When I started college, I was pretty uncertain about my spirituality and what that word even meant to me. As a senior, I still have a lot of questions. But I’ve become more comfortable with that uncertainty. I’ve learned that some things bring me peace, while other things bring me disturbance. I think that’s how I would describe my spirituality at this point in time. Father McCarthy discussed this phenomenon at our immersion kick-off meeting, and it really resonated with me. I’ve also learned that sometimes it takes those moments of disturbance or turmoil to redirect myself towards peace. After three years of experiences that taught me this dichotomy, I entered senior year hoping to take advantage of opportunities that I felt would lead me towards peace. When I think of the places where I find this feeling, I think of the authentic communities I have found at Santa Clara. One of these communities has been created through my immersion trips. Immersions have blessed me with experiences that tested, deepened, and nurtured my spirit.
Last year, I went to Arizona on the Navajo Nation trip. The opportunity to have a reflective week without the distractions around me at school was one that I embraced. It was a week where I felt more in touch with my spirituality than I had in a long time. I yearned to keep this feeling alive, and I applied to be an immersion coordinator for this year. Next thing I knew, I was preparing to lead the spring break trip to San Jose. I was correct in thinking that leading a trip would deepen my spirituality, but it did so in ways that I didn’t anticipate.
As a participant in the Navajo Nation trip, I had felt more present than ever. I was able to leave my phone, my classes, and my life at Santa Clara for a week of simplicity. My focus was on whatever person or moment presented itself to me, and I spent more time reflecting than I ever had at school. This year, as a leader, I was focused on making sure things ran smoothly. I had my phone with me and was constantly thinking of what was next. In some ways, this took away from the unique experience that I had as a participant. But in so many other ways, I was able to grow.
Throughout college, some of the experiences that bring people the most growth are contemplation, volunteering, community, and immersion into new environments. Being an immersion coordinator was an intensive way of experiencing a combination of these things. In the span of a week, I was exposed to the challenges and gifts that come with being a leader in an already intense environment. The combination of the immersion and being a leader brought up so many questions about myself, my spirituality, the suffering we witnessed, my vocation, my relationships, and my responsibility to others. I think it taught me that there is much more to my spirituality than giving myself time to reflect. My spirituality is tried, but also nourished by pushing myself. It deepens further by forcing myself to find out how I want to be better, how I can help make things better for others, and by exposing the questions in myself that can be challenging and sometimes uncomfortable to explore.
On the trip, we were asked to design a flag in response to the question “why do you do what you do?” I realized that, for me, I do what I do to revitalize myself and to instill that peace I talked about earlier. My response was “to fuel my spirit.” Experiences like immersion are really what do that for me. They remind me that there is more to life than what I see every day. They remind me what it feels like to be surrounded by authenticity. They also remind me that there is so much to work on in myself and in the rest of the world. The feeling of peace, the feeling of really being alive, doesn’t come from being comfortable. This is strange for me to realize, because I associate peace with comfort. But the feeling of peace I’m describing is so much deeper than that. It’s the feeling I have at my core when love fully fills me. I think what I’ve learned above all else is that I get this feeling from challenging myself, from shaking up my beliefs, from learning from people who are so different from me, and from being remolded to become more whole. My experiences at Santa Clara, immersion being a key one, have helped teach me this. I have gained a greater appreciation for the afflictions that can come during spiritual discernment. My path after I graduate is unclear, both spiritually and vocationally, but I hope that following what brings me peace will lead me in the right direction.
My name is Michelle Davidson, and I am currently a senior at SCU. I love to spend time with friends, travel, run, and be outdoors. On campus, I've enjoyed being involved in groups like SCCAP, EMS, and immersion programs. Over spring break, I led the San Jose immersion trip. It was a wonderful experience that taught me a lot. I will be graduating this spring and plan to stay in the area.