Courage and Gratitude on Difficult Days
By: Samantha Cooney
At the beginning of this month, I packed my suitcase and got ready to go to SEEK 2019, a massive Catholic conference for college students in Indianapolis. I would be there for a week, listening to amazing talks and learning about opportunities and methods to grow my faith. If I’m being honest, I was not really looking forward to it, because I was consumed by a lot of fear about nothing in particular. My family and friends lovingly reassured me that my fears were all in my head and this would be a good trip. They were all mostly right. Many things about SEEK went just fine, but every so often, my expectations were correct. However, those bad moments are not worth the press coverage.
When initially writing this post, I had an entire paragraph dedicated to the not-so-fun parts of my trip to Indianapolis, like the stress and physical pain and exhaustion that I experienced. I dressed up a lot of these painful moments with humor, and thought it would be funny to share with you that God can still work in me even if I’m a hot mess. #relatable right? But looking back over what I wrote, I realize that the complaints that I was willing to write down were the most shallow grievances about my trip. I was tired. I was hungry. I was on my period. It was easy to think and write about those inconveniences, both while I was on the trip and in retrospect.
Complaining is easy. Confessing how you really feel, what’s really bothering you, takes courage. This was a level of courage I didn’t have at SEEK. While I could gab about the bus ride or my cramps or something shallow for hours on end, I could not bring myself to tell my friends that I was feeling lonely, heartbroken, or sad. I thought telling them about my feelings would be a bummer or an eye-roll, when in reality, I could have received help and healing.
How do I know that talking would have helped me? I know because when I finally started to open up to my friends about my SEEK experience after we arrived back home, my pain began to subside. Within the three weeks or so since I have been back from SEEK, I have been able to resolve a fight, find accountability, and start addressing past hurts with three friends. I truly thought I would never be able to admit any of the things I did to those people. But through the grace of God, SEEK, and receptive people, I was able to open up. I’m starting. Not all of these situations have perfect or easy solutions, but my heart is so much lighter since I’ve let these people in.
In addition to being more vulnerable, this experience has taught me that I must seek (pun intended) to be grateful for as much as I can when my heart is not in the right spot. If I can find tiny moments of joy in my bad days, it can transform my attitude and the attitude of the groups of which I am a part. Being grateful even has the capacity to rewrite my memories and give me good memories to fall back on instead of bad ones. With gratitude, I can admit that even though I was down, I got to go to several AMAZING talks in Indy. (Sr. Miriam James Heidland’s keynote, Sr. Bethany Madonna’s talk about vocations, and Anna Carter’s testimony stand out in particular.) I got to meet up with my favorite podcast (The Catholic Feminist) and one of my favorite non-profits (Eden Invitation) and share my story with them. I got to go on a lovely, hours-long walk where two of my closest friends got to meet each other and hang out on a pier at sunset. The cookies in our packed lunches every day were weirdly really good and my prayer time in my hotel room was always very fruitful.
If all I chose to remember from this trip were the little inconveniences, I would have never had the opportunity to grow in sharing my heart, or the memories of the beautiful things that happened the week I was there. So I encourage you, dear reader, to remember to keep courage and be thankful, even during the difficult days.
Sam Cooney graduated from St. Catherine Academy in Wixom, MI. She writes too much and sleeps too little. She loves her faith and enjoys Broadway, the Office, and being weird. She is currently studying Language, Literature, and Writing at Eastern Michigan University.