I left home at age 18; headed for college that was basically paid for by my face.. It was the most wonderful liberating experience of my life! I’m certain my parents felt the same way about their lives as I was leaving, because while charming as I could be, I was a stressor to my parents all of high school. I think they were pretty much ready to pass the torch to the world to take over for them. I couldn’t have been more fine with this.
My first apartment had orange shag carpeting (which complimented our salmon colored sectional couch that was donated to us by my manager at a pizza joint.) I’m pretty sure we vacuumed up sand in the carpet eternally, because the previous renters had children that would dump their shoes out on the carpet after playing at the park. The best part about my first slice of independence from my parents, were the hissing cockroaches on the outside steps of the complex which gave a foreshadowing of what was to come inside our third story unit. Roaches EVERYWHERE. Little ones, tall ones, jumping ones, small ones. Ones that lived in our boxes and scattered the minute you opened them, ones that preferred the kitchen… ya know, just an extra added bonus which mortified us just enough to adopt a cat to eat all the bugs.
I lived with 2 of my high school friends who were also attending the same art school located a glorious hour away from our hometown and our parents. I believe after we were all settled, I didn’t call my mom for an entire month until she left a passive aggressive message on my answering machine about never calling her. I think we both needed that break and our relationship changed for the better being apart.
My college job was waiting tables with my sister Leah at her restaurant she had worked at for years. To this day, she has made more money being a waitress than I ever did with my degree. I hated waiting tables with a passion. I’m one of those people who doesn’t have equal control over both sides of my body and wasn’t too coordinated with the huge tray I had to carry. I hated every second and wanted to walk out. But alas, I had rent to pay now. I was a big kid.
I’ll never forget the day this hippie guy with dread locks and a hemp necklace came into my restaurant and left me a poem with his tip. He went to my school and completely schmoozed me. Poetry? Hello!! That was the beginning of me dating my classmates. Of course it didn’t work out. My “Astrological Signs Birthday Book” pointed out that Scorpio’s and Capricorn’s would never make it anyways. That was practically my bible my first year in college. All sorts of New Agey stuff was introduced to me that first year. It was like a fascinating glimpse into the world for me after having been sheltered in Catholic school my whole life, as street smart as I thought I was during that time. Art School was crazy!
We had such an interesting class equipped with the quintessential goth kid, some witches, hippies (me), some jocks, kids whose parents paid their rent and didn’t have to work, kids who worked and went to school, punk kids, skater dudes, and The Christians. Oh, “The Christians” were the fundamental fun crushers! They were always inviting us to their worship prayer sessions and asking us if we’ve “accepted Jesus Christ as our personal Savior” and such. And of course I would scoff it off saying “My dudes, I’m Catholic. That’s pretty much the top of the totem pole of Christianity…duh.” Of course I’m paraphrasing. But no wonder Catholics have such a bad rap sometimes because here, you had a non practicing fallen away Catholic representing the faith to a bunch of people who already disliked Catholics. I think that is the case for most of the bad reps of Catholicism. You gotta be careful who you speak to. Any who. That was me, acting cocky and inviting people to parties at our apartment and loving my freedom and my sins while still claiming my Catholic label.
At one point after my sister’s ordeal with her husband, she gently mentioned to me; “Spring, maybe you should just date one person at a time. Like just pick someone and stay with that person for a while. Maybe be exclusive.” I had a tendency to not settle, like ever when it came to relationships. And so I considered what she said and took her advice picking one of my friends to settle with. Shawn. He was punk, had a few tattoos and piercings which was great because we had matching eyebrow rings. By this time I was 19 and Shawn was a tough guy. Ya know, a guy who wanted to “punch anyone who looked at me” type of guy. That was cool to me. No one had ever been jealous for me. He was also the first guy to tell me he loved me. He had cheated on me once before when a classmate of ours kissed him and he kissed her back, but he totally made up for it saying “He’s never met anyone like me and he wouldn’t let me go without a fight.” Like literally wouldn’t let me leave his premises until I accepted his apology. He locked the door and I was trapped. No one had ever fought for me before! He was equally resistant of The Christians as I was, thinking they were all a bunch of freaks wanting us to feel guilty for the things we liked. Shawn’s fallen away Baptist parents adored me. They couldn’t believe he had scored this “little Catholic girl” and they wanted to bring me into the family right.
Shawn and I talked about marriage (even named our future kids) and I believe when he asked my dad for my hand at age 19 (per my request he didn’t think he should have to) my dad wasn’t super easy on him. But my mom bought me a wedding dress anyway and all my dishes and a hutch to hold it all in and we were to be saving money for our big day. My parents were not sure about Shawn but they never let me know. I know every parent hopes and prays their child is making the right decision. I’m certain my parents had all forces going out in prayer for me, while still letting me find my way…
Shawn liked to use the money he made for more tattoos instead of putting it in our wedding fund. I remember his dad went gambling one night at the casino and won Shawn enough money to finally buy my ring. Before he officially proposed, I found out the most devastating news of my life from one of his family members. The person I was supposed to marry had a secret past I’d never known before. One that made me ashamed to be associated with him. Of course when I found out this news we were hours away at his parents house and once again I was trapped and couldn’t leave. I couldn’t call my parents because then they would tell me to leave him and I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to be in charge of my decisions. Eventually Shawn’s parents found out I had learned his secret and they blew it off as if it was nothing, denying the severity of the situation. I was so torn. I had spent almost a year with this person who I thought I was supposed to marry and he wasn’t who he said he was. I mean, I picked a friend to date and thought I was doing it all the right way this time! We were so serious that it was hard to separate that from the situation because I felt so committed already. So instead I chose to forgive him for lying to me and tried to carry on like normal. He eventually proposed to me with his opening line being, “Can I trust you?” …Me? He wanted to know if he could trust me??? But I said yes to being with him forever.
From that point on, all we did was fight. Our wedding plans became him planning his bachelor party which sounded more like cheating on me, and I felt belittled. Trapped. It was like, once I had learned of his past, the true person was revealed to me. But I wanted to prove to my parents I knew what I was doing… I didn’t want to be wrong! They never knew what I was keeping from them. I felt I had to figure it out by myself… which was unbelievably hard.
Shawn slowly started to seclude me from my family. He didn’t like me being around them and he stopped coming with me to my family events. I noticed this and started to wonder if I was doing the right thing. I thought I had loved him. But I wasn’t so sure anymore… One day I saw a commercial advertising some Christian CD’s and … “Shout to the Lord” was playing on my TV and it brought tears to my eyes. I instantly wanted to go to my local Catholic Church and sit there and pray… I even drove there only to find the doors locked. I remember coming back to my apartment and Shawn (being let in by my roommates) was there and he said, “Why on earth would you go to church?” He was not happy with that idea and truly believed we should not have “God governing what we knew in our hearts to be right”. We got to make up our own rules. He was not open to ever going to church and there was a little part of me that possibly wanted to explore that again in the future…
Around this time I was working a new job as server at a steak house. There was this one guy who started working there after I was hired. He had moved back home after living in Colorado…his name was Joseph. He just had this way about him. This confidence. This humor. I learned he was just a year older than me and had gone to a local Catholic high school, which for some reason intrigued me because that already meant we had similarities. He ran my food for me sometimes, and got down bread boxes for me… Ok, so no big deal right? I found that when we rolled silverware as side work together, I would hide my engagement ring which confused me and made me feel guilty all at the same time. Joseph really didn’t pay too much attention to me other than speak in movie lines all the time which made me roll my eyes and laugh at how funny he thought he was. I even tried to set up my roommate with him but she declined! I was shockingly offended that she couldn’t see what an amazing catch he was!
I took mental notes of all of this. Shawn and I would fight the same fights all the time. They never got resolved and it was exhausting. Would my life with him be like that? Would it be better after the wedding? I thought of my sister Leah and her telling me love didn’t have to be hard… But I was so scared! I had a wedding dress already! And a hutch!! I was worried my parents would say, “I told you so” or be so disappointed in me for getting this far before realizing Shawn wasn’t the one. I had been with the same guy for a year and I felt like an old maid, which is ridiculous because I was barely over 20. I really didn’t think I had much to offer anymore and after being with Shawn for so long (in my book), I really felt my confidence was zero. I knew in my heart of hearts I had to make a choice. And soon.
I decided to do something I hadn’t done in YEARS. I prayed. And I prayed big. And specific! Like “zeroed in specific”. My prayer was articulate and heartfelt. It went like this: “Lord, I know I haven’t prayed in a really long time. I don’t even know if you are there anymore, but I need you. If I am not meant to marry Shawn, will you have Joseph come in to work tonight?” (Joseph had the day off.) I know. An impossible, outlandish request. But I needed an obvious sign. My whole world depended on it.
I was cleaning off a table about 2 hours later and looked up right as the big wooden doors swung open and in walks Joseph. I knew instantly that this was my answer from God and that no matter how foolish I felt, I knew what I had to do. The blast to my reality and senses that a prayer was answered so specifically for me, was the craziest feeling I have ever felt!
I had courage that came from somewhere all of a sudden, and so I went over to him as he stood by the hostess desk. I took his arm while turning our backs on the people up front, and I showed Joseph my ring and said: “I’m engaged and I don’t want to be. Can I talk to you?”
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