5 Things You Realize After You Graduate From Catholic School

5 Things You Realize After You Graduate From Catholic School

Actually choosing what to wear is stressful...

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I spent the first 13 years of my education in Catholic schools, and I couldn't be happier that my parents made the choice to send me there. I know it's a sacrifice, especially financially, and something that I definitely took for granted at the time. Although I love going to a non-religious affiliated school now, in part because I have been exposed to a wide array of people, perspectives, and people at different places in their life journeys, I feel that my college experience - and my ability to stay true to myself and my faith in a non-faith-based environment - really stems from the foundation that I got in Catholic schools. While there were definitely minuses (did I really want to wear khaki and navy EVERY DAY FOR 13 YEARS.... NO), but even those minuses have become positives in hindsight. This changed perspective, along with countless wonderful memories and lasting friendships, is something that I will never be able to repay the Catholic school system for.

In recent weeks from numerous news posts and interpreted actions of some Catholic school affiliated students, I'm afraid that Catholic education is getting a representation that it doesn't deserve. But instead of trying to defend some people's behavior, or make a strikingly self-righteous religious case about why people should go to Catholic schools, I thought I would enlighten you as to what my experience has been like, and realizations I have had, since my graduation from Catholic schools in 2016. So maybe in the future when you're considering where to suggest a child be educated, or to send your own, you'll keep these 5 things in mind:

1. Choosing what to wear is stressful.

Yes, we really had to wear those pants every day.

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What is appropriate? Do I look weird? Is this on trend? I can't afford what's on trend... Uniforms cut out all of these concerns - mostly because everyone looks awful together. Do you like them in the moment: no, ABSOLUTELY NOT. They're ugly, uncomfortable, and unflattering. But I can't help admit that on that first day of college, I wished I didn't spend 20 minutes picking out an outfit.

2. Staying true to your faith is harder than you think.

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It's hard to stay steadfast in your beliefs when you're exposed to such a wide variety of beliefs. Some would say that this is a weakness of Catholic education: by limiting your worldview, aren't you inherently making you prejudiced towards others? (And yes, unfortunately I have heard this argument.) But in my opinion and experience, having a strong educational background in my faith made me more knowledgeable when confronted with other teachings. I knew what I believed, so when I heard other things I could critically compare them to my own beliefs, and accept or reject it based on a well-informed comparison. And from the education I received, I have always been able to maintain my faith and be able to hear out other people's opinions.

3. People outside the Catholic faith (and schools) have weird perceptions about what Catholicism really is.

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I hesitate to use the word "weird" here because it has so many negative connotations, but I do remember "weird" being my first thought when someone asked me something about the Catholic faith. It wasn't that the question was totally off base, but it was such a strange way of interpreting a tenet of the faith that I'd taken for granted that I had been educated in since I was a little kid.

I've found it a privilege (and often kind of a scary burden) in my time since Catholic schools as being the go-to "Catholic wikipedia." I'll get randomly texted and called and interrogated about religious questions - both Catholic and generally Christian - way more often than I ever expected I would. I don't mind. But it is scary and intimidating to try to explain something that I understand so well - or at least thought I did in my head - and put it into words for a person who doesn't understand and best or is unreceptive at worst. If I hadn't gone to Catholic schools but still would have practiced the faith in college, I definitely think I would be at a disadvantage in these scenarios. And I don't claim to always have all the answers to every question I get asked. But I do need to go back and tell 5h-grade-me that religion class is important no matter how boring the textbook is.

4. Getting your butt out of bed to go to mass is important, even if you don't want to move at 9AM on the weekend.

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Unfortunately, a lot of my friends have fallen away in the practice of going to weekly mass. A lot of people do. I think a lot of former Catholic school students do because they had grown used to taking for granted how easy going to mass was when you were forced to, or your parents forced you to, or it was a required by your coach. I remember grumbling about having to go to volleyball mass before school. I remember having played a tournament all Saturday and having a ton of homework left to do and still going to mass on Sunday. I've been forced to go to mass in other countries in other languages. And being forced into anything isn't fun.

But since it has become my own choice, my own responsibility, to get my self to church every Sunday, I've realized that this constant force -guilt was what originally drove me to mass that first few weeks of college when I was new at a new parish and embarrassed. I'll readily admit that: I hate going to mass alone, I hate going to a church I've never been to before, and I really hated everything that came along with going to mass at the start of college. But kept with it, partially out of Catholic-guilt (yes, it's real) and slowly ebbed away into an actual willingness to go. It still may not a joy to climb out of bed several hours before any of my roommates, or to have to call it and go to bed before 3AM so that I get up on time, but I feel like my whole week goes better if I take that hour out of my Sunday morning. And I think deep down I have Catholic schools to take for this new mature take on mass, largely because it got me used to going in the first place.

5. It's school. It's going to suck just as much as a public school, but the ability to talk about problems in terms of faith can help them be better.

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Girls are petty at any school. It doesn't matter that it's public, religious, or private. I would never, ever, try to lie and say that my time in grade school was perfect. I came home and cried about things that a mean girl had said. I got frustrated with teachers. Sports were weirdly parent-political. It is a SCHOOL after all: none of the typical grade school drama is going to fall away under the guise of religion.

The same goes for high school. Kids still do things they shouldn't. Everyone is still stressed about college. Teenagers are angsty. Teachers are grumpy and sick of teenagers. There are cliques. People get left out. There's gossip. That may make it sound bad, but it's high school. Everyone has a different experience, and everyone has bad days.

But while Catholic schools still have all the bad stuff that goes along with a school environment and growing up, the faith-based aspect of the education goes give you an outlet through which to talk about your problems that you might not have at a public school. This is something that I wish I might have taken advantage of more often. Maybe talking about some of the problems would have made them seem like not as big of a deal, or maybe I could have gotten a new perspective.

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When You Give A Girl A Pair Of Cleats

It's more than a pair of shoes.
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When you give a girl a pair of cleats, you are giving her far more than a new pair of shoes. You are giving her new friends and new challenges and so many lessons and some of her best memories.

When you give a girl a pair of cleats, you are giving her a team. You are giving her a group of girls that she might not have ever talked to if it wasn’t for these common cleats. A group of girls who will teach her how to be a teammate. A group of girls who will laugh with her and yell at her and train with her and win with her and lose with her. With a pair of cleats comes a group of mismatched people with a common goal who are learning from each other and working together.

SEE ALSO: To The Coach That Took My Confidence Away

When you give a girl a pair of cleats, you are giving her a coach. This coach is going to play an instrumental role in her love or hate for the sport. This coach will work her hard. This coach will train her and teach her and encourage her and yell at her and make her cry and hug her and cheer her on. This coach wants to see her succeed. This coach knows what these cleats mean, what this sport means. And this coach will be someone that she will watch. She will watch the way that her coach talks to her and talks to her teammates and talks to the other team and she will see her coach’s responses to games that are won and games that are lost. This pair of cleats comes with a role model, for better or for worse.

When you give a girl a pair of cleats, you are giving her team practices. You are giving her practice that will instill discipline and dedication and commitment. You are teaching her that she is on a team and she is expected to put in time. You are teaching her that her presence is important and that people are relying on her. You are teaching her how to balance her time, because, now, she has school and practice and games and teammates and friends and family. And for the first time in her life, she has to establish priorities. With this practice time comes some of the hardest conditioning and training. With this practice time comes some of her favorite memories as she bonds with her teammates and laughs with them and works hard with them. This pair of cleats comes with quite the time commitment.

When you give a girl a pair of cleats, you are giving her game days. You are giving her bus rides and warm up playlists and team matching hair ribbons and orange slices at half-time and constantly looking for your water bottle on the sidelines. You are giving her a competitiveness that can only come out on the field. You are giving her the cheers from the sidelines and the screams of her coach and the exhaustion in her legs at the end of the game. You are giving her handshakes with opponents and a winning attitude even when she loses. With a pair of cleats comes pasta dinners and game days; These will become her favorite days.

SEE ALSO: My First Semester As A College Athlete

When you give a girl a pair of cleats, you are giving her a challenge. She is going to grow and learn, and she’s going to want to quit at times, but she is going to look down at her feet and remember why she’s doing this. She’s going to remember her teammates and her coaches and the amount of time she’s poured into this sport, and she’s going to realize that it’s worth it. She’s going to be covered in bruises and her socks are going to stink, and she’s always going to be looking for a sock or needing a hair elastic. She’s going to be tired, and she’s going to get hurt. But those cleats are going to establish lessons that she’s going to remember for the rest of her life, friends that she is going to learn to love, and discipline that she is going to be thankful for. If you’re the girl with the cleats, soak it in. Love the long practices and the exhaustion and the sound of the whistle that starts the game. If you’re the girl without the cleats, go get some. Try something new. Take the risk. Sign up for the team, the musical, the club. You will regret it if you don’t. Even if you fail, few things can teach you the lessons that those cleats will.

Sincerely,

The Girl Who Hung Up Her Cleats

Cover Image Credit: Hannah Cook

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An Open Letter To All High School Seniors

Pieces of advice from someone who recently was one.

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To All High School Seniors,

Congratulations! You have taken your last finals in high school, most of you have probably gotten in to at least one school, and you now can cruise into graduation. My senior year of high school was an amazing end to my high school career and time in my hometown and I know that the next couple of months will be just that for you too.

I want to give you some advice for your next couple of months in the city you will soon be leaving. It seems so long ago that I was in your place but at the same time I know how quickly those last months flew by.

Go to as many sporting events at your school as you have left. One day you will look back and wish that you had more memories cheering on your high school basketball team or eating a hot dog above the football field. Being the oldest, you can start all the cheers and chants and support your classmates in what will be for most of them their last athletic contest.

Thank your teachers. These men and women show up every day to teach you. Whether you believe it or not they want you to succeed and I doubt that any of them became a teacher just to be mean and give you an F. They have dedicated their time to helping you and even if you hated their class, thank them for their time and commitment to you and your classmates.

Make time for your family. Over the summer, when it feels like you only have a handful of weeks left, it's normal to want to spend all your time with your friends. But you are probably leaving your hometown for school and you can't forget about your parents and siblings because you're leaving them too. Just make a point to stay in one night to watch a movie or even have another home cooked, family meal.

Go to all of your favorite restaurants. Yes they will be here for you when you get back but it will be really fun to make a trip one last time before heading off to school. Go with your friends, sister, or dad and make a day or night out of it each time.

Take a lot of pictures but don't let it be the focus of your night. I wish that I took more photos every night when I was with my friends. I never focused on taking photos just because it seemed to take away from actually experiencing my last moments but now I find myself wishing I had just a few more. I love looking through my photos from my trips, dances, and nights out because it makes me smile remembering it all. I'm not saying put a bunch of makeup on and make sure your outfit is perfect every time you go out. I'm suggesting taking candids and random selfies whenever you want to remember a moment. Don't let it be the focus, just an extra.

Really, my biggest piece of advice is to cherish the time you have left and be grateful for your high school years and everyone that allowed you to be there. Senior year of high school is a special time for everyone and also scary. One of my teachers last year told us on our last day of class how special our time is in the moment we were at. He told us that we will never again, for the rest of our lives, be with these same people under the same circumstances ever again. His speech frightened me and it made my eyes swell because I realized my time living at home, being with my closest friends in a familiar, safe environment I had known for the past six years of my life was coming to an end.

This time is one of celebration, reflection, and excitement. Celebrate with your loved ones in the places you cherish the most. Reflect on the memories you have made and who you have made them with. Get excited for the next chapter of your life and know that it is okay to be nervous. Have fun and know that even though everything will never be the same, it will still be amazing in a different way.

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