Second Re-visit day 2009: In this very spot, a seemingly omnipotent and omniscient Mr. Williams imparted his usual welcoming spiel upon my malleable eighth grade ears. I was sitting in a middle right pew across the aisle from Lisa Waddell, one of the many lost from the Cate Class of 2013. She was wearing her prep school uniform- white button-up, plaid tie, plaid skirt, knee highs, mary janes- and purple streaks ran through her ombré ponytail.
As with everything that day, I was fascinated, but my attention quickly turned to our future headmaster. “Good morning everybody. Welcome to Cate.” Mr. Williams cleared his throat, “When Curtis Cate was choosing his school’s motto,” he said, “he was stuck between Servons, a single french word meaning “let us serve”, and the phrase Esse Quam Videri. Now, does anyone know what Esse Quam Videri means?”
A hand shot up next to me and, out of pure gusto to share her seven years of latin, my mother even uttered an eager “Oh!” as if she was back in a classroom at her high school instead of ruining my future at mine.
Immediately embarrassed by her small outburst, she chuckled, I cringed; but her future boss had already noticed us, smiled, and said “Mrs. Giles?”
“Esse quam videri means “to be, rather than to seem to be.” She confidently replied.
This was a perfect transition into Mr. Williams’ moral of our revisit day- the idea that if booklets and pamphlets, tour guides and class hosts painted a picture of perhaps, what Cate SEEMS to be, revisit day is the perfect opportunity to see what Cate IS - a freshman’s on-stage slip-ups and all.
Wether that’s true for Cate Revisit Days or not, Esse quam videri or “to be, rather than to seem to be” is what I’ve been taught. The motto means to not only be true to thyself, and then outwardly present as such, but to also look past every “seemingly” surface… so to appreciate, show sensitivity, or really understand.
To seek to know what things are, not just what they seem to be.
For example, when I asked my best friend Warren what he would write his Tuesday talk about he responded in typical wiggles intellectual way: “I think I would talk about something completely random and absolutely absurd… like how the time I killed a pig in China was probably the most humane thing I’ve ever done… At least now I understood that packaged products are not as pristine as they seem.” He explained.
Speaking of sacrifice, Tuesday night drives are sacred for me. When I’m driving home after the sun’s down, my truck’s cab encloses Beyonce’s holy voice coming out of my sound system… along with the sacrilegious noise coming out of my mouth. It seems like I am alone, but if I turn to my left I’ll usually see a passing trucker glance over to see me in the midst of a baddie bey moment.
Concerning lessons learned, as a toddler, it seemed to me that when my father said “say please” before spooning me a bite of rocky road, he was teaching me the word for my favorite frozen food. Rather he was teaching me manners. I later found out “please” is not ice cream.
Speaking of spooning… true love, it doesn’t happen every day, but I do believe in it. How could you not with movies like princess bride, parents like mine whose mawwaige the epitome of love. All this in mind, I came to Cate sure of one thing: love could exist, but not in high school. I even wrote an essay about it for Mr. Hansen‘s class. My 15 year old mind thought, and I quote: “Often “love” is a term used too loosely… especially in high school. A teenager might use the word to describe his passion for FIFA just a quickly as he’ll text it to his most recent girlfriend.” While that may be true, from the outside looking in it seemed to me that because of their delicate nature, love and high schoolers could not co-exist. I was sure, I was adamant, I was unsusceptible. And I was naive. Now, I still talk to my first love every day since 2010.
On the subject of devotion, after having consistently played and practiced for as many years as some of you freshmen have been alive, it seems like I should be a more proficient, more accomplished cellist. And I was… in 8th grade. However, after having to prioritize and compartmentalize my energy and commitments at Cate, music has fallen to the wayside, and though my love for my instrument remains, my talents have exponentially decreased.
Speaking of exponential equations. T-smith! It may seem like the hours of extra help at 7:30 in the morning and 7:30 at night, all his repetition and all my concentration have gone to waste when, a week before the AP test, I still forget the rudimentary negative sign on the derivative of cosine. Despite that, I hope it’s understood that the improvement of my personal confidence in the face of mathematics, my commitment to learning for the sake of learning, and problem solving skills generally are immeasurable after a year with the best teacher I’ve ever known.
And I’ve known a lot of teachers. Other than my first two years and four months of Cate, I have spent my entire scholastic career with one, or both, of my lovely parents working beside me at school. As a result, I’ve gotten to know people who are professional teachers as much more than that. Back in the time of chalkboards, I would doodle and eat lifesavers in my father’s classroom, while he meticulously wrote thoughtful feedback and drew unique smiley faces on each one of his students papers- both things that I got on my own papers years later when I had my own father for seventh grade English. Now that was an experience! The good and the bad, the pride when my peers had the glow of understanding after an explanation from my dad and the pain when he made the boy I had a crush on stay standing for the rest of class and part of recess because he leaned back in his chair after my father had asked him not to. And then this year, for anyone who thinks that the college center doesn’t care, I’ve gone to get ice cream way past my moms bed time, and seen her alone in front of the glow of her computer and in the middle of a little happy dance whenever one of my classmates changes the status of their college application on Naviance to “accepted”.
Times like when a teacher forgets to hole punch handouts, it can SEEM like they are just programed to make student’s life more difficult; but I can assure you, I’m quite close to a few, and their mistakes are as human as ours.
Mistakes such as word choice. It could seem like saying the “that’s so gay” or comically calling a friend a “fag” has no greater negative impact if no one speaks up, if nobody appears to be offended. Reality is that not everyone who is hurt is going to say something either as an ally to the LGBT community or in defense if they themselves are homosexual. Allowing this language to seep into our colloquial vocabulary yields fairly promising odds that after forming a habit of resorting to derogatory words in place of and, therefore, synonymous to a word like “annoying” or “lame”, someone is going to get hurt. The same is true for words like “ghetto”, the same is true for “retard”, and the same is even true for “rape”. Seemingly innocuous and often off-hand, saying something like “that test just raped me” could be a constant, painful reminder for a silent someone who has suffered from from sexual abuse. Just fifty years ago the n-word was still being used to verbally assault Black Americans. For my generation, I used to be an enabling bystander. Now, so that I can tell my children that I was not on the wrong side of history like my great grandparents may have been, I’ve matured to a vocal social justice activist.
When it comes to being vocal, it seems like my mother is being overbearing by voicing her input and overly explaining everything when I’m just asking for the short answer- especially in the past year. What she is really doing is subtly preparing me for next year- for a world where she is not there to help me.
Concerning Mama, I’ve found myself here and I’ve lost myself here. Tour guide, Prefect walking around campus with a straight spine and a smile is easy. Simply standing in front of a mirror… that will bring me to my knees. Seemingly thriving, actually surviving.
About hitting a wall, it seemed my Cate career would commence at Commencement because what is “Pomp and Circumstance” if not the mark of the end. Well, no one ever told me I would feel as though I’m already gone after my last time representing Cate blue on the sports field.
On the subject of circumstance, I can’t tell you what my current status is at Cate right now. I can’t do the Cate countdown. If you want to know how many days till graduation, you’ll have ask Brewer. It may seem like seniors are just getting through the last days of our chicken-filled, protein powder-less existence here on the Mesa, but that is only how it seems. Really I’d be counting down the number of beloved times I drive my baby brother to school, the number of good mornings and good nights I have left to my roommate, Caitlin Cain. Counting down the times Enadina smiles as I fumble through Spanglish in our daily interactions. My last weeks where a squeeze from Lanéa, my better half, is always just a few minutes away.
And that is how things really are, that is not just how they seem. Which is a sad realization for me. But, sometimes it’s enlightening, it can be happy, it can be necessary. Sometimes finding out true colors makes me angry and sometimes knowing what things are makes me even more confused than I was before.
But, ultimately, it is my human privilege to continue to be gullible and remain under the impression that some things are only as they seem, all the while knowing that it is my responsibility to seek to know what is to be, rather than to seem to be.
To seek to know what is Esse Quam Videri.