After 7 lengthy years of an all-girls Catholic education run by nuns I would run into at the movies, I attempted to eradicate every remnant of my religious-centered lessons in hopes of maturing with a secular sense of personal development. Although my family frequented Mass every Sunday for the four years following Catholic school up until my parents’ divorce, the Our Father and Hail Mary intertwine in my memory — and you couldn’t pay me enough to recall songs sung at church.
That being said, I participate in the Christian practice of Lent every year…without fail. Following the binge on consumerism and chocolates that is Valentine’s Day, I would always poll my middle school/high school/college friends regarding what everyone would be giving up for Lent. As the years progressed, less and less friends vowed to give something up for 40 days while more and more friends bombarded me with “Are you religious?”, “Why are you doing this?”, and the always entertaining, “You’re the least spiritual person I know.”
Personally, I have always enjoyed challenging myself and testing my willpower. Lent epitomizes this theory and puts me to the ultimate test against my own desires. I will selfishly admit that I also thoroughly enjoy the conversation that ensues when I mention why I’m not a) eating Chipotle, b) drinking a beer, c) on Facebook. Not only does it break the ice, but it also makes me *different*, which our generation seems to strive for with utmost tenacity. Another note: my birthday (Feb 27th) lands right at the beginning of Lent, so anything I love must also be foregone on the one day where I should be #treatingmyself.
In middle school, I vowed to give up meat for forty days. I only broke this once, after taking an obscenely large bite of a chicken patty in my middle school cafeteria. I had not broken Lent on purpose, but had merely forgotten that under all that fried goodness, there was chicken somewhere. Back then, most of my peers had recently left their religious single-sex schools to come to my independent co-ed middle school — therefore the concept wasn’t all too taboo yet.
One year in college I decided to give up Chipotle. Last year, I gave up drinking beer. For all of you college students and recent grads out there, you know that both of these items are almost impossible to forego for a week, let alone forty days. Not only do I love my neighborhood pseudo-Mexican joint, but as an older sister and athlete, I love the competitive nature of playing beer pong in a frat basement and the subsequent amazement of fellow male participants when you sink the last cup.
Giving up something for Lent means more than a good icebreaker, it acts as a reminder that if I put my mind to achieving a goal and fully dedicate myself, I will inherently succeed. Call it a self-induced ego boost, but in a society where us Millennials are constantly denied success (whether it be the unforgiving job market or unattainable standards of physical beauty), a little ego boost can go a long way. Lastly, as menial as giving up beer for forty days may seem, the self-imposed hiatus displays how meaningless some of these trivial (yet all-consuming) items in our lives can be. Do not give up if you break Lent, it does not mean you failed.
February 18th marks the first day of Lent, so put yourself up to the challenge and give up something you think you could not live without. See if you really CAN live without out it until April 2nd (98% chance you will). You can choose to share your personal goal with whomever you wish: keep it a personal goal or make yourself accountable and get your friends involved. I’m open to suggestions this year, so feel free to submit any. Test yourself, prepare for success, and happy Lent!