5 Things You Realize After You Graduate From Catholic Schools

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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To The Girl Who Wears My Jersey

Now that you wear my jersey, here's what I'd like to tell you.
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To the girl who wears my jersey,

As an athlete, a jersey and number is more than just something you wear during a game. It means something more to an athlete.

One of the saddest parts of an athlete's career is when they have to give that jersey up for someone else to wear when they move on in life. After sitting in a box for a couple months after graduation, another athlete comes along and takes the jersey as their own. So, here's some things I would like to say to the girl that is wearing my jersey.

I hope you are working hard at the game. I hope that you are putting in extra hours when practice is over, and going 110% doing whatever you are doing. Enjoy the time you have now because soon it will be gone. It goes by in the blink of an eye and before you know it you will leaving your jersey behind just like I did, so cherish every moment. When I wore that jersey, I thought that the games and practices would never end until it got close to the end.

That jersey you're wearing has been through everything. It's gone through winning streaks, heartbreaking losses, comebacks, and blowouts. It's full of memories that I made with my teammates for years. There were the long bus rides or the pre-game traditions. There were the times we went out to eat and I got food on it, and times where it held my tears after a tough loss. That jersey you have has literally been with me through blood, sweat, and tears. It's seen all of the hard work I have put in on the field or court. I met so many different and amazing people in that jersey. I've played for coaches that have showed me perspectives of the game that I never saw before. I traveled to small towns, big cities, beaches, and other places I never thought I would see. It's an exciting time when you have that jersey on. You will meet new people, learn new things, and travel to places you never thought you would go before.

The jersey you are wearing means something to me, because I picked it for a reason and wore it for so many years. I picked the number on the jersey because it has a story, like every athlete's number does. The story can be as simple as it was picked for me and grew on me, or it could be your role model wore that number, so you chose it too. Another story could be that a family member wore it so you carried on the tradition. Whatever the story was, it's your turn to add your story to the jersey.

Be legendary. The truth is sometimes when someone thinks about that jersey you're wearing they'll think of the people that wore it before you. They think of the way the ones before you played, but that's all going to change. You are going to be added to the legacy and tradition. It's time for you to make your own legacy and name for yourself. It's about making people think that whoever wears the number next will be as great as the one before. Play to the best of your ability and work hard every day to be better than the next girl. Play with heart, be humble, and don't disrespect the tradition, team, or organization you are a part of.

Finally, play for someone other than yourself. Play for the name on the front of your jersey more than the one on the back. Play for everyone who got you to the point you are at now. Play for the ones who don't have the opportunity to play the game you love. Play for the little girl who watches you. Play for all the ones who wore the jersey before you.

Above all else, be your own player, create a name for yourself, and be humble.


Cover Image Credit: Caroline Showalter

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To The Marching Band That Changed My Life

Because hearing "one more time" for the last time can be oh so bittersweet.

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To the Zebra Marching Band,

Thank You.

Words cannot describe how much you have done for me throughout these past four years. Little did I know that upon walking through the band room's intimidating doors my freshman year, I had unknowingly found my second home. On the outside it may have appeared to simply be kids with instruments on a field, however, it was so much more.

Thank you for teaching me how to have an immense amount of school spirit despite not knowing a single thing about football. From playing our school's fight song by heart, to feeling an electric energy each time the stadium lights lit up on Friday nights, you allowed me to experience a sense of joy unlike no other.

You taught me that there definitely is no "i" in "team," even if it may have taken me a while to understand that. I was able to learn that I didn't always need to be self-sufficient, that in order for me to succeed, I needed to listen and work together with those around me. I soon realized that we each played an important role on that field and even if just one of us was out of place, we would all be affected. Once we put on those uniforms, we weren't simply ourselves anymore, rather we came together regardless of backgrounds or differences, and became one. Under that shako, no one knew who we were, because that 10 minute show wasn't about any one individual, it was about the band.

I thank you for showing me that a family doesn't necessarily mean you're related by blood, that a family can be as small as the people within your section, or as big as the entire band. Without marching band, I would have never met some of my best friends. You brought some of the most amazing people into my life that I've had the opportunity to form long-lasting bonds with. Although I may have not known it at the time, but after years of complaining about the weather either being too hot or too cold at rehearsal, making up dances to the drum-line's cadences, helping each other memorize music and sets, or saying the phrase, "It's not a show if you don't have to go" to each other, these once-strangers around me had become a part of my roots. Thank you for placing people in my life that would help push me when I didn't want to do another run-through or scream the loudest with me when it came to school chants.

You taught me the virtue of patience, because after hearing the director say "one last time" for the 5th time in a row, I DEFINITELY needed it.

Turns out those hour-long bus rides actually feel like ten minutes when you're sitting by the the right people (aka: the back of the bus.) You gave me a chance to experience those irreplaceable laughs, inside jokes, and memories made at marching contests that I would look back on in a few years and say "Man, I miss this." I never did think I would ever get so excited over spending my Saturdays watching other bands perform while competing for a trophy of our own.

Thank you for both the significant and insignificant details. For the everyday normality of walking into the band room and being greeted by a hundred kids in a frenzy, to the medley of saxophones and tubas and other practicing instruments that would eventually become the background noise to my life. Or from having the opportunity to march in front of 20,000 people at the Magic Kingdom Parade at Disney World, to leaving a legacy by being the first band in my school's history to not only pass on to finals, but place eighth at our state marching contest.

In the end, you transformed me into a girl who adores the clarinet and is passionate about both music and marching. So much so that next year I'll be at Boone Pickens Stadium, making my dreams a reality by marching with a college band.

Just know I could have never done it without you, because when it's all said and done, I wouldn't trade getting to be a part of the Zebra Marching Band for the world.

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