Updated: Apr 27, 2021
I attended Catholic private school for grades five, six, seven, nine, ten, and half of eleven. The Catholic high school was actually for grades eight through twelve, but I had missed the entrance exam (due to a move) for grade eight and I attended my local public school for grade eight instead. Because I didn’t attend for grade eight, I missed all of the opportunities to build friendships and posture for position in the hierarchy of this high school. When I started in grade nine, there seemed to be literally no way to break into what was already established.
After struggling socially through grade nine, I continued to struggle into grade ten. Then disaster. At the end of January, I was diagnosed with mono. It was bad enough being sick, but getting the kissing disease without being kissed was definitely salt in my wound. I was physically exhausted and could barely get out of bed. My throat was constantly raw. Although I was content to stay alone, under the covers, in a dark bedroom all day, my beloved grandparents came to visit me every day. My grandma made trays and trays of egg custard to soothe my burning throat. My grandpa and I played checkers and chess from my bed. I was incapacitated for seven whole months and didn’t return to school until September for grade eleven. Due to my high academic skills and previous honor roll status, I was permitted to pass along with my peers even though I had missed the last half of grade ten, including exams.
I’m glad I had the blood test to prove my diagnosis, because reflecting back now, I wonder if I wasn’t depressed as well. If I wasn’t at the beginning of the sickness, I certainly could have been by the end. I had missed six months of school without any “friends” keeping in touch with me. I had gained a ton of weight from all the treats that cooled my wretched throat. When I returned to school, I was even more out of touch than I had previously been. I would try to boost my self-confidence while approaching the school, giving myself a pep talk every day, “You have to BE a friend to get a friend,” or “Be the first person to say HI and someone will surely say it back,” and “Smile at everyone and show how happy you are to be back”. And do you know what happened? Nothing. I’m not kidding you one single bit. I was a ghost. People looked through me. I was wearing an invisibility cloak about eight years before JK Rowling released the first Harry Potter book. I felt like I would speak and my voice would disappear into nothingness so that no one heard me. It was a really strange existence, to walk the halls of high school, and not even be bullied but completely ignored.
While preparing for mid-term exams in the January of grade eleven, a teacher was asking questions and I was the only one who had my hand up. She called on other students who did not have their hands up and even when they didn’t have the correct answer, she STILL didn’t call on me. That was the last straw. I couldn’t believe it. Now staff were ignoring me too? When my mom picked me up from school that day, I said to her, “I am never going back to that school again”. The next day, when the school was empty because everyone had gone to church, we went in to clean out my locker. By the following Monday, I was back at the local public school. A different public school from grade eight because we had moved, again.
My new high school was astonishing. People were kind to me. People were interested in me. They wanted to know where I had come from. They wanted to know what private school was like, what it was like to wear a uniform every day, and have to attend church as part of school curriculum. But the most amazing thing to me was how Christian these kids were opposed to those attending the so-called Christian school. They treated me as they themselves wanted to be treated, which is the basis of almost all organized religion even though many so-called Christians fail to walk the talk.
Because I have told this story in person, I know that I will inevitably come up against a few responses saying, “But Catholics aren’t Christians”. To reply, I will invite you to broaden your knowledge about early Christians, including the fact that Catholics were in fact the first and only Christians for about 1500 years - until the Protestant Reformation in 1517. During this time many Catholics protested against the financial abuses of the church and challenged the papacy. This signified the emergence of other forms of Christianity (the Protestants) led by King Henry XIII, Martin Luther, John Calvin, etc. Thanks for coming to my TED talk. ;-)