My last entry started me thinking about high school again. I’m really grateful for my high school experience, even though it was a tough time. It was unique, though. An all male Jesuit high school. Everyone should go through that. This entire entry is one of those bizarro ones where I just talk about my past. But I think it gives a little insight as to who I am.
The all guy part was great. There are just certain things that allow you to do that can’t be repeated at other schools. For example, at Bellarmine we had a all frosh retreat. Basically, the entire class has a retreat near the beginning of the year. I think. Maybe not at the beginning. But the point is, you have a retreat. So what happens is that you are divided up into groups, which is based on your mentoring group. Mine was the C section, as it’s based on your last name. Our mentor was Fr. Clemo. So we get into little groups and we have like 2 leaders who are seniors or juniors. Ours were Seth Silverstein and Owen Dolan. We basically hang out during the day. Went to the park and played football (skins! Yikes!) against another group. Stuff like that.
At night we spent part of the time at Seth’s house in Saratoga. This guy was loaded. He got a brand new Mustang for his 16th birthday. His dad was like an eye surgeon or something. Anyway, his house was dope. Every room had like a different theme. So like the living room was southwestern, with like brick floor and wicker furniture. Then other rooms were different. It was a dope house. Anyway, he hung out during the day, and at night we had dinner there, we kind of had like a 1 on 1 mentoring session with our leaders, then we went back to school. There was this big meeting in the gym (Wayne Valley Memorial Gym) and then like a big long sharing session. Gosh, it’s sad how few names of people I remember. But yeah. Then we sleep in the classrooms. Stuff happens at night like huge pillow fights, violent ones. Anyway, it’s pretty fun, except I didn’t really know people.
So we did stuff like that that was possible because we were all male. Other stuff was great too. Like sexist jokes in class. That’s brotherhood, baby.
I think in high school was when I realized that for the most part I’m pretty different from everyone and don’t really fit in. That’s really influenced me, I think. Maybe that’s kind of why I have loner or solo warrior tendencies. Anyway, at Bell, it was hard to fit in at first, because the vast majority of the people there had gone to Catholic schools and somehow through the network they all knew each other. So that was hard. Also, I wasn’t white or Catholic. Also, I wasn’t rich. And that’s a lot of what Bellarmine was composed of. I’d say the majority of the school had all 4 – went to Catholic school, white, Catholic, and rich. The number of people who were none of these was pretty small.
Anyway, I think I realized that I wasn’t going to be friends with most of these people. I mean, I found my niche, but I realized that I wasn’t going to really be a part of the Bellarmine community, you know what I mean? Because that’s just dominated by rich white people. So anyway, I never tried to be a part of that, but just kind of did my own thing.
In junior high, I knew all my teachers and they all (mostly) knew me. But in high school, like none of the teachers really knew me. Even though I excelled academically, they didn’t really know me. With a few exceptions, I guess. Anyway, I think the reason that is is because I knew I couldn’t be a part of that Bellarmine community so I didn’t make any effort to a part of any of it, just doing my own thing. I think I pretty much do the same thing now. I don’t really try to be a part of what’s going on but just do my own thing. Which is bad. It’s something I really need to change. I’m talking about the secular world, of course. But I never try to get to know professors or get involved with the academic world, I just kind of do my own thing and slip through the cracks. Like I’m a section leader but no one else really knows me. Nor do the instructors. I just slipped through the cracks. I’m good at that. Anyway, I think I became this way because of Bell. I know that if I had gone to e.g. Sunny Hills I would be totally different. But anyway.
So yeah, I realized at Bellarmine that I wouldn’t be able to fit in with that society because I was just too different. I still liked it, though, and admired it. Parts of it. I really enjoyed a handful of people in particular. Wayne Sondreal was just the greatest guy ever. I think he was a Protestant. He taught math. Anyway, while we were there he was diagnosed with cancer but fought through it and returned to teach. But this guy was such an example. Everywhere he went, when he saw people, he’d say a little something like, “Jesus loves you” or always mentioned Jesus. When he came back to teach, there was a big assembly and he sang this song, “Rise Again” originally recorded by Dallas Holm. It’s like this old school CCM song. But it’s basically about Jesus’ resurrection. He was really cool.
My Physics teacher was also really great. Fr. Capitulo. I’m pretty sure (everyone will back me up on this) that he was slightly senile. But he was great. And I got a 5 on my Physics AP so he must have done a decent job teaching. Anyway, he started every class with either a Scripture reading or the Lord’s prayer (Catholic version). I’m not sure what other people got out of that but I was always encouraged by it. Scripture is just a good thing, and hearing it before class is somehow strengthening.
I also liked – gosh I forgot his name. He taught one of my Religious Studies classes. But we would pray every class. At the beginning. He just leaves an open time, and we kind of sit there. Then someone will say like, “I would like to pray for my aunt who had a heart attack.” “I would like to pray for the situation in Russia.” Stuff like that. And at the end, he says, “For all these prayers said and unsaid, we pray.” Something like that. Also encouraging. As you know, a problem with Catholicism is form over substance, but when you find genuine Catholics, they’re just great people.
Fr. Muller was also a good guy, I mean he had a good heart, even though I think he was a bad teacher. He just didn’t know how to control his class. Mr. Saso was also a great guy. Kind of weird, but I liked him a lot. He taught Freshman religious studies. First semester is introduction to Catholic Christianity, then second semester we move on to Hebrew Scriptures. (It’s not PC to say Old Testament and New Testament. It’s Hebrew Scriptures. Also you can’t say B.C. and A.D. It’s B.C.E and C.E. standing for Before Common Era.) Boy, those classes opened my eyes to a lot of things that I guess maybe other people don’t get until CIV. Anyway, I remember this one class, he gave us all balloons. And he said, “Whoever has their balloon left at the end of 5 minutes gets a Snickers bar.” And of course we all go crazy trying to pop each other’s balloons. The point of course is that he never said we should try to pop each other’s balloons. It’s I guess a point about human nature. And it’s cheesy but it’s true – it did say something about human nature. I felt bad in particular, because I knew from the beginning what the point was, but I still fell. Me and Marco Mercado, who sat in front of me, made a pact to put our balloons in the cabinet while people weren’t looking. Anyway, during the course of 5 minutes, somehow mine fell out and was popped. And I was so angry about it that I took his balloon out and popped it. Mr. Saso got a kick out of that, that Danny Chai, quiet Danny Chai, would do that. Anyway, in the end, one person had his balloon left. That was a great lecture. During it, I mean, we were going crazy, right, so the teacher from next door, I think maybe it was Mr. Petersen? stormed in and was like, furious, and just yelled “What is going on here?” But of course Mr. Saso was making a point.
Second quarter I learned so much about the Old Testament I am so grateful. Like you know, we would learn stuff like how Genesis 49 is the reason why everyone knew the Messiah would come from the tribe of Judah, why he was called the Lion of Judah. Because it was prophesized that the scepter would never pass from Judah. Other stuff. We all had to do projects on stuff in the Old Testament. Me and Chris Chan did Hanukkah, or at least the meal aspects of it, and we made a bunch of potato pancakes. We all celebrated a Sedar meal together. It was kind of cool. Anyway, I learned a lot about the Old Testament and Judaism.
So yeah, all these teachers influenced me. I am so glad for my religious studies classes in general. The great thing about Catholicism is that it really does have a concern for Social Justice, the poor, the oppressed, and stuff like that. Look at worldwide, how big Catholicism is in poor countries. It’s because the church reaches out to them there. And like they’re always on the side of social justice, so there are always stories of Priests and Bishops getting murdered by governments who don’t like what they’re saying. Two good examples of this are Romero starring Raul Julia and the Mission with Jeremy Irons and Robert De Niro. It gives a good reflection of the Catholic church’s concern for the socially oppressed. And of course you have people like Mother Teresa. You know there’s this idea in Catholicism of abstaining from meat on Friday. Like I said, with a lot of people, the form has been remembered but not the substance, but the idea behind it was that you know, meat is expensive, so the money we would spend on meat on Fridays instead we should give to the poor. That’s pretty cool. As much as you want to criticize Catholicism theologically, I mean, they pretty much shame Protestants when it comes to concern for social justice. I mean, there is just no real Protestant counterpart to Mother Teresa. Anyway, I’m grateful for that perspective.
I really respect the social justice aspect of Catholicism. I mean, we took a class called social justice. There was a really interesting lesson in this class. Basically it said how Jesus was very concerned with food. Of course we all know about the feeding of the thousands. But in a lot of other circumstances, he shows a concern for food. Like you know, when he appears to the disciples, he’s cooking fish and they eat breakfast. When he raises the girl from the dead, his first instruction is to give her something to eat. There’s a lot of that stuff. And of course Communion. Anyway, the book was just saying how essentially we should share Jesus concern for the feeding of the hungry. It was pretty interesting.
Yeah, so I’m really grateful we got to pray and read Scripture and study Scripture, even from a different theological viewpoint in school. I was fully aware that a lot of people, I mean the vast majority, didn’t really care about it, but I was personally blessed. I think it had a lot to do with my spiritual growth in high school.
So one thing I really respected about Bellarmine was the idea that they didn’t just want to educate us but build us into fine young men in general. Which is, you know, kind of B.S., but partly admirable. So like, you know, we all have to take religious studies courses, which isn’t just like Catholic catechism, but stuff like Social Justice and Morality and Ethics and stuff like that. Stuff that’s good for people to think about just to become more complete human beings. And stuff that kind of challenges us to think outside of ourselves. And there’s a community service requirement for graduation, which is also a great idea. So there was always a community service board, where we could look to find out how we can do different types of community service. Of course some people just looked to do the minimum, but a lot of people really got into it, into serving the community, and that was great.
But you know, I knew that I didn’t really fit in. Which is kind of sad, but oh well. There were definitely cultures in Bellarmine. Being a private school that’s not that expensive, you know, parent involvement is really key. But it turns out the parents that are most involved often went there themselves and were usually white and Catholic. Like part of this community already, so I was kind of shut out from that. And you know, I wasn’t into partying or drinking so that doubly excluded me. Not that I ever wanted to be a part of it.
When I think about it, there was actually a culture of I think committed Catholics, who were just good, but it was hard to find an outlet being a Protestant. I think that’s partly why I formed Asians for Christ senior year, just for an outlet, kind of. But that’s another story.
Anyway, everyone of course finds their niche and I was no exception and I had my group of friends. It’s hard to describe us. But pretty much we were nerdy, and mostly Asian. But not totally. Like Ian Glover I guess was there. I don’t know. We definitely weren’t part of the Bellarmine community, though, at least that’s my feeling. That upper white crust thing. But I’m just rambling now.
There was also a speech and debate niche. But I really disliked that because for the most part, everyone was so arrogant it drove me crazy. Well not everyone, and even the arrogant people were fairly nice, but it just bothered me. Like they were all intellectual or something. All people who think they are intellectual are more arrogant than anything else. Anyway, the exception to this rule was Ravi Belani. I loved Ravi, for so many reasons. The man is just so down to earth, and just such a nice guy. Everyone who has ever met him will say the same thing. Ask Will Chen. Anyway, I loved him because he was this way even though he more than I think any other person at Bellarmine had a right to be arrogant. My opinion is that he is the only person at Bell smarter than me. I know that’s arrogant but everyone’s entitled to an opinion. So yeah, I knew he was smarter than me, he was great at speech and debate, but he was still such a great guy. I almost felt like he was a soulmate, because he never tried to be cool, but was cool with being a dork. I don’t know if that was intentional or not, but that’s my life philosophy. Anyway, yeah, Ravi was always the exception to the rule.
So like I was saying, I think Bellarmine shaped me a lot, because since then I’ve never made an effort to fit into the system, but I’m just content with who I am, and making my own niche and being a loser. The big thing is I never try to work the system. I’ve mentioned before how this is the reason I will not be successful in life, because I can’t play the game. I mean, I just have no desire to, nor could I even if I wanted to. And I think a lot of this started at Bellarmine.