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The College Commandments: Rituals of a 21-year-old

The College Commandments series has always been about taking the good things I see in different religious practices and relating them to small things in my own life. 

The other day I was doing my makeup routine, and it got me thinking about rituals, and when I think of a religious ritual, my mind immediately goes to Catholic Mass. 

I’ve done my makeup in the exact same order and using the exact same products since I was 17-years-old. 

I’ve always considered this a ritual, which, according to a Google definition box, is “a religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order.”

If you take the word “religion” out of that, my makeup routine would easily classify as a ritual. 

But, I went to a Catholic high school and attended Mass a few times a semester. I don’t remember it being anything like a makeup routine, and that’s because it isn’t. What I do remember is the feeling that some of my catholic classmates got after dipping their hands in the holy water font after a hard hitting Mass.

So, why do I experience that same calm and blissful feeling the moment after I spritz my face with setting spray?

It’s because we both find a way to put meaning into what we're doing. 

Mass is a rite in the Catholic Church, meaning it’s a ritual or a ceremony. The order in which it unfolds, along with the prayers and blessings, is delivered in the same way across the world – aside from language differences. 

That’s a wonderful thing because it brings so many people together. The community aspect is something I've always admired about the Church. But, for some reason, I always seem to have my most grounded moments when I’m by myself, doing something that brings me joy. 

So, rather than having a choir of people chime in throughout my ritual, a Youtube video plays in the background of my makeup routine to drown out intrusive thoughts. The service feels less meaningful without it, and I feel far less present.  

It’s not just my makeup either. I have a routine for getting dressed, cooking a weekly pasta dinner with my boyfriend (the recipe varies slightly every week, but then again, doesn’t the homily?), doing my homework and working out.  

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I know it might seem like I just shouldn’t call them rituals at all because of the religious implication of that word, and that maybe I should just say “routines.” But that would be doing them a disservice. 

The way I feel during my weekly leg day workout, for example, is something deeper than a routine. After it’s over, I feel better about myself, my day and my state of being. 

I can better tap into a spiritual connection with the world around me after I finish my stretches, set my makeup with setting spray, cook my pasta or complete any of my rituals.

I’m looking for the essence within the word ritual itself, and how I – a non-religious, 21-year-old college student – can find the deeper meaning in my life where I feel it fits. 

There is something to be said about repeating a task the same way over and over. I go on a sort of auto-pilot when it comes to the technicality of whatever I am doing, and I’m able to focus only on the joy of it. 

That makes me feel in tune with myself. It gives me something more than the word “routine” can express. 

I’m going to keep doing my rituals, and I’m going to call them what they are, because finding significance in the little things is the most spiritual thing I can think of. 

I might not be a practicing Catholic, but I can see the value in a ritual – be it Mass or a makeup routine.