundreds of people come to a church in my area for Mass, dinner, and a lecture. I wasn’t just there for the lecture, though. I was part of the choir! I sang my heart out alongside my friends and marveled at the beauty of the church I was singing in.

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Reasons I love being Catholic: The many, many, many gorgeous churches!

 

The night started with my friends and me singing praise and worship songs before Mass started. I pretty much sang by ear because I hadn’t sung in choir since I was a kid. But I felt like I was performing, looking out at the crowd in front of me. Best of all, I was doing this for God, not just for myself. After Mass ended, there was a dinner. I didn’t eat much given my allergies, but I was glad to find some friends from retreats as well as fellow UST alums who were either with friends or volunteering. I even made some new friends and managed to avoid causing any drama in spite of the fact that I fangirl squeed over Taylor Swift and Calvin Harris with one of my friends and argued with someone over Doctor Who companions. (Shipping and fandoms are serious business with me.)

The lecture last night talked about authentic love and how it’s more than just a feeling. Authentic love is a reflection of God, a reflection of the Trinity. She mentioned a lot of CS Lewis and Pope Benedict, both of which scored major points with me. Overall, I felt like I had a great time.

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I’ve been complaining about how I wish my life were different on this blog a lot. The biggest thing I learned from the Mass, the dinner, and the lecture at Cafe Catholica last night was that I needed to enjoy the moment. I tend to go into events like this with a lot of expectations only to end up disappointed. This time, I just went with the flow and left the event feeling wonderful. Although there was wifi, I chose not to seek out a way to log into it because I was in a church and felt like going online, either before the Mass or during the lecture, felt improper. I also chose not to focus on the past, either, because I was there to try new things. I told myself “You are going to sing your heart out and blow their socks off!” And that’s exactly what I did.

I learned that I was getting better at making small talk. That there were other people who were going through the same thing that I was going through. Most of all, I learned that when you live in the moment, really cherishing it instead of hiding behind a smartphone or a layer of apathy/disgust/boredom, you find new, wonderful things.

So, as my favorite Slayer says “Seize the moment because tomorrow, you might be dead.”