I have a former life which now seems a world away. It’s more than 30 years since I graduated from school, went to university, married Andy and moved away… far away, from my former high school friends.

At first my friends and I swapped frequent chatty letters, then occasional letters which turned into once a year emails, which evolved into Christmas cards that didn’t actually say much. Then one day I had this brilliant idea.

I emailed a former school friend or two: “Do you know I’m now a blogger? Here’s my web address. Why don’t you visit my blog and catch up with all my family news? Have a look at my photos.”

That was a long time ago and I’ve never heard from those friends since. What happened? Did they read something on my blog that was shocking? Did they close their computers thinking, “Oh! We'd never have guessed that’s the way Sue would turn out?”

I think back to that fiercely independent, hot-tempered young woman my friends used to know. Did my friends visit my blog expecting to see that person? I rather think I have changed beyond recognition.

Even I am shocked at how I have turned out. Never in my wildest imaginings could I have ever dreamt up the life I am now living. No, when Andy and I got married we were going to have several children, maybe four if we felt really adventurous, a nice house and good jobs. We’d entertain on weekends, go on exciting holidays, have a dog and a cat... live happily ever after. Nothing complicated. Just the usual dream.

So what happened? I did something I vowed I’d never ever do: I became a Catholic.

As a young person, I was totally against the Church. My mother-in-law was a Catholic and I felt she didn’t like me. One day just before the wedding, she said to me, “You don’t really want to marry Andy, do you?”

“Of course I do!” I replied, digging my heels in. Her son was going to marry a non-Catholic whether she liked it or not. I didn't need religion. I didn't need the Church. I was quite okay being me. I was prickly and defensive, and I was adamant no one was going to tell me what to believe and how to live my life. My future mother-in-law wasn't going to get rid of me, and I wasn't going to change.

It took a long time before my heart melted and I realised my mother-in-law wasn’t the enemy. The Catholic Church wasn’t an enemy either. One day God got through to that head-strong young woman and she finally listened.

When I was in my early twenties, young people rebelled by becoming punks. They wore tartan and black tights or jeans liberally sprinkled with holes, pierced themselves with safety pins and studs, dyed their hair and chopped it into spikes. They enjoyed shocking society. ‘Normal’ people took one step back when they approached and said, “Oh! I hope my children don’t turn out like that.” I never was tempted to become a punk. It wasn't my ambition to shock anyone, but it seems I have done that anyway.

Isn’t it funny to think a person can shock the world by staying happily married to one person of the opposite sex for 30 years, by accepting life and giving birth to 8 children, by surviving the death of one of those babies and experiencing 7 miscarriages, by being joyful and at peace regardless of the inevitable sufferings of life... by being a practising and obedient Catholic in an age where unbelief, attitude and 'one's own conscience' rule supreme?

My children are fascinated to learn that once upon a time all Christians were Catholic. Everyone went to Mass and believed. Everyone was normal. Nowadays normal is shocking. But you know? I don’t care at all. I am still a rebel at heart. But this time I have found the right reason for going 'my' own way, regardless of what the world thinks.

I wonder what happened to my former friends. Did they change too? I guess everyone changes in some way. It's inevitable. We grow up and look beyond ourselves. We start to wonder why we are here and what life is all about. What did my former friends find when they started to think of the bigger picture? Did they discover the important things of life: peace, joy, hope, love, God? Or do they look at me, shake their heads and say, "How can she believe in all that? What happened to her?"

What happened to me? I guess I just got lucky.

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  1. Hi Sue - I know what you mean! My former life seems so far away - and yet, I find that, because of it, I'm able to relate to non-Catholics, teens that 'go astray', and am able to sit and chat happily to anyone - from a Catholic nun to a homeless man covered in tats. My life, too, has been one incredible journey!

    And just like you, my hubby's parents were none-too-impressed at his decision to marry a non-Catholic, and I wasn't interested in that 'religion stuff' either. How time can change a person, eh?

    I'm very excited atm, as next weekend, we'll be at our daughter's 21st, and will have the opportunity to catch up with a lot of my 'old' friends, some of whom I've not seen for many years - it will be interesting indeed!

    And yes, I feel like I 'got lucky' too - but somehow, I suspect luck didn't have too much to do with it - God is certainly good. . ;)

    1. Linda,

      Life has certainly been an adventure! With God, I guess we can be taken anywhere. I am so glad I am right here where I am.

      I too know luck hadn't anything to do with it! But I am still pondering, 'Why me?' I really don't feel I was more worthy than anyone else. Why did God shower His graces on ME?

      I am sure we'd have some interesting stories to share. I hope one day we can meet and do that!

      I hope your daughter has a very special 21st birthday, and I hope you don't shock your old school friends too much!

  2. It feels funny to look back, doesn't it? Sometimes, I feel like a completely different person to my younger self but there's a part that hasn't really changed, at all. People often only know a little piece of us, don't you think? When I look back, I think my old workmates wouldn't have recognised my university self - yet, it was only months apart.

    I'm enjoying your A to Z, Sue - lots to think about!

    God bless:-)

    1. Vicky,

      "Sometimes, I feel like a completely different person to my younger self but there's a part that hasn't really changed, at all." That's an interesting thought! You could be right. As I said, I'm still a rebel at heart. I cope quite well with being different. I think I grew up feeling different as we travelled and changed schools so much. These days I am quite happy being different and Catholic!

      I wonder in what ways you feel you've stayed the same over the years.

      To know someone completely, we probably need to have known them for a long time. We rarely know where someone has come from and what has influenced their character. Then there's things we just don't want to share with others. Yes, I think you're right: people often only know a little piece of us.

      Thank you so much for being such a faithful reader. A post a day is hard work for readers, and you have commented on every one so far. I appreciate that. Thank you!

  3. You sure did get lucky - and so did I, thanks be to God :)

    1. Kelly,

      So glad you understand how I feel! You've been there too. Yes: Thanks be to God!

  4. You are blessed. And I totally know what you mean about a former life and former friends. I might do an "F" blog post someday, or perhaps an article for Catholic Stand. This is a good topic, thanks.

    1. Anabelle,

      I'd love to read your own version of this story. Please write it! Looking back it is amazing how far we have all travelled. God bless!

  5. Sue, you've done it again. Fantastic post! And boy, CAN I IDENTIFY. Sometimes I feel that my former friends are reaching out toward someone (the person I was) who no longer exists. A phantom, a ghost, a shadow from their past.... and mine.

    1. Nancy,

      You've done it again too: written another encouraging comment for me! Thank you!

      You know, I am quite embarrassed about being remembered as my former self. I don't think there's much to be proud of in my old life. God had a lot of changing to do!

      "A phantom, a ghost, a shadow from their past..." Yes! Those people no longer exist.

  6. In my case I feel I have sort of come a full circle. I wonder if my old friends feel that way about me. I have so many diverse friends and I adore their differences. I mean after all our differences aren't really too different when you get to the core of a person.

    BTW my non-catholic Mum married my catholic Dad too! In our case we kids were all brought up attending the High Church of England though. My Dad's best friend is Muslim, my mother-in-law is Presbyterian, one of my BFF's is agnostic, many are christian and many are secular. I think we are so lucky in this part of the world that for most part we can all get along no matter what our spiritual beliefs are.

    I think your former friends are missing out by not keeping in touch with you too! You're a treasure dear lady.

    1. Lisa,

      "I have so many diverse friends and I adore their differences." Differences are good! If we were all the same, wouldn't life be boring? I think it's important to stay friends regardless of those differences, accepting each other and who we are. Becoming a Catholic was a great unforeseen gift for me, but that doesn't mean I don't have room in my life for those who haven't travelled the same pathway.

      It sounds like you were brought up in a wonderfully diverse environment! I am guessing that has given you a broad outlook on life and made you very accepting and friendly yourself.

      Thank you for your kind words, Lisa!

  7. Stopping by from A to Z Challenge! Interesting post - I've found some of my high school friends (acquaintances?) on Facebook and I wonder if they are surprised at who I am now and what I'm doing. Most of them were not what I would call "good" friends growing up, but they knew me from the time I was in school (there were a number of us who went through schooling together from K through graduation, which now seems almost weird). But, then like you, we lost track of one another. Some of them I am surprised by who they are now, others are just what I expected. I wonder what they think of me.

    It is good to grow as you grow older - to find new things and become who we really should be for that point in our lives. I hope I continue to grow and change and find new things in my life. I hope the same for you!

    Sue from http://asecondheart.blogspot.com

    1. Sue,

      So lovely to meet you!

      I guess I imagine all my old friends just like they were when I last saw them years ago. (They probably imagine me as a twenty something year old too!) Maybe they would surprise me if we had the opportunity to meet up! It would be an interesting get together! I haven't tracked any of them down on Facebook.

      I think you are so right: it is good to grow. It's a lifetime process. I wonder what is ahead. I've no idea, only that I'm looking forward to continuing to become the person I really should be, as you said.

      It was so nice of you to visit my blog and stop to chat. Thank you!

  8. I think a lot of us have changed. I am completely different than how I was before. I know I've shocked more than one also. :)

    Though I did not know you 'before', I am blessed to know you now as a wonderful lady I admire. :)

    God Bless!!

    1. Susan,

      We Catholics are shocking people, Susan!

      In some ways I am glad you know present day Sue and not the old Sue. I had a lot of changing to do! There are still lots more changes needed, I imagine. I feel blessed to know you too!

      God bless!


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