When I was in my early teens, I got kicked out of CCD. For those who don’t know, CCD, or Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (I had to Google that, and I have no idea what it means), is basically classes in the church that prepare you to receive the sacraments of the Eucharist (Holy Communion), Penance (confession), and Confirmation.
Being raised in an Irish Catholic household, you were told not to question the church or its teachings. You definitely weren’t allowed to question faith, even though I swear questioning faith is a biological aspect of being Irish. One fateful day in class, we were talking about Jesus and that dreaded word. I raised my hand to ask a question, a truly genuine and serious question about the definition of faith. I had no idea that what I perceived as sincere curiosity would lead me to the headmaster’s office. I think an earlier diagnosis of AuDHD would have made things a lot easier on everyone, but here we are.
I remember sitting in Mrs. Eggleston’s office for a while until my mom came to get me. She was really nice and didn’t say much. She probably knew whatever she had to say would have gone in one ear and out the other. I was too young to understand such an abstract concept in her eyes, especially one that, in the context of religion, was far different than the concept as such.
Needless to say, along with a few other incidents, one including a bible-thumping couple who secretly showed us anti-abortion material and was removed from my church, I finished my “work” at home with my mom. During this time, my mom and I would get into heated debates about the concepts of church and religion. As an angsty teen, I could not understand how someone could apologize for doing something horrible and be forgiven, yet I’d burn in hell for not going to church each week EVEN IF I did have faith and believe. We left it at a bi-conditional statement: If I got confirmed, then I didn’t have to go to church anymore.
Fun fact: Did you know I sang in my church choir and was an alter server? Yeah, I can’t believe it either. Remind me to tell you the story of my first confession. Hysterical. I am religion’s worst nightmare.
My point of this treatise isn’t about religion but about the concept of faith. I really didn’t understand what the word meant and was looking for clarification. But because it was such a hot button word, no one was willing to dig into it with me. Especially with my attitude. Because if they did, it would force them to confront their own issues with the word and possibly shake whatever foundation they had created and believed.
But faith extends so much further than religious doctrines.
Someone recently told me that they admire my “fearless approach” to travel. Oh man, how wrong this comment felt. I am terrified of flying. I dream about it a lot, even when I don’t have flights booked. I also internally panic when I get off a plane in a new location, wondering what the fuck I’ve gotten myself into this time. But alas, I persist because it’s cooler to have anxiety in a new place than on my couch.
But this concept of “fearless travel” made me realize that faith was at the core of my traveling. To travel is to have a lot of faith — in yourself and in others. Especially in people that aren’t like you. They may not speak your language, live in the same type of housing, pray the same way you do, eat the same foods, or have the same social norms. It takes a lot of faith to pick up and fly to a place where culture shock is inevitable. But faith continues to tell me I’m safe, I’m smart, and I can do it — no matter what. Even if it leads me to a hospital in the middle of Ubud, Bali at midnight. Faith is fuel.
To be honest, those aren’t the things that really terrify me, that scare me when it comes to faith. This issue of faith is really about me — having faith in myself.
Going back well over a decade, with all the trips to rehab and abusive relationships, I had to rewire my internal GPS. Think about it in terms of driving. When you take a wrong turn, the GPS reroutes you. And the more wrong turns you take, the farther away you get from your destination. Eventually, you just stop using the GPS. Shit, for me, I ditched the car and was walking through a fucking forest without shoes, food, or water. [Insert a joke about doing drugs that makes almost everyone uncomfortable.]
But the other part of addiction, abuse, and trauma is the fact that your GPS, even when it does reroute, tends to bring you back to places and experiences that aren’t good for you because you’ve conditioned it to do so. It doesn’t know better because you don’t know better. It gets so confused that it only takes you back to the places you’ve been, which, for me, weren’t healthy or loving.
It took me a long time to trust myself, to trust my inner voice, to reroute that GPS, and to believe in my gut feelings. It took time and care to believe I could man the wheel again and know the GPS was taking me in the right direction. What’s even scarier is that I’m the only one who can program that GPS. Wherever I go, that responsibility falls on my shoulders.
I guess now, even when my faith is at its weakest, that foundation of trust I built within myself takes over and reminds me I’m on the right path, doing the right things, and at the end of the day, everything will work out. But it’s that space in between things that I tend to get lost. It’s like the satellite gives out and pauses the GPS and I panic, even though I know the way. What I’ve realized is that it’s in those moments you have to believe in yourself the most. It’s in those moments I have to remind myself that I’ve prepared for this, I took everything into account, and past Jenn’s plans had faith in future Jenn’s ability to navigate. Past Jenn knew I could do this — whatever the task.
But of course, this isn’t just about travel. It’s about relationships of all kinds, my career prospects, finances, etc.
For me, that space between looks like Nietzsche’s abyss. It looks like an impossible canyon that I can’t seem to find a way across. But my internal GPS always tells me the right information: just be patient, look for a new route, ignore this path, take a big leap. Why is it always a big leap?
I think what’s difficult now is that even when I know and trust the GPS, the message, the thing I can feel in my gut, I struggle to emotionally maintain my course. The gap just feels too big.
For some, that space is God, for others, it’s fate. Some believe in the power of nature, some energy, and some like me believe in the ancient ones and wild tales of alien races. I think at the end of the day, it’s all the same — whatever we are seeking externally is really something that we are attempting to build, harness, experience within.
Therefore, faith is a part of me. Just like I seek food, and love, and Dave Matthews band tickets, I seek this piece of me to feel fulfilled.
But you want to know the best part of this story? As I was trying to figure out a way to conclude this piece of writing, I got an email from my favorite horoscope app. While I honestly never read them, maybe here and there on occasion, I felt called to read it, and damn, I’m glad I did. One part of the write-up for Venus shifting into Scorpio stated thus:
“The truth is, you don’t need total control over your intimacies or your ambitions for them to succeed. Faith is a muscle, and practicing trusting that everything will ultimately turn out as it should helps you prosper.”
The universe has jokes. I guess we all just need to laugh and keep moving forward sometimes.
At the end of the day, I’ve never regretted trusting myself, and I think that’s the real lesson here. Yes, the space between can be daunting and painful and scary, but the reward of finding, knowing, and forging your own path are rewards in and of itself. When I act based on that path, based on my heart, I end up in places I’d never expect with experiences and people that completely change my life over and over again. It feels like magic, and deep down, a lot of us know it is — I know it is.
I’m not sure where my GPS will take me next, but I do know I’ll find the courage to follow it. So, like Limp Bizket says, you gotta have faith, and deep down, I know I do.
(I know the song is by George Michael, but I couldn’t help knowing some of you would lose your minds over that comment. You're welcome.)