When you spend your entire childhood with the same kids, you go through everything together. I attended a Catholic elementary school that taught Kindergarten through the eighth grade. For most students, it’s a breeding ground for strong bonds and a lifetime of shared experiences. For me, however, life happened a bit differently.
I was still sick frequently. I was still chosen last for everything in recess and gym class. I was still “teacher’s pet” and mocked for my love of school, among other things. I was still the smallest in the class, so much that when I made my Confirmation in the seventh grade, the other kids made fun of my dress, asking me if I bought it in the “First Communion Department”.
It was difficult, but I stuck to the things for which I cared most – the school/church Children’s Choir, performing in the annual school variety/talent show, practicing for spelling bees, and joined the new group for girls dedicated to the Catholic vocation known as “Sodality of Mary”. Imagine my surprise when all the studying, after-school meetings, and rehearsals paid off.
I actually made accomplishments to feel good about, after years of being last or left out of practically everything.
- In 5th grade, I represented my school in the regional spelling bee in fifth grade and came in 7th overall, out of 60.
- In 6th grade, I ran for, and won, the office President of the school’s new chapter of the Sodality of Mary, an organization dedicated to religion, charity, purity virtue, with the Blessed Virgin Mary as our Patron.
- in 7th grade, I auditioned for, and earned a solo singing part in our school variety/talent show.
It may not sound like a lot, and that it sounds like I’m giving you my middle-school resume, but I finally felt special for something other than having Cystic Fibrosis. These minor “wins” helped build confidence that for the first ten years of my life, never existed. I still felt “less than,” but now, maybe just a little less.