A Reflection on Opening Up
By Melissa Feito, a second-year Loretto Volunteer
During opening retreat at the Loretto Motherhouse last August, Loretto Volunteers received this advice: “Seek communities outside of your home community.”
It might sound a little pessimistic at first. Aren’t our Loretto communities supposed to be a place where we feel welcomed, supported and loved?
As a second-year Volunteer, I completely understood. Esther Perel, well-known psychotherapist, says that when you put all of your hopes, dreams and needs into one person, you put yourself under incredible stress, because no single human can ever check all of those boxes. I see community life in a similar way.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but in my first year as a Volunteer, I experienced incredible stress when my community was less than perfect. Which of course, it’s going to be! People are people, and they can’t be your best friends, roommates, spiritual community and sharers of all of your niche hobbies all at the same time. It’s too much pressure. So over time I learned to relax and enjoy my sometimes turbulent but lovely community for what it was.
When I started my second year, at the same placement and in the same city, but with a new community, I knew I couldn’t make the same mistake twice. To love, respect and better enjoy my community for its own traits, I’d have to find elsewhere to fill the needs my community can’t. Thus, began the awkward, life-giving agony of community shopping.
Most of us have had the luxury of having a built-in social marketplace through our early 20s: school. After graduation we’re kind of on our own. Which hasn’t been easy for me since I graduated in 2016. I am not a spontaneous person. I’m a planner, I very rarely do things if I’m unsure of the outcome. Also, I’m a notorious homebody. I’m not shy or socially anxious, but my aversion to taking risks makes it hard for me to meet new people and join new groups.
I’ve challenged myself to work past my old traits. First, I joined a book club. It is a fan site I’d been following since high school, but never had the guts to check it out. Turns out, I’m right at home. The group has motivated me to get out of my reading rut. Which makes me so happy, because I love to read, but sharing what you’re reading with others is even better.
The more intense journey I’ve embarked on is joining a musical group called Batala Washington, an all-woman, all-drum band that plays Afro-Brazilian music called samba reggae. I came across this group when I was reporting a piece for “Interfaith Voices.”
I absolutely was floored by the energy and the passion of these musicians, but the band was full. I’ve played in different musical ensembles ever since I was 15, and the ecstasy that comes with playing music with other people is something I sorely missed.
When the piece was finally ready to air, the band opened to new members. It was a coincidence made in paradise. After the three-month process of joining, I was assigned my own drum. Being in the band is a huge time commitment: four-hour rehearsals every Saturday morning on top of regular performances. But I’ve found an incredible camaraderie with these women that’s easily become the highlight of my week.
What’s next for me? It’s the hardest of all communities to find, a spiritual community. In college, I was part of an incredible community of Catholic students who challenged me to think critically and grow in my faith. Since my graduation, I haven’t found a place that has fed my soul as this group did. It takes a long time to gain trust in a community. And trust is imperative; if you can’t be spiritually and emotionally vulnerable with others, you can’t really connect to God through them. That’s still a lesson and a challenge on which I’m working.
I’ve worked really hard to push myself out of the house these past few months, but it’s never been to get away from my community at Junia House. We have many nights filled with delicious dinners, crafting paper snowflakes and intimate discussions.
I feel very grateful for my home community, and without the pressure and stress I mentioned earlier, I no longer feel like everything needs to be perfect. I can live and laugh with Leora, Ahna, Natalie and Melissa and love them for the unique and passionate people that they are.