“SEX IS BEAUTIFUL!!!! LOVE YOUR KIDS!!!”
These are aggressive statements. Especially when they are yelled at you from across a dining room table by an 85-year-old nun. I was 18, and sitting in my “Family Values” religion class. Sr. Delores, or Sr. D-Lo as she was more commonly known, had been a teacher at our school for years. By the time we were seniors, she wasn’t healthy enough to travel to the school to teach. Therefore, every afternoon my classmates and I walked across campus to the convent where the nuns lived. This became especially interesting when it rained, snowed, or Sister forgot we had class and didn’t unlock any of the doors.
If you would have told me back then, as a spirited religious woman shouted to us about sex and family, that I would treasure my high school experience, I would have never believed you. I know I am not unique in saying this. However, there are two lessons that I have carried into both adulthood and motherhood, that I owe to my time spent ‘neath the shade of elm and scented pine.
My school was small. In college I would tell people this, and they would say “So was my school! I only had a hundred kids in my grade.”
There were eleven people in my graduating class. Eleven, as in only one more than ten. Think about that for a minute. That’s the same eleven people in your classes, extra curricular activities, and social circle. Looking back it does sound ridiculous, but it was all we knew. And going through pictures today, I found myself praising the Lord that he contained my awkward years in such a way.
There is power in being allowed to be yourself…hey… I warned you not to come to this blog for new and revolutionary advice. Yes, we’ve heard this nonsense since Sesame Street was created. The problem is so few people, especially women, are ever allowed to actually explore what “being themselves” means. With only ten other people around to influence me everyday, the stakes weren’t quite as high. The years of rolled skirts, flip phones, and fedoras were protected by the brick walls. Our pimpled faces and hairy legs hidden from view as we fawned over the Jonas Brothers and sang show tunes.
The only boys we had to “impress” were the poor souls brave enough to audition for the male leads in our annual musicals. We could be totally and completely ourselves: emotional, annoying, petty, dramatic. There was something special about girls being free to live out loud.
Having such a select number of people around all the time comes with obvious challenges. Gravitating towards a group filled with people exactly like me was not possible. We didn’t have the option to form cliques. If we had a disagreement with someone, we had to figure it out. Unknowingly, this sharpened my communication skills and my ability to work in group settings. I learned how to respect and understand a variety of beliefs, opinions, and personalities, no matter how much I disagreed.
This has proven incredibly valuable, and it is something that I strive to instill in my own children. There’s no denying a lack of genuine face-to-face communication, in this age of personalized news feeds and curated content (she says, as she posts to her blog and refreshes her Instagram page for the thousandth time…).
Not only is everything instantaneous, but totally individualized. Oh I don’t like what this article says? Well there are 500 more that reaffirm what I already believe, so I don’t have to pay attention to it. While I am more than willing to subscribe to this method when it comes to shopping (shout out to Amazon Prime), it is such a poisonous mindset. And one more thing that keeps me up at night.
Please be assured that none of this is meant to portray an air of superiority or project a polished version of history. High School was borderline traumatic, as it is for most people. In fact, if I wanted to, I could easily write a post about the perils of single sex education, or how I didn’t feel quite prepared for the real world. Instead I choose to focus on the love and empowerment I experienced. Somehow, out of this tiny, sheltered, all-girls Catholic school, came some incredible memories that I wouldn’t trade for the world.
So this #ThrowbackThursday post is for the girls who made me laugh until I peed my pants. Who allowed to be confident in my love for Johnny Depp, and suffered through the time I was teaching myself how to play guitar. Given the circumstances, we have all turned out remarkably well adjusted. That is, as well-adjusted as a group of people can be after receiving sex education from an 85-year-old nun.