The National Catholic Review

How’s it going? I ask the college student passing my desk at the library. Same old, same old, she sighs, then pauses. But that can be a good thing. What a joy to see such wisdom in a young person, I think to myself. It took me so long to realize the blessings of a same old, same old existence.

In my 20’s, I was a major adventure hound. You name the trend and I jumped on board. Sneaking out of the dorm and partying all night? Did that. Getting chased by the National Guard during peace demonstrations? Did that. Experimenting with illegal substancesand inhaling? I was there.

I was a wild woman. If a man caught my eye, I pursued him shamelessly. When I was 19, I developed a crush on my French professor and showed up at his door with a plate of homemade cookies. I relished the looks of shock on my roommates’ faces when I later confided that he and I had become lovers.

Although I had attended Catholic school and knew the rules inside and out, when I went away to college, I shrugged off the dictates of my faith like a snake sheds its skin. My favorite hobby was shoplifting. In the days before department stores attached security devices to garments, I once tried on a bathing suit, put on my clothing over it, then left the store gleeful. When my conscience troubled me, I assured myself that I was having my revenge on an unjust economic system. After all, the stores were robbing customers by charging too much for their goods, so I was just evening the score.

I did everything I could to avoid ordinary routines. When female friends graduated from college and headed to the altar, and eventually the maternity ward, I made a beeline to graduate school to study philosophy, poring over weighty tomes and smoking endless packs of cigarettes while debating the finer points of existentialism.

To my parents’ horror, I did my shopping in an Army/Navy salvage store near the university, showing up in their living room carrying a gas mask bag as a purse. I scorned the tameness of my parents’ world, which included Tupperware parties, wedding showers, crossword puzzles and all the everyday things that normal people did. My life, I decided, would be filled with adventures and mystery.

My love for the adventurous life turned sour, however, when I had a nasty brush with the law in a dreary border town in Texas. My boyfriend and I were traveling from Gainesville, Fla., to San Francisco for a summer vacation, and we swung into Mexico for a few hours. As we crossed the border back into Texas, the officers eyed our VW bug suspiciously and then ordered us to get out. We stood by, wide-eyed and frightened, while they searched every nook and cranny of the car, finally unearthing a small candy tin containing a smidgen of marijuana. We were charged with smuggling illegal substances across the border, handcuffed and escorted to jail.

That night in the cell, I lay on the bony cot and cried until my tear ducts ran dry. I had never realized how precious freedom was until it was wrenched away from me. As I lay there envisioning myself locked away in jail for the rest of my life, with all my hopes and dreams washed down the drain, normalcy suddenly looked like the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow of tears.

The next morning, we were released from our cells long enough to hire a lawyer and call my boyfriend’s uncle, who graciously agreed to wire us money to cover the fee. Then we appeared, trembling and weeping, before the judge, who miraculously took pity on us and let us go with just a stern lecture. Since we were heavily in debt for legal costs, we hightailed it back to Florida and got jobs.

I never again dabbled in illegal substances, and I gave up my penchant for shoplifting, vowing that I would avoid even the tiniest brush with the law. Before long, I started looking for a nice man with whom I could settle down and live a happy life.

I married that man when I was 35, and today I am so ordinary that I could easily sit down to tea with Mrs. Cleaver and not miss a beat. Mornings I eat a sensible breakfast, then head to my part-time job at the library, where I pause for a mid-morning cup of tea. Afternoons I hunker down at my home computer to write. Evenings find me doing the crossword puzzle and heading to bed early.

If my younger self could see me now, she’d no doubt run screaming from the room. I have become the person she feared, an ordinary, day-to-day lady who carries a big, comfy purse in which I stash goodies for my goddaughter. I get a kick out of attending baby showers, especially when the guest of honor holds up a miniscule garment and all the women go oooh in tandem. I appreciate a decent piece of Tupperware.

If I could have a word with that younger version of my self, I would tell her that, in the midst of my humdrum life, there breathes a deep sigh of contentment. I am well aware that the future may hold more adventures and extraordinary times, perhaps illnesses, tearful vigils and desperate rounds of prayers. But for now, I am a big fan of the same old, same old. I’ve had my fill of adventures. And each night I thank God for another ordinary day.

Lorraine V. Murray is the author of Why Me? Why Now? Finding Hope When You Have Breast Cancer (Ave Maria Press) and Grace Notes (Resurrection Press). She works in the Pitts Theology Library at Emory University.

Comments

Fr. Jim Keating OSA | 3/17/2004 - 10:50am
In the description of her many youthful indiscretions as a "wild woman", Lorraine V. Murray just happens to mention that she had an affair with her college French professor. She then went back to her dorm and bragged about her conquest to her roomates. I wonder how long it took before her fling with the professor became known. Was the professor ever reprimanded for his breach of professional boundaries with an immature and impressionable 19 year old ? Was the professor suspended from his teaching position? We don't know. Nor will we ever know because - to my knowledge - no comprehensive study of sexual misconduct in other professions (such as teachers, counselors, doctors and lawyers) has ever been undertaken, like the John Jay Study of the Roman Catholic priesthood. Not until similar studies are done of other professions will we recognize that the incidences of sexual misconduct among Catholic clergy have been greatly exaggerated.

Fr. Jim Keating OSA | 3/17/2004 - 10:50am
In the description of her many youthful indiscretions as a "wild woman", Lorraine V. Murray just happens to mention that she had an affair with her college French professor. She then went back to her dorm and bragged about her conquest to her roomates. I wonder how long it took before her fling with the professor became known. Was the professor ever reprimanded for his breach of professional boundaries with an immature and impressionable 19 year old ? Was the professor suspended from his teaching position? We don't know. Nor will we ever know because - to my knowledge - no comprehensive study of sexual misconduct in other professions (such as teachers, counselors, doctors and lawyers) has ever been undertaken, like the John Jay Study of the Roman Catholic priesthood. Not until similar studies are done of other professions will we recognize that the incidences of sexual misconduct among Catholic clergy have been greatly exaggerated.

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