Hello to all! I hope everyone has been having an amazing summer vacation, either patiently awaiting the arrival of their first day of college, or silently hoping for a few more weeks of relaxation before September 4th, the first day of classes at USD, arrives. Whatever situation you are in, whatever part of the world you are in, I hope there is no summertime sadness. (Unless it’s that catchy Lana Del Ray song that the radio stations keep playing, continue on with that.)
For me, this vacation has been one of summertime craziness. I have had a lot of stress recently due to some personal problems I have been dealing with: trying to save up money for my sophomore year, trying to get deeper into my faith, etc. But thankfully, all of my prayers were answered when I attended the Catholic youth conference USD hosts annually, Steubenville San Diego.
For those of you that don’t know, Steubenville is a weekend-long youth conference specifically for Catholic high school students, and now college students, that happens every summer. The Steubenville Conference started in Steubenville, Ohio at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, and now there are several Steubenvilles across the nation where they touch and change hundreds of thousands of lives. At every conference, there’s a bunch of cool speakers who tell you about the Church, different teachings, different attitudes and just life in general. There are also super awesome bands that perform amazing songs that get stuck in your head to the point where you are still singing them in your shower a week later. And of course, they are always chock full of so many young people with what we call the “Jesus high” – that high you feel after feeling God’s love for you, for humanity and the universe. This year at Steubenville San Diego, there were 5,400 young people in the Jenny Craig Pavilion! That was the first time I had ever seen the JCP filled to the brim with people, every seat with a person of God in it.
As most of you know, the University of San Diego is a private Catholic college, founded by the Society of the Sacred Heart, a group of sisters, back in 1949. You do not have to be Catholic to attend USD, but the identity as a religiously aware and diverse campus makes for great ways to begin conversations about other traditions and an amazing learning environment where everyone thinks differently. But like I said, as a Catholic university, it is a great place to host Steubenville San Diego – not only for some of the best college food in the nation (ranked 18th for best campus food according to Princeton Review 2014) or for the beautiful sights and topiaries (ranked 7th for most beautiful campus by Princeton Review 2014), but for that religious identity. (Let me tell you, it’s hard to not go to daily mass when the Immaculata is that gorgeous and that close to your English class that starts at nine in the morning.)
This was my second Steubenville, my first time going as a college student. You see, starting last year, they opened the conference to people who have attended college or have been out of high school over a year. So since I am a college student, obviously, I attended the Young Adult conference that was held in Shiley Theatre, the best theatre in the world. (I am a little biased, since I am a theatre major and will be performing on that stage soon. No big deal.)
At the Young Adult conference, I hung out with my friends from my parish, who were hilarious to sit next for the event, and also met some other incredible people from other parishes who I had some pretty deep conversations with! There was live music, a lot of singing and praising, an illusionist who did crazy things with a deck of cards (legitimately impossible things, I don’t even know how), and a couple of grand speakers who talked about things that related to our age group, like not falling to peer pressure, sticking to your faith no matter what the world tells you and self-acceptance. The self-acceptance talk was the one that hit home for me.
Self-esteem and self-acceptance are things that I have issues with ever since I was young. I have always wanted to make others happy and been a people-pleaser. I am also a perfectionist, so my best was never good enough to me because I was always worried about what others thought of me. I’ll admit, I still continue to have these problems today, when I am stressed or just feeling down. But when one of the speakers, Mary Bielski, started to tell her story of how she has dealt with that and how her relationship with God has changed her life, I thought to myself, “Hey, I should probably really listen to what she’s saying, because I am a younger Mary – a scared, little girl that thinks she’s not good enough for anyone.”
It made me realize that I should never honestly care about what others think of me or who accepts me or not. If I just follow my heart and follow God, I know that I’ll be okay. It doesn’t matter if that one person who I have tried to be friends with doesn’t want to be friends with me, I shouldn’t let it affect me. As long as I accept myself as a child of God, I know I’ll always be good enough. I know it’s a simple concept, but it is something I know I definitely need to work on. I have been working on it and am changing for the better because of it. All I needed was a little trip down back home to San Diego to remember who has my heart, forever and always, and who will be with me no matter what –
Guys, I’m kidding. It’s Jesus Christ.
(All Steubenville photos credit to Steubenville SD Official Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SteubenvilleSanDiego)