If you don’t know me already, I’m Natalie and I graduated from Central in Lawrence, MA in 2014. I then spent four years at St. John’s in Queens, NY studying Physics and Mathematics. I began my life as a Marist while I was at Central by getting involved in camp and falling in love with Esopus. I couldn’t wait for the summers to come back, so I asked to go on Esopus Encounter where I really discovered what Marist was. During my time at St. John’s, I stayed involved with the Marist community by attending Marist Young Adult events like the Retreat Outside of A Retreat on Encounter Saturdays and coming to Esopus to help out with events like LaValla Service Retreat and eventually leading Encounters and the most recent Marist Youth Gathering.
I’m now studying Physics as a master student at the Université Paris-Saclay in France, just outside of Paris. It’s so strange to explain to people what Marist is when it started right here in France.
I write in a journal fairly regularly, and I'd like to share some thoughts I've had about my Marist experience(s) abroad with you:
6th of August, 2018
I've been spending so much time worrying that I won't make it there, worrying that I'll miss out on everything I've planned and desperately looked forward to, that I have been forgetting about all the things I'll miss.
I'll miss my friends from St. John's. I can't believe we didn't become closer sooner. I can't imagine my time there without them. Sometimes I wish everything could stay exactly the same.
I'll miss Massachusetts, New York, the United States, that feeling that I'm on sure ground because I know what to do and how to act. I never knew that feeling was there until it was gone. That first time that I went to Europe and found that I was a foreigner—an outsider, an other, someone who doesn't belong because of where I was from and the background that I grew up with—that was the first time that this feeling of sureness, of confidence, was taken away. That was the first time that I became aware of it. I never thought that I would be brave enough to go looking for this feeling.
I’ll miss my Marist community perhaps most of all. Even though they haven’t been part of my everyday life, they’ve been so important to me. They’ve been my home. I can’t believe I’m leaving.
24th of September, 2018
Sometimes I feel cut off from Marist. There’s so much distance both in geography and in time. I feel that everyone I know is so far from me and that this part of my life is just over. And I know that’s not exactly true. I’m not a Marist Young Adult anymore and that means that I’ve had to say goodbye to so many things: the kind of environment where you can make friends almost instantly; where you can see old friends again and have it feel almost exactly the same, even after months of silence; where there’s unconditional acceptance and such, such love. And I know that none of that is really gone, it’s just further away.
But that’s not even totally true! Marist is truly everywhere. At my internship last summer in Paris, my co-advisor asked me about my LaValla Day of Service T-shirt. I was shocked. He’d noticed it because it said “Marist,” and he’d gone to a Marist high school in Australia. Sometimes it seems like no matter how far I go, I’ll never be able to get away from this life, these connections, this vast community. Thank God for that.
I know that Marist is something you take with you. It’s a part of me, and nothing, not all the distance in the world, can change that.