Hi, all! I’m getting to this first post pretty late because yesterday was a big day for me: in my capacity at Call To Action, I helped put on a day-long virtual training about strategies for church transformation. I’m exhausted from that, but I’m jumping into this workshop anyway because I think I need it.
(Edit to add: my name is Abby Rampone! I should’ve mentioned that. I’m a 25 y/o white woman from Vermont. I love my cats and my lamancha goats. Also, I’m a 4 on the enneagram.)
The truth is that I’m constantly exhausted. I don’t think I overload myself with commitments to escape my problems, though: I think my constant investment in religious spaces is a sort of desperate attempt to find meaning and belonging. I think it’s an attempt to deal with the root causes rather than run away from them, but I don’t know effective it is.
I just graduated from Union Theological Seminary with my MDiv in early May. I’m 25 and went straight to seminary after undergrad, so aside from summer breaks, I have been in school my whole life. This was going to be a time of transition and discernment for me no matter what, but with the pandemic, there’s so much extra uncertainty. I had planned to find work and stay in NYC, but when Union strongly urged students to leave the dorms in early March, I returned to my parents’ house in rural Vermont. I’m fortunate to have a very good relationship with my parents, but I feel stuck here. I don’t know how long I’ll be in Vermont, when it’ll be safe to move elsewhere, where I’ll work (I work part-time remotely for CTA), etc. I don’t want to stay here longterm because I have little social life in the small town where I grew up and was bullied. I love this physical place, but I don’t feel that I can build a life here. On the other hand, I’m a transplant anywhere else and I don’t know where to go. I love NYC, but it can be very isolating and I’m afraid that my networks there won’t be the same now that I’m not in school. While at Union, I lived for three years in an intentional community at the school called the Women’s Interfaith Residency, which is an extremely special place to me and I miss my community very much. I’ve lived in Castleton, VT, Williamstown, MA (another small town, where I went to college), and Manhattan, and I feel like I’m kind of adrift between those places. I love to travel (in college, I spent a semester in Granada, Spain, studied interreligious relations in Jerusalem, and studied liberation theology in Nicaragua), but I really want roots, community, family, not a perpetually itinerant life. My friends are scattered around the country and the world — my best friend is in Dubai, another very close friend is in Minnesota, etc. Being a millennial is isolating in and of itself.
My intention for this workshop is to discern where I’m going. I don’t expect to find answers, but I hope to find some clarity, assurance, direction, and/or community. My intention is to be vulnerable: I’m scared of what lies ahead for me. I am scared of being isolated and lonely. I struggle with depression, and the main trigger for it is feeling like no one likes me enough/I don’t have a community/I’m somehow different from everyone else (people don’t like me as much as they like other people or there’s something wrong with me because I don’t have a romantic partner). I’ve learned not to be open about this stuff because I don’t appreciate pity or condescension (“aww, you’re so young! you’ll find someone!” etc), but the truth is that this is my deepest emotional and spiritual struggle, and burying it doesn’t help. Wherever I go next, I need to be in an environment that will facilitate connection, and I want to discern how I can best address my needs and the needs of the world.
A big part of my discernment is the Catholic Worker. I *love* the Catholic Worker. I’ve never felt so spiritually at home and religiously fulfilled. I volunteered at Maryhouse (the “motherhouse” in NYC) for a year as my seminary “internship” and then lived at the house last summer while completing a unit of CPE at Bellevue Hospital. I love reading everything Dorothy Day ever wrote (currently enjoying The Duty of Delight, the collection of her diaries). I’m trying to discern how to engage with the Worker — should I return to the city, move into a different house, etc? Is that the right step for me right now? What about safety in the pandemic, my financial concerns (student loans), etc? Longterm, I dream of starting a house in Vermont (if I develop a web of people interested in that dream), and I’ve been researching the short-lived Catholic Worker houses and farms that were in my area in the 1930s and 40s.
Dorothy Day is unsurprisingly my saint of choice, but I love reading Robert Ellsberg’s All Saints and discovering new saints. My confirmation saint is Claudine Thevenet, a 19th century French sister who I don’t actually know much about (I know that teenaged Abby had reasons for picking her, but they were somewhat random). I’m a big fan of Mary (in her many apparitions/manifestations) and Francis of Assisi, and one of my hopes for this summer is to build a shrine to Francis in the woods behind my parents’ house.