After leaving the convent in July 2013, one of the most valuable things I did was get myself some new music. Almost every song on my MP3 player from before I entered had a different meaning after I left: this was the song I had been listening to seven months earlier as my train pulled out of the station, heading for the convent; this was the tune I had taught myself to strum on the community’s old guitar, sitting down the bottom of the garden on Sunday afternoons; this was what I hummed to cheer myself up when I realised that cracks were starting to appear in my vocation; I still enjoy those songs, but there’s a certain bittersweetness about them that wasn’t there before.

So, while I was visiting op-shops to re-stock my wardrobe with clothing, I started picking up CDs for a dollar each as well, by bands I knew nothing about, except that their cover art was nice. I discovered some wonderful music that way, but one song has stood out for me so strongly that I wanted to share it with others who are grieving the loss of the religious life as I was (and in some ways still am).

The song is “In Repair” by John Mayer. I admit, I find Mayer confusing: his hedonistic public persona is completely at odds with the soft, deeply expressive songs about loss and yearning on his albums. Well before I knew anything about the artist, though, I knew that this secular song expressed precisely what I felt, and didn’t yet have the language to describe: 

Too many shadows in my room
Too many hours in this midnight
Too many corners in my mind
So much to do to set my heart right

Oh, it’s taking so long
I could be wrong, I could be ready
Oh, but if I take my heart’s advice
I should assume it’s still unsteady

I am in repair

I am in repair

Although I don’t regret actually leaving the convent (it was clearly what had to be done) what I do regret, sincerely, is having let things escalate to the point where leaving became the only option. What went wrong? With 20/20 hindsight, I’ve realised that over the course of a couple of months after I entered, I gradually stopped being a postulant and became instead an actress playing the part of a postulant. (I was good at it, too: I managed to fool even myself for months.) The trouble was that I then unconsciously began to see the Sisters not as my community, but as the audience I needed to impress if I wanted to stay.

Finally, half-way into my postulancy, the inevitable happened: while standing outside the back door of the convent receiving a correction in private for something I’d done wrong earlier in the day, I suddenly realised that, however hard I tried, I wasn’t going to be capable of staying. You will know for yourself what that moment feels like: it’s as if life quietly fades from full-colour to black and white. I stayed on for another month after that in the hope that the Lord would intervene and help me. And He did: when I finally admitted to the prioress that I couldn’t cope, she came in to bat for me magnificently. But in the end, I had to recognise that I’d simply run out of internal resources.

You may know, too, what I mean when I say that much of what’s happened since I left feels as if it’s happened in black and white after the vividness of life in the convent: whatever my vocation is, I’ve clearly not found it yet. I can only understand and trust that eventually, I will start to uncover the real calling that God has prepared for me, and the colour will come back.

And now I’m walking in the park
And all of the birds, they dance below me
Maybe when things turn green again
It will be good to say you know me

I’m in repair
I’m not together but I’m getting there.

I’m in repair
I’m not together but I’m getting there.

By Spiritu

At the age of seventeen, Spiritu watched some elderly nuns laughing together after Mass and decided instantly that this was what she wanted to do with her life. After six years of intense study about the Catholic faith and the religious vocation, she entered a beautiful community in her own country, Australia. Seven months later, she returned to the world, saddened that her discernment hadn’t worked out as she’d hoped. She is now exploring other possible options for the future, and owes an enormous debt of gratitude to her family for their love and help.