I went to an all girl Catholic high school. Now, when I tell people this, their initial reactions are “Ugh, that must have been so catty!” or “Oh, no, I couldn’t handle all that drama.” Upon hearing these responses, I get a huge wave of sadness. These people don’t get it. They didn’t have the opportunity to experience the greatness that was my high school experience.
Regina High School sadly closed in 2010, but it was a powerhouse of an institution. Ran by the Sisters of Notre Dame, Regina gave many young women an environment to foster their talents and grow into strong women. Were their catty moments? Sure, we were a bunch of teenage girls! But how we would bounce back from adversity was remarkable. Envision this real life scene:
Walking down the hall, in a horrible mood. I catch eyes with a girl who gives me a look that I did not appreciate.
“What’s your problem?” I ask.
“Nothing, what’s your problem?” she says.
“Nothing. Bad mood,” I reply.
“Ok, feel better,” she says as she picks up her bag from the ground and walks to class.
We went to our classes and that was it. No clawing each others eyes out, no rumble in the hallway. Just an acknowledgement of a bad day and a well wish.
Being fifteen years old and getting panic attacks is not a fun combination. Well, getting panic attacks at any age is not fun. But I vividly remember walking briskly down the hallway, crying, while having an attack. Two of my friends were following me as I tried to make my way to the bathroom, convinced I was going to throw up. The bell rang for class changes and I rounded the corner to a group of people walking to their class. Many of the girls stopped me out of concern and huddled around me to see if I was ok. The added attention gave me more anxiety, but their intentions were good. They didn’t walk by and laugh, they didn’t make snide remarks. They stopped to address me and make sure I would be alright.
I didn’t realize how simple and genuine these interactions were until I was confronted with insanely complicated friendships in my late twenties. The backstabbing, lying, betrayal and humiliation that I suffered at the hands of some so-called friends left me yearning for my high school days. I certainly didn’t help myself in the situation, as I had no tools to help me deal with such nonsense. During this tumultuous time, I remember someone asking me “How have you never been burned by a friend before?” My answer was simple – I never had to interact with women who didn’t have each others backs. I had more instances of truthful dialogue than I had with mind games. My teachers and my friends and peers never wanted to harm me, they wanted to lift me up and support me. While going through this dark time in my late twenties, I felt very isolated and confused. Why do people want to actively hurt people? Especially fellow women? Why does she want me to fail, why does she want to steel any shine that I may have? Why am I being put into compromising situations and why am I allowing it? I still question that and am massively confused by it; it’s merely a foreign concept to me.
The world will 100% benefit from more institutions like Regina. Women encouraging other women is not some cheesy inspirational meme, it needs to be concrete and real. We need to realize that the only way to progress and move forward is by standing beside one another, not trampling over each other. Often times I have been accused of being overly sensitive and caring too much. Regina helped to show me that those attributes are gifts. I learned to be a strong woman, who can serve and lead. And I can do it by being sensitive and strong at the same time.
Sisterhood is not a passing fad, but a way of life. And while I have not had the opportunity to have such a strong community after graduating Regina, I know that I bring my “Regina Girl” mentality where ever I go. Even when I’ve been torn down, I get back up and readjust my crown. Let’s do that for each other, help each other dust off and rebuild.