Would you ever travel to the same place twice? Apparently, some people are totally against it, wondering:
"Why waste time repeating a city when the world is so big and full of new places to explore?"
It makes sense, except.
Would they say the same thing about people? Sure, there are billions of people in the world, but nobody would ever say talking to the same person twice is "wasting time." So much of our lives is spent talking to the same people over and over—family, friends, children, coworkers.
Visiting a city you've already been to before is like visiting an old friend—an opportunity to deepen your discovery and your connection.
Though many years apart, both JJ and I graduated from Boston College. It's one of the many beautiful coincidences of our marriage—and one of his main talking points when he first approached me nine years ago. 😉
But neither of us had been back to visit since my senior year. We missed our town. Our campus. Riding the T. Walking among beautiful Gothic architecture. Everyone's dropped "r" accent.
So, when the opportunity arose to take a trip together, we chose Boston.
(And before it gets too cold please?)
* * *
During college, going to mass wasn't a priority. Neither was partying. I was more of a "stay where it's warm" kind of homebody, preferring a night in doing homework or watching a movie. Anything to avoid the freezing cold.
Class always made the cut, but Sunday mass? Not as often as my Mom would've liked.
But when I did go, it was at St. Mary's Chapel.
St. Mary's Chapel hides behind an unassuming side door in the building where Boston College's Jesuit priests live. Thousands of students walk right past it without a clue. And just like the door that leads to it, the chapel is far from grandiose—especially compared to the other magnificent churches on campus. But what St. Mary's Chapel lacks in size, it makes up for in simple beauty.
The weather was brisk but beautiful, the sky shining a bright blue with hardly a cloud in sight. JJ and I walked across the campus getting all sorts of nostalgic, pointing out where we waited for the bus as freshmen or which dining hall was our absolute favorite for afternoon hangs with friends. We even made a quick stop at the bookstore to buy a BC Eagles t-shirt for our son.
But, when all was said and done, I desperately wanted to visit St. Mary's—although I wasn't sure why. I kept wondering:
"Why am I being drawn to this place that wasn't all that important to me during the four years I was a student here?"
But drawn I was. I pushed open that inconspicuous side door and walked in, taking a seat in a pew near the back. I looked around at the understated beauty of the chapel—the purple stained glass behind the altar, the sturdy columns at each side of the pews, the wooden ceiling—and felt a wave of deep familiarity. I remembered the masses I celebrated there, and the feeling of peace I'd felt after every single one.
That's when I realized:
Unbeknownst to little ol' Marcella, all my college visits to St. Mary's Chapel had been steps in the right direction. Back then, I'd been persuaded by a roommate or my Mom—but now I see it was all perfectly planned for me. And the love and thanksgiving that came over me at that realization brought hot tears to my face.
Before I knew it, I was hiding sniffles behind my sweater.
I knelt down and prayed for a few minutes that felt like hours:
- For my infinite blessings. For my family, for finding JJ, for having our boys, for our health, for our home. For our quality time together, for the quality of our relationships. For my prayer group, for my faith. For knowing it's all thanks to Him.
- For my many failures. For the stress I went through owning my business, for the times I've lost my cool, for the softening of my temperament and my need for achievement. For the sacrifices I've been asked to make (and my reluctance to make them.) For knowing it was all a part of bringing me here to this moment.
- For help. For patience and wisdom to guide my toddler, for more love to give to my family, for the ability to give over control. For direction on where to place my skills and abilities, for the humility to withstand future failures. For peace of mind despite anything that comes my way, for a stronger faith, for more closeness.
Then, I wiped my nose, stood up, and walked out to an otherwise normal day.
* * *
You know all the "chain letters" and email forwards you've received that you immediately delete without a second look? I once received one that was actually pretty good. (Unlikely, I know.) It read:
"If we learn from our mistakes, why are we always so afraid to make a mistake?"
How had I not realized this before? It's one thing to look back on my failures and see how they led to later successes, but the idea of potential new failures never ceases to freak me out. Like, really freak me out.
When I'm unsure of how to deal with my toddler throwing a Category 5 tantrum.
When I'm at a party and afraid to be left alone with nobody to talk to.
When I'm dying to go back to "real work" at an office somewhere but know this season of my life is more about the work I do at home.
The angst is for real.
But, all the mistakes I've made in the past have led to me to where I am today, and—
All I can do is my best. And, lately, doing my best includes putting all of it in God's hands and saying,
"Hey, help me here? But also, just help me accept your will."
I can almost see it: a few years down the road, sitting at another understated chapel somewhere, giving thanks for all the ways I messed up and how it all led to another perfectly imperfect moment.
* * *
The day after I cried at St. Mary's chapel happened to be a Sunday. Unexpectedly, I felt the urge to go to mass. (Again, doesn't happen that often. My Mom would be proud.)
JJ and I took the T from the apartment we'd rented in Back Bay all the way to BC for one last visit to the campus. I thought we'd attend a regular mass there—the kind where I'm itching to check my phone every two seconds and counting down how much longer the whole thing is going to take.
But this mass was different.
I didn't check my phone. I didn't check the time. I didn't feel the urge to. Instead, I enjoyed the process of being there—listening, singing, learning. (Enjoying mass might come second nature to you, but, homeslice, it is brand new to me.)
I even remember something the priest said during the homily:
"We were created to live fully."
That line encapsulates everything I've been feeling lately, at home and on my trip to Boston. We are meant to be here fully—for the good, the bad, and the in between. We may not know the reasons for what happens to us, and we may not like it, but it happens nonetheless.
If there's one thing I'm taking away from this trip, it's the choice I have to truly live every single experience fully.
Despite having lived here for years, visiting Boston again was so worth it. My relationship to the city, to my campus, and to my faith all deepened in a way I never expected.
Thanks for the good times, Beantown. 🙌
PS. I appreciate all the loving responses to my last post—and your patience as I navigate writing this next chapter.