50,000 words in one month. I used to participate in NaNoWriMo every year, preparing for weeks beforehand so I could start writing diligently on November 1. It’s been several years, but I decided this was the year to start again. I knew it would be difficult. I don’t have a lot of time to write during the day, and by five o’clock I don’t want to stare at the computer anymore. But I can easily crank out the required 1,667 words a day. I’ve done a lot more than that before.
I haven’t written anything lately, so I started easy. Instead of fiction, I’d get the writing gears going with a little memoir. I would map out my story of faith, the journey that brought me to the Church. It would be nothing like a final draft—in anything, my first drafts are more like outlines as I figure out where to go. It was fun for a couple weeks. I revisited the church of my childhood and all those pastors I’d connected with. I broke out my journal from Israel, comparing the entries against the photo album (and getting sidetracked flipping through the pictures). But when I got to the actual meat of the story, I… couldn’t do it. 14,000 words in, and I was home from Israel, basking in the light of my Holy Land journey. But I couldn’t remember what ultimately brought me to leave the church—and the people—I’d connected with.
My conversion story was harder to face than I thought it would be. When I think back, I remember feeling frustrated by what was being preached. I remember searching the Internet and asking vague questions so no one knew I was questioning. I remember when I stopped tithing. But I don’t remember why. I don’t remember what ultimately pushed me out.
Maybe I’m not ready to face it. Though it was a weird and exciting time, it was also painful. I’d made church friends who’d be left behind; I made a new Catholic friend who ended up hurting me. I didn’t know who to talk to, or what to ask. There was a week that I didn’t know the fate of my soul, because I didn’t know who was right. There’s a two-month memory gap between that Israel trip and my contemplating Catholicism.
But it is something I’d like to remember, one day. What I thought would be an easy writing project dredged up all this stuff. I wish I’d started my journal earlier. I wish I’d updated social media, or talked to friends, or did anything to chronicle that early journey. Even though those two months were obviously important, I may never remember the details. But I remember a lot from after that time, which is most memorable. I searched for the truth, read the books, and truly connected with God. That’s when my paper journal starts, and it’s really interesting to read it now.
When I sat in my first RCIA session, it wasn’t about Mary. Or the pope. Or relics. Or even the sacraments.
It was about Jesus.
—September 25, 2017
Those 14,000 words aren’t nothing, and I’ll hang onto them. It was fun to reminisce. But the rest of it is going to have to wait, I think.