Editor’s Note: Views expressed in guest columns and letters to the editor reflect the views of the author, not the views of The State News.
In each of our lives, we have certain questions that never seem to get answered.
Whether these unknowns become doubts we spend years trying to make peace with, or barriers from the past we might always feel trapped behind, they stand out to us and miraculously seem to find their way back in our minds when we least expect.
No matter how much of an effort I personally try to put forth in avoiding these issues, as I lay in my bed last night trying to fall asleep, I couldn’t shake the fact that one of my greatest unknowns had found its way back in to my life.
Wednesday’s issue of The State News featured a column written by a young woman detailing the difficult journey she had trying to rediscover religion after coming to college.
Although religion — and the significance it holds in our everyday lives — is a topic I’m sure many of us have made decisions about in the past, as I finished reading her column, I couldn’t help but envy the level of faith she spoke about.
As the opinion writer for The State News, I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity to take time each week to sit down and formulate something I hope might impact someone’s day.
Whether it’s the far-off goal of bringing a smile to someone’s face, or the more realistic aim of clumping together words to get people through class, this idea is something that excites me and makes the work I do feel all the more special.
Although some topics are more difficult to discuss, as I reflected on the emotions Wednesday’s guest column sparked in me, it was hard to imagine writing about anything else.
It’s been more than three years since I last can remember saying a prayer or having a conversation with any higher power that felt, in any way, genuine. As shameful as this might seem, and as far from proud of this fact as I am, to understand the dissonance I have with religion, you first have to understand my past.
I was raised in a religiously-split household by parents who never quite seemed sure how to bring up the subject, or blend the differences of opinions they had.
My mother was Catholic, and her strong conviction to her faith led her to devote her life to the church when she was young.
My father was Lutheran, and carried a deep disdain for most things religious because of the “Sisters” who taught him at Bible school as a kid.
Despite these polar viewpoints, I grew to appreciate the unconventional approach my parents took about the topic, and grew to resonate strongly with the larger emphasis they placed simply on the idea of having a belief in anything at all.
As my sister and I grew older, we eventually were raised Catholic, but in a way that only made sense in the Olsen household.
Our attendance record at church hung between a thin balance of random Sundays and holidays, such as Christmas and Easter, and almost always resulted in us standing among the other churchgoers who took too long to get ready and arrived late.
Although this upbringing left me equipped with a comfortable understanding of my religion, during my first semester of college, everything I thought I knew got turned upside down, when I was hit with the shock of my father’s unexpected death.
The events that followed I’m not proud of.
On the night before his funeral — what remains to this day the last conversation I can remember having with any higher power — I broke down by myself in the front seat of my parents’ car, yelling out into the silence at the only person I felt was responsible for my frustration.
In that moment I was alone, and I was angry.
I was angry at the person I believed had put my mother in charge of holding together a family when I knew all she wanted was a moment to cry.
I was angry at the person I believed was forcing my sister to uproot her life in order to guarantee her younger brother might stay in school.
And I was angry at the person I believed had made the process of growing up for one 19-year-old kid start too soon.
When I consider how much different my life is now compared to three years ago, and how my family has made steps to move past these events, one thing has remained true.
For each of us, whether spoken of or not, religion has remained an integral part of our lives.
Although a part of me still struggles with the concept of faith, and I am unsure whether these feelings ever will subside, the thought that some unknown exists is something that keeps me hopeful for the future.
I might never be fortunate enough to have the type of connection to my faith as detailed by the young woman from Wednesday’s column, but the level of solitude and strength her faith seemed to create is something I can’t help but admire.
Who knows? Maybe there’s another conversation to be had in my future.
Greg Olsen is the opinion writer at The State News and a professional writing senior. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.