An Ode to my Hometown: A Toe in the Water

Back again!

For those new to this series, it is meant to tell my story through the places that shaped me. I wanted to show some love to my hometown as I prepare for a cross country journey and potential move.

Today, high school is the topic of discussion. For those of you not in the Louisville area, high school is a big deal here. It’s one of the qualities of the city that I always disliked. Essentially, in a big Catholic city, if you didn’t go to one of the big all-boy or all-girl high schools here, you were judged, at least by the upper to middle classes. I’ve seen this ease up in recent years, so maybe it’s getting better. Then again, I’ve also seen middle-class families struggle to make ends meet just to send their kid to one of these schools.

So, in case it wasn’t clear, I didn’t go to one of those schools. All of my friends from grade school did, but I was the only one from my class that went to Seneca. Which meant I was transitioning from a small Catholic school of around 250 total, grades K-8, to over 2000 in a public high school, 750 just in my freshman class. But the drastic differences didn’t stop there.

The cultural change was huge. There were a small handful of black and Asian kids in my grade school. Again, spread over 9 grades. And being that it was a Catholic school, there wasn’t much in the way of religious diversity either. Jump ahead to high school, where there were people of all races, sexes, religious backgrounds, and cultures, and my world scope was opened up massively.

It made for a rough freshman year, adjusting to a totally new way of life, but I made it through and made a few friends along the way. And that was…about it. For four years, I barely recall much. There were definitely moments.

I remember some of my teachers, who I learned a lot from. One math teacher, Mr. Adams, who actually taught math in a way that made sense to me and that I enjoyed. Mr. Cooksey, who taught English, but fundamentally changed the way I watch movies. He taught us about symbolism and the intentionality of everything that a director chooses to put in the background of scenes.

But high school was largely uneventful. I hung out with my grade school friends a lot, I got mediocre grades and I made it to graduation. It was fine. The main things I took from high school was how sheltered I had been in grade school, and how being the small quiet kid doesn’t pay off.

I still got picked on a lot, but with fewer allies than grade school provided. It taught me about my own independence and possibly fed some of the isolation issues I experienced once I got older. But at that moment, high school was fine. A slightly bigger bubble of protection. It wasn’t until later that I started to experience what life would really have in store for me.

Thank you again to everyone who is following this series. Most don’t have much context for these posts, but they’ve been fun to write and interesting to dive into.

An Ode to my Hometown: The Foundation

Hey everyone,

This is a series about the places that shaped me and got me to where I am today. On Tuesday, I wrote a bit about my childhood home, the beginning of my journey. You can read it here. Today, I want to talk about how influential my early school years were.

I went to a small Catholic grade school called St. Barnabas. It was literally one house away from where I grew up. I could see the swing set and playground from my backyard. And, until they installed a huge floodlight on the side of the gym, I liked to sneak onto our roof and look at the stars at night during the summer. The stars disappeared with the light pollution.

The school was so important to my development, and I say that intentionally. Absolutely, I met lifelong friends there, and I still value those connections. But even the building and grounds had their effect.

In school, I tried basically every sport. Baseball, basketball, football, track, everything. I spent a lot of time in particular on the basketball court. It was my first true love. I was too small to play football legitimately, and basketball just felt like home. I played intramural basketball for them in high school, not skilled enough to play for my high school.

But being so close to the school also meant we spent a lot of time there at nights and on the weekends. Pickup football and baseball, sledding during the winter, and games similar to hide and seek were always on the agenda and it helped to grow our friendships with the kids in our neighborhood. 

But it wasn’t all positive memories. I got hit by a car one morning before school when a parent wasn’t paying attention after dropping their kid off for school. I went through a lot of growing pains in the school as well. Outside of my core group of a few friends, I struggled in social settings. Definitely didn’t fit in with the “cool” kids.

But I was happy. Life had barely started and I was learning a lot, despite my middling grades. School always bored me, though not because I didn’t like learning or find (most of) the information interesting. I actually love learning. The problem was the system. A system built to have students hear information, remember it for a few weeks until a test, and then never have it be relevant to you again.

It was also here that my wary feelings of authoritative figures bloomed. Not because they’re bad people, but because they, whether ready and willing or not, are the gatekeepers. They control your environment, the speed at which you are given information, and ultimately can determine your success. And I’ve never enjoyed that feeling of a lack of control.

I hate to end on a sour note because the majority of my time at the school was great. It was a tiny nest to help build the necessary skills I’d need going forward. And I left with a lot of positive memories that I still think back fondly on today, especially if a group of us gets together and reminisce.

But I can also safely say that a lot of my insecurities with myself and how I was being percieved started to form here as well. More tales for a later time.

Thank you for reading. I know these posts won’t mean much to most, but every moment that someone takes to read anything I write means the world to me.

An Ode to my Hometown: The Beginning

With my road trip fast approaching (three weeks!), I wanted to reflect on the places and events that shaped me into who I am today. My family and friends are obviously my biggest influences, but I love them. I haven’t always loved my hometown.

From a very early age, I wanted to leave Louisville. It was never so much an issue with the city, but more the allure of other places. When I was a teen, it was Boston. In hindsight, Boston is an interesting choice for me to have wanted to live. I can say now that my teenage years were perfectly suited for the edge and angst in Boston. I would have been a perfect fit in Boston as a teenager.

But that transitioned pretty quickly in college. I was a part of the equipment staff at the University of Louisville, and we got to travel to road games. One of those road games was to Corvallis, Oregon to play Oregon State University. And it left a necessary impression.

We flew into Eugene, then drove the hour or so to Corvallis. I had never been on a plane before, but once we got into the air, I felt a lot better about the experience. The drive to Corvallis was beautiful. Tall evergreens surrounding the road; the hotel we stayed at designed like a log cabin. It was the first time I had really gotten away from the deciduous hills of the midwest. And I fell in love.

The west suits my developed laid back style better than my teenage dreams, and I knew I needed to, at the very least, make it a habit of venturing out there with some regularity.

But this post is not about why I need to go on this road trip. It’s the beginning of a short series displaying my appreciation for where I grew up because it was only recently that I began to feel that appreciation. And what better way to kick this off than with the beginning: my childhood home.

We moved there when I was maybe 5 or 6. It was the house that my grandfather built, that my mom and uncles grew up in, and it was where my brother and I spent all of our formative years. It’s where I had my first kiss, met some lifelong friends in our neighborhood, and wrote my first poem.

The location of the house is very intentional in my story. If we hadn’t moved there, I would have gone to a different grade school for sure and probably high school as well. I would have never met the friend from the neighborhood that died just this year from cancer. Hell, I might not have gotten my first job, which I stayed at for ten years. I had a terrible interview, as most 16-year-olds probably do, and until the manager mentioned that he had grown up around the corner from where I lived, I was definitely not getting that job.

All of this is why I wanted to start here. With this location. It truly was the beginning for me. It unknowingly set me on this path toward this trip, and while I’m grateful and privileged to be taking this trip, I will always have that love and appreciation for the places that got me here.

Thank you for reading. I know these posts won’t mean much to most, but every moment that someone takes to read anything I write means the world to me.