I’ve already established that I lived in my head for many months between being laid off from my job and moving to Alabama. While a lot of my journal entries were chasing after total understanding, obsessing over things that I couldn’t change on my own and just worrying about all sorts of things, there were also some moments of epiphany. Moments of clarity. These happened especially when I took time to slow down and just be quiet. Be still. Not chasing after things or trying to check off all the items on my to-do list. And I thought I’d share a few of those.
There were some students who were really engaged, some that did as instructed, and some that questioned the relevance of an assignment but eventually complied. None of these students openly defied authority or the purpose of school. So the second semester of student-teaching was indeed far better.
My mentor teacher was warm and inviting and organized! She had high expectations for her ninth-graders while finding creative ways to make group collaborations more fun. It was wonderful to be with a teacher who wanted to challenge her students and see them grow! With about thirty years of experience, she had plenty of wisdom to share.
My brother Andrew is two years older than me, but he was three grade levels ahead because I repeated 4K.
He finished two years of college before deciding he felt called to be a priest. He made the decision to continue that discernment process by entering the seminary. So as I began my senior year of high school, he started seminary.
My parents and I had some indication this might be the right direction for him, so it wasn’t a total shock. But he was dating someone at the time, so he had to break that off.
I was very proud of my brother. Proud of him for taking such a big leap and giving himself a chance to see if this was the right path. I was proud of him for going through formation and receiving a proper education, more relevant for priestly responsibilities than what he would receive at a public university.
Yes, that is French for “Do you speak English?”
I was awesome at French when it came to learning new groups of words. Vocabulary was easy because it was rote memory. You just repeat it enough times and eventually it sticks.
Where I got stuck was forming sentences, specifically going through different verb tenses. I had the same kind of trouble when we addressed this in English class. Distinguishing from past, present and future is easy, but when you throw in various “perfect” tenses, things get tricky. I stumbled with properly identifying these tenses in English.
At the end of January 2002, the senior class had the opportunity to go on a class trip to Disney World. I think it was a Friday-Monday kind of thing, so we didn’t get to skip too much class time. It was an awesome chance to bond with classmates, even if it did require more than 7 hours on a bus.
Seventh grade was the start of asking as many people as possible to sign my yearbook. I don’t know what prompted it because it had never been a thing before. But I asked friends, teammates, coaches, teachers, people I barely knew, people who rode the same bus as me. I knew a lot of people’s names but that doesn’t mean I knew them well or they had any idea of who I was.
It wasn’t a popularity contest of trying to get the most signatures or messages. That may be hard to believe because in high school especially I had people writing over ads and I even taped in blank sheets of paper just to create space. I brought my tenth grade yearbook with me to Governor’s School and asked as many people as I could to sign it. I received quite a number of weird looks from people as they reluctantly wrote something down.
But it was never a popularity contest. It was deeper than that. I was trying to cobble together some sense of what people thought of me. What was their impression? How am I actually viewed?
In April 2001, the church youth group went on retreat at a nearby campground for some team building, bonding, and fun.
By eleventh grade we were embarking on a new program at our church, following Life Teen, which meant having more adult leader support in youth ministry. It wasn’t just one person in charge but more of a team effort. And there was music. Fantastic music.
We met every Sunday after Mass for something fun to break the ice and then learning and discussing the Catholic faith, but in a friendly environment. I really enjoyed having something consistent to participate in. I connected well with the adults, over time feeling like I could trust them.
In the summer of 2000, between tenth and eleventh grade, I had the opportunity to attend South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities. I went for the creative writing program. It was held on a campus near downtown Greenville, S.C., about 2.5 hours away from where my parents lived. Sure I’d gone to overnight Girl Scout camps, but this was the first time to be away from my parents for an extended period of time. And it marked the first time I had to live with a roommate. This was a big deal.
I was excited about going but nervous about what the experience might be like. My style of writing was mostly to wait for inspiration to strike, to have an idea or a vision of where things were going and to complete the piece at that time. There really wasn’t a concept of brainstorming and editing, no stressing over word choices and trying to make things sound better. My approach was to really wait for inspiration and pounce in the moment. It was one of the rare times when I could be spontaneous. So I was nervous about how my writing approach would be tested and shaken up, having to meet certain expectations and requirements within a set time frame.
First, I need to offer a glimpse of playing basketball during sixth grade. It was pretty routine with practices and games. I do remember jumping the bleachers. Seriously we jumped from the floor up to the next bleacher, and then continued jumping up.
It looked something like this video, except we were jumping on bleachers and not the stairs. It required a higher vertical jump. And the part I remember most is how scary it was; I was afraid of completely missing the next bleacher. I never did miss, but that scared feeling never went away.
Upon reflecting some on what I wrote for sixth grade (read that here), it occurred to me that I had actually transformed into that chameleon that I so desperately wanted to be. (If you missed that one, you can find it here.)
I really thought I reached that level much later in life, but in all honesty, the proof is shown during the misery of sixth grade.