Pungent Memories of Central Catholic
Wednesday was the Annual Central Catholic Alumni Cross Country Race (or ACCACCR for the acronym-inclined). Although I had time to think about training for the race, I didn't quite have time to train. But watching was tiring enough. Afterwards, everyone met in the gym for the Annual Post-Race Pizza Fest (APRPF). Nothing mixes better than cross country running and pizza.
Since I hadn't seen any of my former teammates and teachers in about a year, I was curious to see how everyone is handling college, or teaching, or whatever. in the process, I realized a couple mildly profound things:
I still don't have much in common with my classmates/teammates. I didn't throughout high school, and I don't now. It seemed to me that no one had changed much since high school -- that college was merely a continuation of the same homogeneity, the same comforting mediocrity to which everyone aspired in high school. Maybe I'm being too harsh considering I didn't have the time, will, or opportunity to converse deeply with my former acquaintances. But at first glance, everybody looked the same (same as eachother and same as they did two years ago), and, more importantly, everybody conformed to the same roles they did back then.
I sort of talked about it before, but it's more apparent now. I think I spent my high school career trying to fit in with insular people and lost a lot of opportunities to be myself. It's almost like my growth as a person was stunted rather than nourished by my high school experiences. Of course it's not that simple. Decisions I made back then (even ones that prevented me from being myself) make me who I am today -- whoever that is. If I could go back in time to freshman year of high school I'd probably tell myself to be more outgoing, learn more about important issues, and forget about trying to feel validated by one clique or another. Easier said than done.
Another thing I thought: boy, if I was as "cool" in high school as I am today, my life would've been quite different. That sentence is almost laughably embarrassing, but it's true. I feel that I have to clarify, explain, rationalize, elucidate on the "coolness" factor, but I won't. Suffice it to say, I'm not exactly cool now, so that sentence isn't saying much...
These small reunions give me an opportunity to think about high school, try to make sense of my time there and understand the culture of today's inmates. The other 364 days in the year I'd rather just file those memories away in a dusty cabinet. I was once again reminded of the smug, "I'm better than you little high school kids/teachers because I graduated" attitude prevalent in recent graduates. Personally, I try to watch myself and be a little more humble and empathetic, but who knows, I might seem just as smug. At any rate, every year the previous graduating class returns to walk on their tiptoes, stick out their chests, speak with a deeper voice, and sarcastically shake hands with their former teachers. They might say things like, "College is great/sucks", "you still teach here??", "I remember when the lockers were a different color/there was an extra door somewhere/there weren't uniforms/we didn't have as many electives. Now, it's so different!". I overheard one recent grad say that he was just stopping by to pick something up and that he decided a while ago that he didn't want to be "that guy who visits high school every year." Good thinking -- you might get cooties otherwise.
As early as the summer after graduation, high school all of a sudden becomes ancient history; those 4 years can be recalled with a kind of supercilious nostalgia, a naïve superiority that hopefully evaporates with time. It's tough for me to dredge up fond memories of the time. Actually, it's tough to remember anything from high school. My time there passed in a blur like wiping a sponge across a detailed oil painting landscape.
The school essentially molds students into little, productive cogs. Admittedly, we're supposed to be Catholic, "upper-middle-class" cogs, but cogs nonetheless. The credo used to say something about "fostering future leaders" or some such hoo-hah, which seems like a classic example of a roper-doper. Hardly any student understands that message of "leadership". In fact, leadership seems contrary to the idea of a religious education. Sure, there were some leaders -- the officially sanctioned, kosher ones who towed the line. Hey kids, it's cool to be a leader...as long as you follow authority figures!
While I was talking with a religion teacher someone mentioned that another teacher was lecturing about phallic symbols, to which the first teacher expressed concern. I hope he was just kidding though. "Catholic" supposedly means universal, inclusive, but you wouldn't guess that by attending a catholic school. Most of the material is skewed, edited, censored, or otherwise limited. Curiosity is discouraged; creativity is squelched. It's no wonder many of my classmates end up having children too young -- teachers weren't allowed to explain how not to get knocked up.
Though I'm not keen about catholic schools, I can't criticize the teachers who are dedicated to their jobs. Sometimes it seems, however, that the quality control for teachers stinks. There are some good ones, few great ones, and far too many awful ones. A teacher who will remain nameless couldn't believe that my class had close-minded cliques when I tried telling him about it. But isn't that how every high school class is?
To summarize: In high school, everybody tries to figure out which segregated group they belong in, most kids waste time thinking that some other people are cooler and as a result take out their frustrations on others, "leaders" exist in name only, and the school hopes to subdue its population just long enough to package, polish and ship the students off to their next stop in life's assembly line: college. Administrators say, "don't hesitate to come back" with feigned warmth while they dust off their hands and start molding the next batch of cogs.
Enough with high school. That's ancient history, dude.
I look forward to next year's reunion...