Challenging Standards

Dellana K., Class of 2023

Wednesdays and Sundays were church days. Worshiping God on his holy day was vital to attending a private Catholic school. While pledging allegiance to my faith, I would sit in silence for an hour and thirty minutes, patiently waiting for the occasional hymn. I would attempt etching my name into the wooden pew, or fidget with the bulletin and missile. Communion arrived after repeatedly shifting my weight while kneeling, knowing it was disrespectful to sit while the body of Christ was being prepared. Here is when I would ask myself, “How many times do we need to consume the body of Christ?” But I decided to keep that to myself; it sounded like I was questioning my faith. After consuming the bread and wine that was often my breakfast to avoid being tardy to mass, the smell of incense would devour the car as my family and I left church. The ride home was the time to reflect on what we learned from today’s homily.

God had become a huge part of my life. Before I knew it, I was reading The Gospel of Luke at church, altar-serving, joining the choir, and attending Vacation Bible School. My school uniform essentially felt like a part of me: kilts, knee-highs and Oxfords on Wednesdays, skorts and polos on every other day. The dress code encouraged girls to follow particular standards: only pink or clear nails allowed, and pants were only for boys. I remember thinking that I could only express myself through my choice of earrings: my particular favorite pair was two peas in a pod. Whenever I thought about stepping outside of the path I felt that God had paved for me, I wondered what he would think of me. What would my punishment be? However, I remember mandatory confession days where I would make up something to confess to the priest. It was rude to say I had nothing to confess.

Catholicism had a negative impact on my upbringing, as it felt like conditioning. The misogynistic, homophobic, and racist beliefs that were forced upon me and my classmates was not the way I wanted to be shaped. By the end of middle school, I had officially decided that I wanted to follow my own beliefs. My family had simply done what they thought was right, as Catholicism had been a major part of their childhood. My baptism and eight years of consistent religious standards was comforting for them. But there cannot be change with repetition. The suppression I experienced inspired me to yearn for the outside world; the world without worrying about eternal damnation or a predetermined future. I realized that I create my future, and that growth comes from a lack of limitations. I was able to discover myself when freed from a limiting environment.