busted halo annual campaign
Busted Halo
feature: entertainment & lifestyle
July 8th, 2011

My Double Life

 
facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

doublelife-flash

I never really knew what the word Catholic meant until I went to Stanford. In my previous Catholic school life it was never a label, never anything I would be judged for. It was just what everybody was.

The “college me” came ready for changes, wanting to learn from new perspectives and walks of life. So I made tons of friends, raging with the best of them. Just in my own undercover Catholic way.

When friends shared post-hookup details that made me incredibly uncomfortable at brunch, I’d get up and get more food. When people vehemently put down religion in class, I busied myself with an important text. I toed a fine line between staying true to my personal boundaries and being like any other Stanford student. But I felt myself breaking under the pressure.

Sophomore year I jumped into Catholic community involvement. I wanted to reground myself, maybe even find some friends like me who liked to have fun but had certain limits. But quite honestly, Catholic community life felt like my other life in reverse. I was only showing one side of myself. The other hid quietly in a shadowed corner in the back of my mind, waiting until it was safe to reveal itself again.

I couldn’t see my Catholic friends ever understanding my non-Catholic friends and vice versa, and I was terrified of being judged by either. Maybe that makes me a coward.

But all I knew was that I needed both. I needed an outlet for my religion. I needed drinking and going-out buddies. And most of all, I needed good friends who would listen to me and be there for me in their own ways. So I fought to keep both the only way I knew how.

Something snapped

“In one world, I had wonderful friends and sorority sisters who weren’t Catholic and didn’t really understand how key it was in my life, while in the other I went to church every Sunday by myself. In one world, I was an incredibly active Stanford student; in the other, I felt lonely and misunderstood.”

Senior year something snapped.

It was approximately 5 p.m. in an English section when I found myself wanting to smack the smiles off of two kids sitting across a table from me.

“It’s really not that hard to see,” one of them began, “In The Faerie Queene, all of the villains can be traced back to evils in the Catholic Church.”

Don’t take it personally, Courtney, I said to myself, preemptively quieting a defensive reaction. He’s right. It’s just a book.

“Greed, breaches of power, this bulls#*t of papal infallibility. When you think of just how much money and power that Church has…”

All right, you’ve made your point. We get it.

And then one guy proceeded to cross the line with a joke about pedophilia.

Everyone around him laughed. I stayed quiet. Wanting to hit him. At the same time wanting to cry.

Tuning him out, I opened a new Word doc. Started typing furiously. Didn’t stop until I finally noticed people around me starting to get up and leave.

Navigating to the Stanford Daily News homepage, I copied and pasted the email address of the Opinions Editor.

Ready. Send. Go.

I woke up the next morning with lead weights in my stomach. Rolling out of bed at 6:30 after a fruitless night’s sleep, I brewed my morning hazelnut coffee, trying desperately to think about anything else.

An hour later I was still scared to death to turn on my computer. Finally taking the deepest of all deep breaths, I fell into my zebra chair and opened a new Safari tab, navigating to the Daily News website.

Well, there it was. Op-Ed: Silently Catholic, Pro-Life, and a Stanford Outcast, by Courtney Crisp. I felt my heart stop in my chest. Reread all of my words.

I reread how I often felt alone in my faith:

It is at times like the Roe v. Wade memorial when I feel the deepest sense of isolation. I am not fiery enough to stand out there on the White Plaza grass on the pro-life side. I don’t like creating conflict or focusing on doctrine when it comes to religion; that’s just not what it means to me. For me, religion was always more about love and bringing people together than it was about driving them apart.

How I revealed my double life:

I ended up choosing to exist in two worlds. In one world, I had wonderful friends and sorority sisters who weren’t Catholic and didn’t really understand how key it was in my life, while in the other I went to church every Sunday by myself. In one world, I was an incredibly active Stanford student; in the other, I felt lonely and misunderstood.

I couldn’t believe I had put myself in such a ridiculously vulnerable position. I felt my entire body grow rigid as I noticed the 20+ reader responses growing by the minute in my inbox.

There was definitely some negative feedback. But that much I had expected.

They ultimately faded into the background, ceasing to matter. They weren’t the people I was writing for anyway.

I hope you remember me from that class we took last quarter. This morning I read your editorial in the Daily, and I can’t tell you how much it meant to me.

Tears started brewing behind my exhausted eyes.

I hope that you find encouragement having faith in a very secular place, but I just wanted to let you know that you are not alone.

I finished the last of the emails with tears streaming down my face. So I wasn’t alone. There were so many others like me. Hiding in the shadows, keeping their religion to themselves.

The truth was out and I had survived. Both sides now knew how I was feeling, of hidden dilemmas I had struggled with for four years. I felt a huge weight lift knowing that I could focus a whole lot less on pretending to be someone I wasn’t and more on working on the person I was, cherishing the friendships I had made along the way.

 
facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
The Author : Courtney Crisp
Courtney Crisp is a recent graduate of Stanford University where she studied English and modern languages. She currently lives and works in Southern California but travels every chance she gets. Guilty pleasures include, but are not limited to, coffee, the beach, Los Angeles Mexican food, and watching hours of basketball. Follow me on my blog at: courtneycrisp.blogspot.com!
See more articles by (8).
Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Hannah C.

    Courtney, wow. Do you have a blog or something I can follow?

    • http://www.facebook.com/courtney.crisp.10 Courtney Crisp

      I will soon! Stay tuned!!!! :)

  • Scott Pichard

    Great article Courtney! It is so honest and reflective. It is amazing how diverse our country is and how life setting directly contributes to experience and self-knowledge. God has given you a great gift in communicating through writing. Hope to see you soon, Scott Pichard

  • Janna

    Courtney, you just summed up everything I had been feeling during my four years in college, and even more so the past 2 years after graduation. I hate to admit it, but I cried reading your article because it hits so close to home. Thank you, for letting me know I’m not alone, and for being able to so easily put into words what I think so many people feel. I am definitely saving this article and passing it along to others. Thank You!!!

    -Janna

  • Brian Crisp

    Courtney–

    Well done, and obviously from the heart. I have forwarded to several of my friends whose kids will be attending University this fall.

  • Lindsay

    I, too, wrote an unpopular op-ed when I was in college. Mine was on modesty, though, and I was explicitly trying to promote my views; I was both attacked and supported. It takes courage to try to eliminate a double-life, but it’s so necessary. Congratulations on taking the plunge.

  • ml

    I completely understand where you’re coming from. I think part of the problem is that most Catholics are very quiet about their Catholicism, so the inbetween crowd that enjoys both the religious and secular sides of life appears to many people to be non-existent.

  • ml

    I completely understand where you’re coming from. I think part of the problem is that most Catholics are very quiet about their Catholicism, so the inbetween crowd that enjoys both the religious and secular sides of life appears to many people to be non-existent.

  • Manny Montanez

    Congratulations on a beautiful article, it brought tears to my eyes as it was written from your heart. I like you am so proud of sharing our faith in all walks of life. Courtney the inner strength you received to write and post this beautifully written message speaks volumes for the person you are and; the great gift you are to the world. May God bless you with continued good health and much prosperity, spiritually, personally and professionally. Manny

  • Gary Crisp

    Courtney great article! Their are so many in the same position across the world and believe by opening up you support them. God Bless.

  • Paula Fernandez-Baca

    You’re right, you are not alone. As a college student myself (Johns Hopkins), I constantly battle in this. Thank you for sharing this experience, it gives me alot of reassurance that I am not the only one who has experienced this.

  • James Leo Oliver

    I’m fifty-eight and I still feel this way. I work occasionally for a atheist friend who owns a guitar store and it’s very much about “sex,drugs and rock and roll” except he always wants to talk to me about God. I figure God has a reason for me to be there but it still feels very conflicted after attended daily Mass. God bless you.

  • Mary Ann

    Great article! It is hard to to be Catholic today. Catholics are attacked on so many sides. The sins of a few are wrongfully attributed to the whole Church and standing up to admit you are Catholic can be scary in some crowds. God bless you for speaking out and encouraging others to be proud of their Catholic heritage.

  • Stephen

    Wow….what a great article.

    I am a youth group volunteer and we were just talking last week in a planning meeting how we wanted to do a lesson this year on what we called “putting on the mask”. Basically living two different lives…one with friends and one privately or with close family.

    I think we will certainly share this article with them.

    Thanks!

  • Jaime

    I am so proud of you! What an awesome young lady!
    I am a 33 yo mom and wife who was once in your shoes.
    Just this past winter, I gave a talk at our Christ Renews
    Weekend describing how alone I felt in college. I, too, had my sorority and “social circle,” but spiritually, I felt alone. In my talk I quoted the poem Footprints…in retrospect, I realize the Holy Spirit was carrying me when I felt most alone. Love seeing the Spirit shine in you, girlie! I’d go to Mass with you any day of the week!!! Thanks for sharing…you make my heart happy!

  • Shea

    >>I couldn’t see my Catholic friends ever understanding my non-Catholic friends and vice versa, and I was terrified of being judged by either. Maybe that makes me a coward.

    I’ve also lived in both worlds. But there’s one thing I’ve learned: If you have friends who are judging you because of who you are and what you believe, then they’re not really friends (that’s on the Catholic *and* secular side!). You’ll be accepted and loved by those that truly matter.

    Don’t ever be afraid of being who you are. You’ll be happier if you’re true to yourself.

  • Doug

    I second Bill’s thanks. I, too, felt alone as a Catholic student on a very secular campus (University of Iowa). Unfortunately, rather than stand fast, when I reached the stomach-churning breaking point you describe so well, I broke. I caved. And it was nearly a decade before I truly found my way back to the embrace of the Church, thanks to the wonderful woman I ended up marrying.

    I’m glad to hear from somebody who made the right choice.

  • Bill

    Thank you so much for this piece, Courtney. I too went back and forth trying to find a balance between the secular party life that was so promoted and the spiritual life I was raised in. Ultimately my spiritual life suffered greatly for a number of years, and still has not recovered fully. It is reassuring though to know there are others in a similar boat.

powered by the Paulists