I met Colin the first day of our freshman year, at the Keough-Welsh Fam social before Domerfest. We started talking right away, dating unofficially in October, and officially in November. Twenty-eight months later we were officially engaged, and 10 months after that we were married, on January 9 of this year.
While people’s responses to our relationship timeline were never hostile, they were frequently misinformed and nearly always colored by their own assumptions. I want to encourage my brothers and sisters to recognize some of these assumptions and try living without them.
“Above all, do not lie to yourself,” says Father Zosima in The Brothers Karamazov. “A man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point where he does not discern any truth either in himself or anywhere around him, and thus falls into disrespect towards himself and others. Not respecting anyone, he ceases to love…”
One of the most prevalent postures I have observed in my peers is passivity, aided by an incomplete understanding of discernment and God’s will. Especially at Notre Dame, where people have such good intentions but little time for self-reflection, it is easy to fall into dishonesty. In short, many people talk about discernment too much and do it too little. (Hence the shock at a couple who actually reached the end of discernment and made a decision.)
It seems many people feel like they must be constantly “open.” Any new class might inspire a new passion (or job opportunity), any study abroad experience might provide, well, new experiences; how could you say no to anything? You might be turning down one of God’s possible plans for your life.
Other people have already commented on the busy character of life at Notre Dame and the need to say no, to carve out time for the essential things. I am mostly interested in how this broad “openness to experience,” not a bad thing in itself, masks a Peter Pan syndrome that affects nearly everyone we know.
When we continue to speak, à la Sunday school, as if God has a specific purpose for each of our moments, we liberate ourselves to do almost anything in the name of finding it out.
I do not doubt God has a will for our individual talents to be put to use in the world and for us to become certain types of people, but it’s time to stop speaking as if we actually seek God’s plan for our lives as much as we like to think we do. Too many of us, I think, actually embrace a Hakuna Matata or Che Será, Será worldview, perhaps under the illusion that they are Christian doctrines, and let the years pass us by.
To be fair, college is not an easy phase. Uncertainty is woven into the fabric of life. I am not blaming college students for all the question marks hanging over their heads. But I am saying it is unacceptable for young men and women to seek experience for experience’s sake, make jokes about #adulting and wanting to Netflix and chill and return to childhood spontaneity, and simultaneously to assume that they are on the path toward becoming mature and responsible adults. It does not just happen.
I was always amazed when friends and family members asked me, two years into dating Colin, “You know, not to pry or make you uncomfortable, but have you spoken about the future at all?” In fact, people still ask him, after we are married, if I am going to move with him when he goes to graduate school.
You have to talk about the future of your relationship if you want there to be one. You simply will not slide into readiness when you graduate, or reach some elusive age of maturity—25, 27, 30, 35? But this is what many otherwise intelligent college students assume.
For some reason, many of my peers are convinced that they will possess both the desire and the ability to “settle down” once they hit some threshold, inevitably, regardless of how they act in college. Let’s be honest. Most college grads face bleak futures if they are fooled into thinking that professional success, sexual experience, or “finding themselves” will make them happy. And the saddest fallacy of all is to believe that your individuality, your enjoyment of life, is sacrificed when you get married! It’s a false dichotomy—fun and independence now, adulthood … eventually. It makes responsibility disproportionately unappealing.
Be yourself, of course. Value your individuality, and strive to develop as a person, but please, do not be told what is most important by a culture that says you are mature enough to have sex with anyone but not mature enough to commit to anyone. It was not true about me or Colin, and it is not true about you, either.
Rebecca Devine can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.