I made the decision to wear my habit to class at St. Xavier University today. It's only 10AM, but so the impact has had as much to do with the others as it has with me.
Initially I had weird feelings about wearing my habit to school. There were enough issues I was dealing with: being older and returning, being around an environment that was almost a different culture, and learning to integrate a school schedule with my prayer and ministry schedule. Figuring out whether or not I was going to wear the habit was another issue I didn't think I had time to reflect upon.
I also have issues with the habit being used as a means for self-promotion. I've experienced others who use their religious dress as a means of advertisement, self-promotion, even as a way of giving some sense of validity in what they say. My understanding of being a Capuchin Franciscan is to not see myself as "above" anyone else. Wearing the habit to school seemed like a selfish and attention-getting practice. I view my habit as something important to my life, not a costume to evoke reactions.
So my decision to wear my habit came as a surprise, but I think it came from a place of wanting to be comfortable at school. Unfortunately school is still the same: people walk looking down or into their cell phones, they wear ear-buds to block out the noise of others, and they wear blank expressions on their faces. I don't think it's ill-intention, but it's the first week of school and people are out of their element just like me.
So as a way to be comfortable with the current school surroundings, the thought of wearing my habit made sense. While I have the same sense of anxiety and shyness as most people in unfamiliar surroundings, I am okay with people staring at perplexed.
Since I've been here, I've gotten a lot more looks than usual. The point is not for the looks, however. I catch a lot of people staring, and use it as an opportunity to simply smile and say "Hi." Even as I write this, I can see someone over my shoulder staring at me. In a weird way, I'm okay with it.
But perhaps the best part is that I'm not becoming the same type of person: walking with my head down with ear-buds in my ear. That is not the person I want to be, nor is it the person I feel was called to live this life.