I went to a Catholic High School, where the usual high school cliques were VERY much a thing. From freshman year when I stepped in with my uniform shirt buttoned all the way up my neck, so much so that even my mom told me to unbutton a button (that’s how lame I looked going into a high school where I only knew about 3 people…jeez what was wrong with me), and my plaid skort almost all the way down to my knees. To senior year, where I finally realized they aren’t THAT strict with the uniform codes, so I hiked up my skort and unbuttoned pretty much all of the buttons on my polo shirt. I had made a good amount of friends, some were the band geeks, the drama nerds, the jocks, and I was even chummy with some of the ones who every one suspected did drugs, though I never partook in that. I say friends, meaning in school we would chit chat or make jokes about our physics teacher who wore a pocket protector, and at the end of school I would go home to my parents and dog, not hanging with friends. They were school friends. They weren’t best friends for life. I was okay with it. Did I wish I was part of that crowd that went to football games and dances together? Sure. But I was never too harsh on myself for not having that. Although deep down, I did wish I had those best friends for life type of friendships, like you see on TV. Then in October of my senior year, something wonderful happened. Being a Catholic school, we had retreats. I decided to go on the very first retreat of the year, because I had heard great things about it. I had also heard people telling me, “Don’t drink the kool-aid! Don’t go to Kairos!” Kairos is the name of the retreat, and it is a Greek word that means, “Opportunity” or “fitting time”. What better opportunity was there to get to know my school mates better and get a few days off of school because of it?!
So I made it to the Kairos retreat, and I don’t remember everything that happened in those 4 days, but I do remember going to church, sitting in prayer circles with your small group, reading letters from parents, doing little acting skits in front of everyone, and everyone singing along together to “Wonderwall” by Oasis. You may read church and prayer groups and get immediately turned off, but bear with me. You got to see your classmates in a different light, praying about what is near and dear to their hearts. You don’t have to be religious to appreciate that. It is pretty amazing to witness, but with the adult leaders and the priests being there, it was still being supervised. Until one day when we had some free time, a few girls decided to go sit under this underpass and talk about life.
When you think of high school girls what comes to mind? For me, it’s the movie Mean Girls. I think of girls who seem super nice to your face complimenting your skirt, but will turn to their friend after you leave and say, “that skirt was hideous.” I never got too close to anyone in high school for that reason, a lot of the people seemed fake. Maybe they were, maybe they weren’t and I missed out on some great friendships because of my mindset. Either way, the complete opposite happened at Kairos that day. About 30 girls from my high school all sat under that overpass and talked…like really talked. We didn’t gossip about other people not on the trip, we didn’t make fun of our teachers or talk about how long someone’s skort was that day. Best friends who I never suspected had troubles, and who I was a little jealous of, hashed out their differences…there were raised voices, concerned looks on everyone’s faces. Some girls talked about their depression, some talked about drug/alcohol use, even physical and mental abuse they were going through at home, and some talked about fears that they had. Even the most “popular” girls had issues!? Who knew? There were so many tears, so many hugs, and so much LOVE. There were no judgments made that day, we were all one. The popular girls, nerds, band geeks, drama kids, stoners, and outcasts all came together. We each said something we liked about each other, and the best part about that is that it wasn’t superficial things… like I like your hair, or you have good style. It was all things such as having a good personality, how you are as a person, etc. My biggest fear in high school was that people were nice to my face (because people were always, for the most part, nice to me), then turned away and talked about how bad my breath was. But the girls only had nice things to say. It was the biggest confidence boost I’ve ever had. It was meaningful compliments. High school can be really harsh on some people, so this talk is what we all needed. Something that you can really take with you throughout life. It was by far the best experience I had in high school. Some people come out of Kairos with a new take on God and religion, but I came out of Kairos with a new take on people in general.
I remember taking the bus home from Kairos, and we were at a red light. My heart was filled with so much joy and love, so much so that I remember looked in the car next to me at an unsuspecting lady, just wondering how her life is. Is she happy? Does she see how beautiful she is? I NEVER thought that way in my life. I hope that same woman is happy and healthy today.
For the remainder of high school, those of us who were a part of that special day remained close. Never as close as we were that day, but we all continued to share love for one another in a different, special way, whether it was smiling at each other from across the hall – as a way to symbolize that ‘we are here for you’, or ‘I got your back’ sort of thing, or going to the mall with people you never imagined hanging out with outside of school. Some people got the help they needed because of that day. I still wish nothing but the best for those ladies that I shared that moment with. It was the highlight of my high school years, and I’m sure it is for some of them as well. I carried that “Kai-high” as people would call it after you returned from Kairos with me for a long time. It was the most beautiful way for students of a very “cliquey” high school to come together. Here’s to you KIX!!
“Kairos” was written by Jane Fagnan.
Jane is a teacher, 26 years old, from Pennsylvania residing in South Carolina.