Catholic School: How Did I End up Here? (Pt. 2)

"This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness." ~ Dalai Lama (Buddhist Leader)

Notice how the kid in this cartoon is standing under the sign saying "public," whereas the adult figure - likely a mother who is over-reacting - is standing under the "private" sign. This is a good depiction of how this all played out in my family. I guess for this to be illustrated more accurately, the sign would actually read: "private, Catholic" but, that was impossible to find.

After eventually resigning to the fact that I was powerless over my mother's rash decision to send me to a different school - a school with no boys - a school where I knew no one - I ultimately opened myself up to this curious and somewhat dreadful educational experience. And, I hated it - have I mentioned that before?? Now, I could explain all the differences, all the experiences, all the memories; however, that would cause the Catholic School: How Did I End up Here dialogue to be endless in length. And so, for your reading pleasure, I will stick to the more interesting and amusing aspects of this particular adventure.

I would like to open with the following statement: if I was once a kid who things came easily to in terms of my academics, I was a dumb ass in private school. For example, the public education system began lessons in French in grade 4, whereas this particular school started them in grade 2. This was the same for most subjects including grammar, which was not something that was focused on in public school in the elementary school years (grade 6 and under). Concepts in math were far more advanced than my lowly public school education ever offered and, where the girls who surrounded me excelled in most academic areas, I fell behind in my classes quite quickly. That really pissed me off. I think this was one of the catalysts behind my behavioural downwards spiral that began that year, which likely contributed to my thinking that I could establish myself within the hierarchy by being different and disobedient, as opposed to smart. Figuring out this particular golden nugget took years of expensive therapy well into my adulthood.

Being the curious kid that I was, being forced to take a religion course in school was a novel idea to me and I remember being excited to learn about the different religions of the world. Until that point, I was struggling to see how wearing a uniform and having a boy-less existence contributed to my upbringing as a Catholic, but this - a religion class - would bring it all together for me. I anticipated learning about unconventional religious practices and rituals that developed in countries I had never even heard of. I was wrong and that pissed me off too. Within the grade 7 and 8 curriculum, the only religion explored in religion class was Catholicism. The course consisted of a bible study lead by one of the only remaining nuns teaching at the school, who oddly enough also taught health class (called CORE for some unknown reason). In case you are a visual person - she did not wear a habit. As an adult, I can now reflect on the irony of the fact that only Catholicism was taught in that religion class and I guess this falls in line with the first commandment that states: you shall have no other gods before me. Still, in my 13 year old brain it was bizarre that an entire course dedicated to religion would only explore one religion, but, what did I know? I guess it was no more odd than the fact that our health class (CORE), which was supposed to teach us something about sex - well, the Catholic version of that particular topic - generally focused on hygiene. I specially remember being told that I didn't really need to wash my body because the shampoo from washing my hair would take care of it. Again, my adult brain now understands that this was likely suggested in hopes of us avoiding touching our bodies in a manner that could be considered ungodly, which today strikes me as very amusing.

And so it began, the opportunity for all of my questions regarding faith and the bible and god to come forward to be answered by an expert: a nun. Someone not only married to god, but who dedicated some of her life teaching at a Catholic school for young girls. Brilliant. To my surprise, these questions were about as well received as they were to be in my ninth grade catechism class, where - as mentioned previously - my teachers would sigh in frustration as the questions would begin. This was surprising in the simple fact that, as a nun, my perception was that she would be all loving and all knowing, as god himself was supposed to be. I didn't expect the same from my catechism teachers - they were mere humans from my congregation, not people of god. Yet I found myself having similar experiences in religion class, where I was provided with nonsensical answers like, "it's simply faith, you just need to believe."

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