Saturday, July 2, 2022

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Finding My Way Back Home

Finding My Way Back Home

“Hey Chan, I need to talk to you about something.”
As soon as my mom uttered this daunting phrase to me, my first thought was, “Uh oh, what did I wrong this time? Little did I know, she was about to give me some of the best news I had ever received in my entire life.
“You can go back to Jesuit if you want.” She calmly said, trying to conceal a smile.

I stood in complete and utter disbelief. A million questions raced through my head at once. ‘Can we really make this work?’ ‘When am I leaving?’ ‘Where am I going to live?’ I couldn’t manage to translate the myriad of thoughts into words, so I just stood there dumbfounded by my unexpected luck. I could not believe that I would be returning to the place where I spent the first three years of my high school career.

After moving to South Carolina and spending the first semester of my senior year there, I was returning to Dallas to graduate from Jesuit. Finally, I collected myself enough to squeak out a simple word: “How?”

After a complicated and lengthy explanation from my mom, I found out enough to answer my immediate questions. She told me that she and I would be the only ones going back to Texas, and my brother, sister, and dad would stay in South Carolina. We would be getting a temporary apartment near the school to live in for four months. The administrators from Jesuit wanted me to come back as soon as possible in order to adjust to my new classes. Because of this, we would be leaving in four days, giving me just enough time to pack up my things and say goodbye to my friends in South Carolina.

The next few days went by like a blur, and before I knew it, my mom and I squeezed into her car with all of our things tightly packed into the back, leaving less than an inch of room from floor to ceiling. We trudged through the fifteen hour drive in two days, arriving Sunday night at about 5 o’clock. I basically just unpacked the things I needed for school the next day, and went to sleep, anxiously wondering how my second “first” day at Jesuit would go.

I had trouble sleeping the first night and woke up well before my alarm went off. As I was getting ready, I slipped on my blazer and almost immediately experienced a weird feeling of familiarity. My mom and I hurried into her car and headed off to Jesuit, trying to make our meeting at 8:00. Upon entering the front door at Jesuit, we instantly found the welcome committee of Mr. Fitzsimmons, Mr. Hanley, Dr. Kirby, Mr. Knize, and Mr. Shoemaker. After our meeting, I was overcome by that familiar feeling again: I was home.

Because I only told a few of my closest friends that I would be coming back, my first consisted of many reunions with shocked friends, teachers, and faculty. The overwhelming kindness and genuine delight with which I was received further reassured me that coming back was the right decision. I took advantage of the opportunity and reconnected with friends that I had drifted apart from even before I left. After the first week of adjusting and trying to fit back into the swing of things at Jesuit, it was almost like I never left. Now came the hardest part about moving back though: trying to catch up in all my classes.

Luckily, for some of the one semester classes like Christian Relationships or Psychology, I only had a few simple assignments to make up, which were very easy to finish quickly. Other classes were a bit tougher to catch up on, but eventually I handled those classes within about two weeks. On the other hand, my Calculus situation was pretty bleak. Apparently, missing even a semester of Jesuit education can put someone about four chapters behind in a math class. I started this semester off in AP BC Calculus, and to put it kindly, I struggled in that class. Exemplifying an outstanding Jesuit teacher, Mr. Billingham was extremely reasonable in offering me both passes on grades and his complete attention during tutoring sessions. However, I decided it would be better for me to drop down to the AP AB Calculus class. After making the transition, we realized that I was still behind two chapters in this class. Thankfully, Mrs. Gerber devised a clear and concise plan for me to get caught up within a month. With the help of my friends, Mrs. Gerber, and the reliable Khan Academy, I eventually caught up with the class. Now, I could focus on enjoying the rest of the year and taking advantage of all the unique advantages of being a senior at Jesuit.

One completely new component of school for me was going to do community service every Wednesday. Obviously, it’s great being able to wear the blue polo shirt and not go to most of my classes, but that’s not the true value of Wednesdays for me. Each morning, the entire senior class gathers in Hughes Hall and has a class meeting. My first meeting was almost surreal. I was in the same room as all the guys I had grown up with in the past three years, reunited with my class. Then, after the meeting, I joined my service group and we departed for McShan Elementary School, my new service site. I was a bit apprehensive my first time because all I knew was that we would be tutoring refugees in the 2nd grade who did not know much English. We signed in and went to find our students to bring them back to the place where we would tutor them. My student, Htoo Htoo, is from Myanmar and only knows a few short English words. I was nervous and thought that this might be too difficult for me, but right off the bat, Htoo Htoo was dedicated to learning and really enjoyable to work with. I helped him read children’s books, complete a few math problems, and even played bingo with him. Going back each Wednesday to tutor Htoo Htoo has been a bright spot in every week.

Another great part about being a senior at Jesuit is that I finally get to use the Senior Courtyard. After sheepishly peeking in as I walked down the hallway for three years, finally stepping into the courtyard represented a special moment for me. Recently, I was sitting in the courtyard after returning from service one Wednesday, and I just marveled at how great the place really was. The combination of the shining sun and slight breeze formed the perfect temperature. Guys were throwing the Frisbee back and forth, trying not to hit the windows to avoid getting a PH. A few others were competing on the putting green, arguing over who was the best golfer. One of my classmates was dozing off under the shade of a tree. Personally, I was at one of the tables having lunch with some friends and just enjoying the amazing atmosphere.

Yet another memorable event from this semester was my Kairos retreat. I had always heard about how special and unique Kairos was, but actually experiencing it was a completely different thing. Technically, I am not allowed to discuss the specifics of Kairos, but even if I was, I doubt I could find the words to truly describe how tremendous the retreat was for me. I will say that Kairos definitely helped me to strengthen my relationships with God and my classmates. I can honestly say that I will always remember Kairos not just as one of the best experiences of my senior year, but as one the best experiences during my entire time at Jesuit.

On top of all these specific aspects of senior year, I appreciate the simple everyday life at Jesuit. Being able to go class, do homework, play sports, and just hang out with the guys that I have grown closest to in recent years has been the ultimate blessing. Jesuit also provides the opportunity to learn from remarkable teachers who truly care about my maturation as a person in addition to fostering my growth as a student. The culture around Jesuit is unmatched by any other high school.

I cannot express how much gratitude I feel towards my parents and siblings for making sacrifices so that I can have the best possible senior year of high school. I am also thankful for both the administration at Jesuit for letting me return home and the overall community at Jesuit for accepting me back. I am looking forward to May 28th when I will graduate with all of my closest friends and officially become an alum of Jesuit College Preparatory School.