My mind hath been as big as one of yours,
My heart as great, my reason haply more,
To bandy word for word and frown for frown;
But now I see our lances are but straws,
Our strength as weak, our weakness past compare,
That seeming to be most which we indeed least are.
~ William Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew
This time of year is becoming stranger every time it comes around, and stranger still because it is becoming more irrelevant to me. Six years ago, I came in as a freshmen to Christendom, feeling like an adult, thinking that over the next few years, I would just add information to what I already knew about life. I knew in theory that we learn about Christ and ourselves through pure generosity of ourselves, but I had no real concept of this. In light of what I thought the future held, nothing is like I thought it would be. Adulthood is harsher than I had expected, but like Tolkein's euchatastrophe, it is not the happiest ending, but a far better one. Watching students come to Christendom as young freshmen, full of hope, anticipation, fears . . . They have no idea how much they will have changed in the next year, not to mention in the next four years. From the time I was a freshmen to the time I was a junior, and from then until now, I developed a completely different perspective on everything in life. Not only have I turned a complete 180 since that time, but I have fallen into an alternate universe. Everything changed: how I know God, what I know about myself, how I approached relationships, how I came to understand the difference between being a girl and being a women. I learned a tremendous ammount from the classes, but the most indisspensible lessons often came outside of the class room. In Return to Modesty, Wendy Shallit shamelessly exposes not only the meaning of true feminine modesty, but how the dignity of real women is what elevates boys to manhood. Alice Von Hildebrand teaches us how this dignity is sanctified and elevated by Christ in the Blessed Virgin Mary. These books speak of what I have learned in life, but what I couldn't even begin to know at 18. In Italy, I learned the beauty of physical affection and open appreciation for the beauties of life; but in regards to human behavior, I learned how to be a woman. Shallit, Hildebrand, and the authors of The Rules teach us that women are passive, allowing men to take the initiative, which in turn teaches them to be men. The Italian gentlemen stand out, but what few people notice are the women; although they are filled with the passion for life characteristic of Italians, they are not like the men in the forwardness, but rather they conduct themselves with dignity and self-control. The Italian women, and these authors, and the real women in my life, have taught me that there is strength in passivity, in restraining the temptation to take the initiative, and in allowing ourselves to be protected.
When it comes down to it, the only thing better than being a grown-up is being a little kid. The only difference is that grown-ups get to drink martinis as a consolation prize. Pace e bene a tutti!
* The title of this article is by Sam Philips