Sunday, July 29, 2012

chapter six: high school

After Mike's death it was summer, and then another school year rolled around.  I attended a Catholic high school (the only Catholic one in my town) and while I made some life long friends, high school was an awkward time for me.  I was starting to figure out who I was and who I wanted to be, but there was a disconnect between those things, and I wasn't self aware (or self confident) enough to jump the bridge.

For much of high school, I floated.  Good grades and test scores, and knee-deep involvement in tons of extracurriculars.  Peer court, NHS, volleyball, soccer, softball, show choir.  Inch deep, mile wide.   Some of my middle school friendships fell apart, and other new friendships grew together.  I am still close with two good high school girlfriends, and casual friends with a bunch of others.   For some people, high school was one of the highlights of their lives... not so for me. 

Looking back, some of my most distinct memories are from high school, and they really set the tone for who I am today.  My then 16- year old brother and his girlfriend were briefly at a party where underage drinking occurred - there was no argument about the fact that they had NOT been drinking, but  he was sentenced to miss a football game as a result (the same penalty as if he had been drinking).  My parents tried to fight it, but didn't win.  He was sidelined.  I thought this rule was horrible and unfair - and I wrote a letter to the editor of the school paper because of it.  It was my senior year, and I was taking two English classes (back to back, nonetheless).  Both teachers encouraged me to write the letter, edited it thoroughly, and let me work on it in the Journalism office instead of attending their classes for a day.   I pinpoint that incident as the first time I realized that I like to fight when things aren't fair, and I like to harness passion through language.  Through the backward lens, I also recognize that as a way that two teachers went to bat for me, and fanned the flame of writing within me.

In that instance, and many others, I was the recipient of good teachers (and people) at Xavier... but there was certainly bad too.  My one-time theology teacher wasted an entire semester teaching us almost nothing, coming in late and leaving in the middle of each class to get more coffee, and then gave us a horribly unfair final essay test.  I wrote him a note on the final saying that I thought it was unfair, and the "A" that I had in his class until that point suddenly dropped to a C+.  Mathmatically impossible, mind you, since the test was worth only 10%.  It was the only C I got in high school.  (I'm also not above naming names...  So thanks for that Mr. Phelan).  

The flip side of that coin was some truly wonderful teachers that I encountered during my four years at Xavier. A teacher that lit a fire within me to learn about justice and law, and chartered the course for my four years of college.  English teachers that I loved.  Science teachers, gym teachers, math teachers.  The teachers at Xavier were for the most part remarkable, a group called to the vocation of Catholic education, and I am fortunate to have learned from them.  A principal that I was paired with in a mentorship program who went on to write me a glowing letter of recommendation.  One day each year dedicated to community service.  I loved Xavier, but in many ways, it was very small, and very political.  I mostly loved and sometimes hated my time there, and some of the strongest lessons I learned were that kindness, circumstances, and people matter.  I also learned that adults don't always know best, to question authority, and to trust my gut.

As high school came to a close, it was time to start thinking about college.  I considered many options and in part because of the narrow minded and authoritarian system that Xavier employed, I chose something completely different - the University of Iowa.  

1 comment:

  1. High school can be so awkward but my recollection is that I watched you with complete awe as you traversed the territory - you carried yourself gracefully as you played soccer, danced in show choir, worked at Dry Cleaning Plus, slapped off those Marion boys, and fought for justice for all! Oh, and did the dishes. Oh, and played cab driver to your brothers. etc., etc., xoxox

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