Tag Archives: High School

The Moment Of “I Love You”

I’ve tried to write this several times over and haven’t been able to. Partly, I haven’t known where exactly to begin, partly I haven’t known what to include, partly, I find this kind of thing a bit cliche, and partly, it’s a bit of a novel. All that being said, I’ve decided to start with a preface. As I said, More often than not, I find a lot of “coming to faith” stories at least somewhat annoying. A lot of them have the same, or at least a similar notion that the writer was so terrible before, and drastically better, morally speaking, immediately after their conversion. I also find it problematic when a person shares their story and neglects basic rules of writing style, spelling, and grammar. While it may be more important on some level to simply get the story out, the neglect lessens its credibility. More could be said, but I think those are issues for another post. Now I will share my story.

I grew up Catholic, largely because of a promise my mom made. When I was a year old I was diagnosed with a kind of Muscular Dystrophy (MD) that would kill me by the age of five if I was lucky. I don’t really know the time frame for all this, but when my parents got the news, my mom started praying like a maniac. I had tests done, and the news continued to be bad. I need to pause for a moment to explain a Catholic peculiarity here. A common misconception is that Catholics worship the Virgin Mary. The truth is that she has a very high place of honor, being that she is Jesus’ mother, and we recognize that her prayers are helpful and influential. Now to get back to my story, the news was bad, and eventually my mom gave up. Rather, she stopped praying to God, and asked Mary to pray for her because if anyone in the world knew what it was like to lose a child, it would be her.

Circumstances continued like this for about six months, if I remember correctly until one day my dad called my mom. He had taken me to an appointment and inexplicably, things had drastically changed. What had seemed like a ritual reiteration of a death sentence for six months had suddenly turned to a promise of life. Somehow the test results had drastically changed. I had a kind of MD, the effects of which were not entirely certain, but I would grow up, go to school, and do “normal kid stuff.” I did mention that my mom made a promise. When she asked Mary to pray for me, she promised that she would raise me as a “good Catholic girl,” so CCD was included in the “normal kid stuff” I ended up doing.

The truth is I have always been a believer in the sense that I want things to be true; I’m a bit gullible; my natural impulse is to trust people. As a child I believed in God, but when I was very young I knew him only vaguely as the Creator of the universe, and even then, not necessarily one who had a conscious mind or paid any attention to us. Eventually that changed. I came to believe that he paid attention to us, but mostly like someone watching an ant farm. As an older child, particularly in my middle school years, I just lost interest in God. I got busy doing more “normal kid stuff,” as does everyone.

In particular, my friends and I became very busy defending Mythic Island, an invented universe that was under siege from the wolf demon Agorauth. One of my friends and I created a comic for the school newspaper. I wrote the story and she drew the pictures. Every Friday night we would all congregate at my house, eat terrible pizza and play Star Wars Battlefront. Of course, since it was middle school, it wasn’t all fun. We can only assume that our group was comprised of the most unpopular kids in school. We all got picked on in one way or another.

High school changed things drastically and quickly. The summer before our Freshman year, we ended our Mythic Island adventure. That same year, one of my closest friends got incredibly busy with sports, so much so that we could hardly hang out. He also got a girlfriend, and I realized that boys could be more than just friends. Towards the end of that year I got a guitar who I named Francisco. You can probably imagine why.

At that time, I was still in CCD, and for a reason that was inexplicable at the time, I was hating it less and less. Most of my friends’ parents had allowed them to drop out years earlier, but my mom was not going to break her promise. CCD classes in ninth and tenth grade were structured towards getting students ready to receive the sacrament of Confirmation, should they choose to receive it. A “Yes” signifies that a person is an adult and active member in the Church. The odd thing was, though I was becoming more receptive to what we were learning, there was little emotion in it. It was just another class.

Another friend of mine was enrolled in the program after his parents divorced in the middle of our Freshman year because his dad thought it would be helpful for him. He hated every second of it. He had changed after the divorce. It had made him a completely different person. He was dispondent and reclusive. He stopped doing homework; wouldn’t hand in projects; intentionally failed tests. He was also rather disrespectful to our teacher in CCD, which I did not appreciate. I only mention these details about my friend because in part, I think it made me want to make up for it, so I participated more in class and I really listened. I wasn’t passive during that time.

We completed the Confirmation class at the end of our Sophomore year. It concludes with an all-day retreat at which we had discussions, weird spiritual activities which I didn’t exactly understand, and a mass, if I remember correctly. There was also a lot of free time, and my friend and I spent that time silently playing cards. At the end of the day we were given a letter written by our parents. I don’t remember much of what mine said. I do remember them saying they were proud of me, and that from this point on, my spirituality was my business. Finally, we were asked, “Will you be confirmed?” I said I would.

At the beginning of my Junior year I went through the actual ceremony, and I did keep going to church, but had I been asked at the time, I would not have been able to tell why. For the next two years I can, I think, accurately say that I was a Catholic in practice, but an agnostic in belief. I still didn’t really know who God was. I knew what he did, but that was it. During that time, I had begun to feel an increasing sense of loneliness. One of my friends had already had a girlfriend and a break-up. My other friend had been in a relationship for three years. I had never dated. However, this loneliness was more complex than the desire for a partner. I constantly needed to be around people. If I couldn’t find someone to be with on Friday nights, I would sit alone and cry. I felt unneeded, and I hated it.

Inevitably, we all graduated, and my friends went away to college. Because I need help with a few basic things, I commuted to school and lived at home. It so happened that I applied to two schools, and was only accepted to one, so that’s where I went. I had hated the school search. The whole thing felt wrong to me, but something about Gordon was different. Their campus was really nice. The people there were really nice. They had a creative writing program, which sounded really nice. I somehow felt at home there. Gordon is a Christian school, and I think normally I would have had reservations about that, but unlike every school I looked at, it just felt “right.”

Starting classes at Gordon was like stepping into a whole new universe. We started classes by praying. We were required to attend chapel three times a week, and I enjoyed it. People freely talked about having a relationship with Jesus. This was all great, except that it made me more lonely. The one thing I hung on to was that my classmates and teachers and chapel speakers had taught me to pray in a way my church hadn’t. Don’t get me wrong, now that I’ve been Christian for five years, I appreciate and use the more formal Catholic prayers quite a lot, but first I had to learn how to talk. It was shortly after we had begun classes in mid August that I had begun praying that God would help me find someone to love me. I prayed this almost every night before going to sleep with increasing desperation.

I don’t remember the exact date, but I can conclusively say I truly became Christian one night in October, 2011. I was lying in bed, and I was crying. I was praying from the darkest, lowest, smallest, loneliest part of my being. I don’t know what would have happened had it passed like any other night, but for some reason I said, “I love you,” and I felt an overwhelming sensation of comfort and peace and warmth, and I felt like I wasn’t alone in the best possible way. It was spontaneous, and my only explanation is that he was saying, “I’m not going to find someone for you. I love you.” A lot has happened since then. I almost left the Catholic Church, but have since fully embraced it for a number of reasons, which I won’t explain here. I’ve never dated and have become perfectly content being single. What was sparked at the moment of that “I love you” has turned into a real relationship. I have a writing career, and am studying theology independently. I don’t necessarily know where it will go, but I trust God.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly

What Can And Can’t Be Done

Saturday was a rather musical day for me. We got home late from Maine on Friday, accompanied by my new friend, Ivan (Romanian violin). I didn’t have much time to play with him that night, so after lunch on Saturday I spent a while experimenting with different ways of holding the instrument and fingering the neck. As I’ve mentioned before, I can  play it sort of like one would play a cello. I hold the neck of the instrument up near my neck and reach down with the bow to play the strings. I was having to worry too much about it sliding, so yesterday my dad built me a little metal brace that holds it steady. As it is, I can almost kinda sorta play a major scale. I initially thought the lack of frets was going to be more of an issue, but my ear is good enough by now that it doesn’t seem like it’s going to matter that much. Yesterday I played for several hours because I can’t really even go outside at the moment. I’m allergic to something that’s in bloom right now, and it’s killing me. I figured out how to play a very squeaky version of Ode To Joy, as well as some improvised melodies. I quite glad with the progress I’ve made so far.

Nobody thought this was going to be a good idea. A lot of people thought I was going to waste a bunch of money on an instrument I wasn’t going to be able to play. I will most definitely be able to play it and make pretty things happen, so eat it, doubters! I love proving people wrong. It’s one of my favorite things to do. I’ve been able to figure out how to do just about everything I’ve wanted to–with the exception of skateboarding. That one would probably be a little tricky.

The guy who made my violin was super helpful and encouraging. He had a whole bunch of suggestions and was completely open to me finding an alternative way of playing. We need more people like him in the world. Picking out a violin and doing some experimenting at the shop reminded me of my first guitar lesson almost eight years ago. In short my teacher’s approach was: Well, this is how you’re supposed to do it, but it looks like we’re gonna have to do things your way, so let’s get down to business.

That’s the point. I don’t do things “the normal way.” I do things Katie style, but the fact of the matter is, I do things. There isn’t just one way of doing anything. I open doors with my feet more than half the time. My bird has learned to climb up my wheelchair to get off the floor. The more people are convinced that I won’t be able to do something, the harder I will try to get it done.

I find that people, especially people in the school system, are way too quick to assume that people are incapable. The special education department at my school practically controlled my life until I went to high school when, in fact, they simply wouldn’t listen to me. They thought I was incapable of focusing or getting anything done, so they assigned me an aid and hovered over me for eight years when the truth was I was bored. I was a normal kid who would have figured it out eventually. I would have got some bad grades, my parents would have nagged me, and that would have been the end of it. Instead I coasted and school took care of itself. For many years I didn’t care because I was a lazy kid who thought she was getting a free ride. You start to care about what other people think of you in middle school, though, and I realized that people were seeing me as broken. In my freshman year of high school, I wrote a strongly worded letter, using the best English I could possibly muster at age fourteen, and I fired them. After the first few weeks of my freshman year, I was free.

Don’t underestimate people, but more importantly, don’t crush their will. I’m a stubborn, outspoken person. My “issues” are only physical. Things can be harder and more intimidating when people have intellectual issues. This isn’t always the case, but it seems to be at least somewhat true from what I’ve seen as a mentor. Don’t tell anyone what they can and can’t do. Don’t talk to their parents about them while they’re standing right there. Don’t assume anyone can’t do something just because it looks difficult or even impossible. Especially don’t do things for people without even letting them try. Be encouraging. Be annoying even. Make people step outside their comfort zone. Make them try things. They’ll surprise themselves and they’ll surprise you.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Do Me A Favor

When I was in high school I was a deist. I believed in some sort of divine entity, but didn’t think he had a whole lot to do with humanity any more. There were a few reasons for this. The first was that I couldn’t understand why, if God supposedly loved humanity, he would allow so much pain and suffering. The second was that I was looking for a miracle; I was looking for the pillar of flames, and I wasn’t seeing the smaller miracles that happen all the time. The third was that I had been taught God’s wrath without being taught God’s love, and even though I prayed occasionally, I had no idea that one could have a personal relationship with him. The fourth reason was that, put simply, I was too scared to be an atheist.

In my high school, on the coolness scale, spirituality worked something like this: atheism was cool, agnosticism was weak, and religion; particularly Christianity was boring or a joke at best, and at worst, insensitive and exclusive. The fact of the matter was, I grew up Catholic. I wanted to be a rebel, so my deism might have also been a part of that. I was too scared to be an atheist, and the picture I had in my head of what God was like was too clear for me to be an agnostic. So I was a deist, even though I didn’t have a word for it at the time.

One of my close friends in middle school was an atheist, and one of my best friends now is an atheist. Honestly, I think that must take a lot of courage. The idea of dying without a God or an afterlife doesn’t scare me. In fact, death doesn’t scare me at all. If there were no afterlife, one would just go to sleep, and that would be that. If there is an afterlife, it’s just an added bonus. No, what scares me is the idea of living without a God. I know what it’s like. I’ve done it, and at least in my experience, it was awful. I was lonely and scared, and I felt very small all the time. True, these feelings, in part, just come with being a teenager, but they also come, in part, just with being human. Sometimes I still do feel small and helpless, but I also know that the most powerful being in the universe is looking out for me, and it’s okay that I’m small. I don’t have to completely fend for myself all the time.

It must be sort of like how my bird thinks about me. Without me taking care of him, he probably wouldn’t last very long, but he knows I love him, and if he wants something, a lot of the time I’ll give it to him. I’m nice to him, and we love each other. On the flip side, I don’t need him to survive, but I bought him because I wanted someone who would love me and who would be excited to see me in the morning. He is a pain in the neck, and sometimes I have to give him a time-out, but then I let him out and we make friends, and he gets to be my little co-pilot when I’m beating my dad at video games.

Quite frankly, I don’t know how I would get through the day sometimes without knowing that God is taking care of me. Does that mean that every single thing I do is going to work out perfectly? No, of course not. This is not a perfect world. What it means is that I’m not alone in my experiences. It means that, while I don’t have a set, definite road, I have a destination, and God knows how to get me there. That destination might be in this life or the next, but it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I’m living, and I’m working, and I’m playing, and I’m trying to make this world a little more like what God intended for it.

I get that a lot of this doesn’t make sense if you don’t believe in God in the first place. I get that, for various reasons, people are angry with God. I can’t tell you what to think, but I can tell you that it’s okay to be angry with God, and it’s okay not to understand him. Just do me a favor and talk to him. Being mad at God forever or refusing to believe forever is like being angry at, or ignoring a friend forever. Just do me a favor and talk to him.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Procrastination Holiday Mash Up

Since high school my Christmas list has gotten shorter and shorter. There’s usually one or two things I want that I’m too cheep to buy, and one or two things I need, and that’s what I ask for. Otherwise I just buy stuff myself whenever I need/want it. It’s partly because I learned how to save money, and partly because I’ve had a mini-job for the past couple years so I can do said saving of money. It’s also because since probably my junior or senior year of high school, I feel weird asking my parents for things that I can afford and don’t necessarily need or that I can wait for.

The thing is, my parents like buying stuff for my brother and me. We have an obnoxiously huge beanbag chair (it’s not actually a beanbag chair but I don’t exactly know what to call it) in our kitchen in front of the TV. Our kitchen is obnoxiously huge, so it’s basically part kitchen, part dining room, part living room. Anyway, two summers ago it was ridiculously hot, and because of that (or maybe just because of coincidence) I got sick and projectile vomited all over the nest (that’s what we call it). We went 4 or 5 miserable months without a nest, but our parents surprised us with a new one that Christmas.

Maybe it wouldn’t have made sense to get a new one if my brother and I weren’t home all the time. Sam and I are both in college, but I commute, and he comes home every weekend. We’re both about half an hour from home in opposite directions.

Last year my parents surprised me with a 5 gallon fish tank and a beta fish for Christmas. His name is Raskolnikov because Dostoevsky is a genius. I know we have a ten gallon tank lying around somewhere, so I’m thinking about upgrading and getting a few more fish. I don’t think I’d move Raskolnikov because he seems quite content all by his lonesome, but it might be nice to have some more little friends. I’m weird. I talk to my fish.

I do need a new set of headphones for my computer. Last year my aunt got me a wireless set, and they stopped working. I’ve decided to ask for a set of wired ones for Christmas because wireless anything and I have never been friends. In fact, technology and I have never really been friends, but that’s a whole different story. I know it’s the thing you plug into to charge them, and it’s not the charger itself that isn’t working because I’ve tried a different one and it still doesn’t work.

My brother and two of my cousins and I did ask for the new Pokemon game for Christmas. Yes, I’m 21 and I shamelessly admit that I like and play Pokemon. There’s quite a bit of nostalgia involved. When we were kids, Star Wars and Pokemon were our obsession. That and, gosh darn it, they’re fun!

Otherwise, that’s about it. My list is short this year. It drives our parents crazy, and it drives our aunts and grandmothers crazy, too. I could use a new amplifier for my guitars, but that can wait. I suppose I could ask people for Guitar Center gift cards. I’d like to go and try things out for myself. That upgrade probably won’t even happen for a few years anyway, though.

I know it’s not even Thanksgiving yet, but it seems like Christmas and Thanksgiving are really close together this year. Thanksgiving is kind of the start to our Christmas season anyway. The past few years we’ve gone up to Maine and gone out to eat with our family. We used to have it at our house, but my grandfather got really sick, and my grandmother didn’t want to go far. We’ve just gotten used to doing it that way, I guess. We used to stay for one night, but last year we stayed for two because my grandfather died two days before Thanksgiving and we had to stay for the funeral. This year we’re staying for two nights again just so we can have time to see everyone and hang out. We usually go and get our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving, but since we’re staying for two nights we’re doing that just before we go home. It’ll be fun just to hang out in Portland and play with our cousins. I think we’re going to bring the Wii so we can play Mario Kart in the hotel room.

Our family is insane. My oldest first cousin is 9 years older than me, and my youngest second(third?) cousin is 16 or 17 years younger than me. My mom has about 50 first cousins, which means I have over 100 cousins of varying degrees. On my dad’s side I have 2 second cousins who have no kids, and 2 fist cousins. One is my age and one is two years younger than me. For Thanksgiving this year we’re meeting up with 27 people. Some people have asked why we go out to eat instead of going to someone’s house. Part of it is that we have too many people, and part of it is because it’s significantly less stressful. It makes it fun.

I’ve seen posts on Facebook about people stressing about Christmas already. There are ways of making it less stressful. It’s not that hard. I’ll admit that there are things about Christmas that bug me. It’s almost like there are two holidays going on at the same time, and a minority of people remember the real reason why we celebrate it. The point isn’t to have the biggest tree in the neighborhood (we have the 2nd biggest only because our neighbor has taller ceilings). The point isn’t to get the biggest and best presents. The point isn’t to give the biggest and best presents. The point isn’t to have the most decorated house (our mom goes nuts anyway, and it’s fun!). The point is to celebrate the birth of our Savior, and that’s WAY less stressful.

I know some people freak out about the “secular” stuff and say it’s creepy or evil and that Jesus was born in April, which may or may not be true. The same people don’t celebrate Easter for the same reason: it’s become too secular. Honestly, I don’t think it really matters. The point is that we remember the real reason why we celebrate. The other stuff just makes it fun. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t have fun. The only thing I might do differently if I had kids is I’d probably skip the whole Santa Claus story. It just seems kind of pointless to me. I’d still get a tree, I’d still eat massive quantities of junk food, and I’d still get together with all the magnificently crazy people.

I think it’s true that people get a little nicer around Christmas, and a little more generous. Maybe the love gets thrown around for some of the “wrong” reasons, but the point is that the love gets thrown around, and I am perfectly okay with that. So have fun. Don’t stress out. Go to church if you want to. Don’t feel bad if you don’t. Just remember why this holiday exists.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Why Kids Hate Religious Education

I’ve been teaching CCD (Christian Child Development) for the past 2 months or so. The kids have a class about once every three weeks, and it’s been difficult to get them engaged and get them to like me. You might say that it doesn’t matter if they like me; it only matters if they’re absorbing the information. That tends to be the philosophy of a lot of teachers, at least from my experience, but it doesn’t work.

I had sucky math teachers in high school, which is the biggest reason that I suck at math. They all assumed that we were instinctively good at it, and they taught that way. They looked down on the students who clearly were not getting it, and it made me hate them and hate math. The exception was my trigonometry teacher. I took trig in my senior year of high school even though I didn’t have to because I thought it would look good on my college resume if I did well. It happened to be the one of the best high school classes I ever took. Our teacher liked us, and we liked him, even though some of us really struggled with math. We all ended up doing so well that he didn’t give us a final. He often taught things other than math as well. He taught us self worth, perseverance, kindness, and in some ways, love. Sometimes we would spend half a class not talking about math in any way what so ever, but it helped. It all helped.

So how does this apply to religious education? From my experience, the administration at our church looks down on teenagers. They act like 14 is the new 8, which is actually really bad, since at 14, a lot of people want to be thought of as adults. Because of this, the kids act out, or don’t engage at all. One of my co conspirators–err, teachers, acts exactly like many of my high school math teachers, from what I’ve heard. She says she teaches with rules. She will be taking none of their unruly shenanigans, and because of this, her classes tend to be very well behaved. They get through all of the material, and everything is hunky dory.

And you know what? Maybe it works. Maybe her students are engaged, and maybe they do grow in their love of Christ, but from my experience, this kind of teaching doesn’t work. Again, this is super subjective because I’m going off of my own experience. However, the point is, that I don’t teach that way. I let my students get distracted. I engage in their conversations, I use naughty language in class, and I let them know that we are equal and this is, or at least should be, a fun, safe place. I want to get to know my students, and I want them to get to know me. I want them to know that I think of them as people, not just as kids. I let them talk about their talents, and I talk about mine. I constantly remind them that all this is about is love. I want them to get to know love–of neighbor and self; of so called enemies, and of God.

Another problem I’ve run into is that some teachers assume that everyone at least believes in some idea of God. They don’t acknowledge the skeptical ones at all, and the fact of the matter is, that not everyone in CCD believes. Almost no one wants to be there. On the first day I had my students go around and say why they were there. Maybe peer pressure had something to do with it, but the unanimous answer was “my parents are making me.” I let them know that I get it. That was my answer to. I let them know that being skeptical is okay, and that I’m going to try and persuade them otherwise, but I’m never going to tell them that they have to believe anything. Faith is between them and God.

I decided to teach CCD in the hope that I could be helpful. If I can convince one kid that God is real and that Jesus loves them, I will be a happy camper. If I can’t, I want them to know that that’s fine, too.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

My Enemy (Final Version)

My Enemy
by Katie Rose Curtis

We’ve started dropping bombs on Syria.
Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and others have joined us in the effort to destroy ISIS.
Civilians will die.
Countless civilians have already died.
We will train “moderate rebels” to be our ground forces.
This will take a year.

Israel drops bombs on Palestine.
Palestine fights back;
and that’s not all.
We have never seen the
beginning of war.
It’s all we’ve ever known.

Parasitic.

Cyclical.

We watch it on TV, and change the channel
because we don’t want to see.
But it’s still there, somewhere.

Countless little countries whose names we’ll never know;
who we’ll never bother with because they’re not a trade partner
or a threat,
fight each other;
fight against themselves.

And we pretend we’re sophisticated.
We pretend we’re above it.
We hold conventions
and make movies
and write stories,
But somewhere there’s a riot.
Somewhere there’s a protest gone wrong.

Somewhere a white man has killed a black boy.
Somewhere a mean man yells and beats his wife.
Somewhere a straight man breaks his brother’s heart.

And someone somewhere is alone.
In every high school it’s the same.
There are the ones who hate each other
and the ones who hate themselves.
“Kids are cruel,” they sometimes say
and write it off.
They won’t read between the lines.

Some kids grow up broken and perpetuate the problem,
but the ones who survive
learn to love or die inside.

History is the great master of bitter irony.
It’s hard to deny that the nicest men,
the one’s who want the world at peace:
John Lennon
Martin Luther King Jr.
Christ,
are the first to die.

Someone once asked Jesus,
who is my neighbor?
who is my brother?

And Jesus told him.
Our brothers are the ones fighting far away.
Our brothers are the ones we’ll probably never see
and never agree with.
Our brothers are the ones who, like us,
need love.

But we fight in the name of God.
We’d fight in the name
of all our cousins’ cats if it came down to it.

The Buddhists believe that one should never harm a living thing.
One should love the least of these.

Forgive the people.
Don’t forgive the deeds.
People are wrong.
People are human.
It’s all a matter of degrees.

But the rhetoric is wrong.
We say we have to
fight for peace.
We talk about what it will take to
destroy the enemy.
Destroy,
break down,
eradicate;
these are people we’re talking about,
and I have no enemy.