Every morning, I blew the dust off of my mask and carefully placed it on before stepping out into the warmth of the bright sun illuminating campus, an environment completely unlike the room I had just left, a room that I viewed as a dungeon. For my first two and a half years of college, my peers probably thought I was an ordinary college student. But unbeknownst to them, I was living a double life. I was one person during the day and another at night. I put on pretty face in public, but behind this façade of a seemingly content undergraduate student was desolation.
Our society often values quantity over quality. “I need more likes on Facebook. I want to become rich or be Mr. Popular.” This mentality drove me to make myself look better to impress others. I presented myself as a successful student, bragging about grades and achievements and exaggerating about things that did (or didn’t) happen. I would make an extra effort to say things people would want to hear so that they would like me better. I was overly concerned with my physical appearance and allowed it to impact my self-esteem and confidence. I wanted the looks, intelligence, and popularity. I almost convinced myself I was happy with where I was.
But pulling back the curtain revealed that my fake, outward appearance was hiding a desolate, inner loneliness, one that turned into depression. I didn’t have many friends. I hadn’t found my niche. I spent time with friends in different settings, but it just never felt right. Something was missing, but I couldn’t quite pinpoint what it was at the time. Most importantly, my relationship with God was hanging by a thread. After Sundays, my life became devoid of God. I didn’t have a prayer life, and I put myself in situations that went against my beliefs. I was involved with parties with a lot of underage drinking, and I gossiped and spoke poorly about people behind their backs, being very judgmental of others. The list goes on. My life was plagued with sin, and I never once thought about what I should be doing as opposed to what I was doing. Now, only a year later, I’m happier than I’ve ever been before. So what changed?
For me, it was as simple as a couple of friends who were willing to talk to me after Sunday mass and invited me to the CSC. Slowly, I made new friends, and I wanted to grow in my own faith when I saw how many other students seemed to be so much happier than I was. Their passion and devotion to their relationships with God translated into a sense of peace and joy that radiated from them. I decided to get out of my Terrapin shell and try many things for the first time — daily mass, adoration, praying the rosary. Ultimately, I opened myself up to trusting God and spreading his love and joy, and it set me free from the mask that imprisoned me. Through prayer, I realized that I didn’t need to be stressed out and worried about school and life — I could put my trust in him, and he would watch out for me and take care of me.
It’s easy to forget that we were once newcomers to our own communities and that we may have needed others to guide us and start us in the right direction. For me, the CSC has certainly become a second home, and I feel blessed to be surrounded by such a strong and positive community full of friends and peers who inspire and push me to be a better Catholic, friend, son, brother, and student every single day. But if it wasn’t for the courage, love, and invitation of others, I might still be trapped in that dungeon. In many ways, we have all lived our own double lives. If anything, I know that I can do more than hang up the mask for good — I can share my own experiences to invite, welcome, befriend, guide, support, and encourage those who find themselves where I once was.