I am not a patient person. I do not like being helped. I am headstrong, stubborn, and cynical. Some might call me bossy. These are the things I knew about myself four years ago, when I was graduating eighth grade and coming here.
I still know these things to be true. I am still the same independent and willful young woman. High school has not been easy for me. I’ve always struggled with maintaining friendships, with passing my APs, with math classes and time management and scheduling meetings and getting enough sleep.
My classmates and I spent a journey period last month asking Dr. Murphy to describe us. He told Faith Tell she was one of the most joy-filled people he knows, and then he looked at me and said, “You know, Annarose, I can’t say that about you.”
There’s a beat.
“But you know that.”
He’s right. I do know that. I know how I’ve wandered these halls with a cloud over my head, contemplating the big things I’d do if I weren’t young and stuck in a young person’s little life. I know how I’ve planned every year, planned something that will redeem me for all the difficulty I’ve faced, forcing myself into friendships, forcing myself into groups where we all knew I’d never belong. I know how my family has struggled here, our best and our worst moments never hidden from my classmates, even our meals together on view to the whole school. I know how I’ve looked in mirrors and promised myself that today will be different, that I can do it.
I’ve always pulled through. I’ve never been perfect, but I’ve never failed myself either.
I can make no promises of what your time here will hold. You will laugh. You will cry. You will feel so tired that leaving your desk for the next class feels much more dramatic than just standing up. Say yes to opportunities if you’re interested. Don’t feel that you have to be interested. I have been on more wait lists than I can count, and what happens in the interim tends to be most important. During your senior year, always say yes to your loved ones. Go to Target with your mom. Get pizza with the friends who’ve become your family. Never miss an opportunity to tell them they’re loved. Never shut them down when they say the same to you. Eat chocolate and ice cream and pasta and sushi and tacos and poke and curry. Shower and sleep and work out and hug your little brother and remember everything is temporary. The good and the bad, it will all fade in time. So don’t worry too much. Just breathe it in.
Senior year is freeing. You spend all of your time as an underclassman wishing and waiting until the day you become “that” senior. And then you are “that” senior. Being “that” senior entails a lot more than what it seems to on the surface. Being “that” senior means you are about to go through the most emotionally and spiritually challenging year of your young life. For me, I felt like I spent so much of my time wanting to be a senior that I forgot to live in the present moment. Senior year is bittersweet. Although I do not regret anything because I believe everything happens for a reason, if I could go back and change anything to help impact my life positively, it would be my attitude. My freshman year I was so caught up on the outer part of who people were that I discredited people quickly and became a person who was consumed by labels and stereotypes. My freshman and sophomore year I tried so hard to be a label that I got lost in all of it. Reflecting back on the days I would be driven home by my parents seems like a thing of the past. I remember playing lacrosse as a freshman and looking up at the seniors thinking, “They are only, like, three years older than me. They can’t know that much more than I already do now,” but I was so wrong. Junior year is when you really begin to figure yourself out.
Junior year is full of firsts. Your first car drive alone, your first prom, your first Ring Week, your first fight with your best friend, your first anxiety attack, your first heartbreak, but those are all a part of your growth and those all make you the person you are today. During my junior year I figured a lot out about who I was as a person, what I valued in relationships, what I didn’t value, and most importantly I began to actually love myself. And I do not mean the artificial “self love” I mean the real self love, the kind of self love that can be painful and hard to find. High school is an emotional rollercoaster, as is life. You are going to have some super-high moments, and you are going to experience some very low moments, but no matter what moment you are on, you must always remember to love yourself. There are going to be days where you contemplate your entire being (especially after Dr. Murphy’s philosophy class), you are going to imagine your life as if you didn’t attend Catalina, you are going to cry harder than ever before because life is relentless at times. But (and this is something I didn’t realize until this year) no matter how awful you think your situation is, Catalina will be there for you. There will be somebody or something on this campus that will give you a glimpse of hope and you’re going to realize that sometimes that is all you need. I did not appreciate the things Catalina taught me fully until this year. As an underclassman, I thought so little of myself and others and always sought the worst in people. But after some relationships ended, and some began to blossom, I realized that in order to live a truly happy life, I must love myself and surround myself with people who are only going to help me grow. This brings me to the friendship part of high school. I am at a serious loss for words when it comes to the friendships I have gained here. No words or things could even begin to explain the amount of warmth and love I have in my heart for all of you. Those “high” moments I mentioned earlier are all credited to the relationships I have found over these past years, and I would not take back any of them for the world.
Senior year is full of lasts. Your last prom, your last study hall jam session, your last time being asked to take off your sweatshirt, your last KKs, your last fire drill, your last assembly. Everything you are so used to doing is being done for the last time, and you never really think it was supposed to end, until it does. My time at Catalina was not perfect. I failed, I cried, I laughed, I sang, I grew, but most importantly, I learned. I learned what it is like to be a better person, a better friend, a better sister, and overall, a better me.
One of the best decisions I ever made during my years at Catalina was joining the basketball team. Freshman year I tried out for the basketball team and was informed I had been placed on the Junior Varsity team while my best friend had made the Varsity starting lineup team. Without my best friend to lean on, I was forced to interact with my other peers and develop my own individual skills and build a stronger foundation on my fundamentals. These basketball fundamentals I applied to my academic work as well as my social life. So here’s what I have learned:
- Never give up. You don’t only have one shot at something. If you miss the basket you’ll be given another chance to try again if you have the strength to do so. Catalina has taught me this. So now when life, or the six-foot post on the Stevenson team, beats me down, I get right back up. That endurance, of being able to push past fatigue and pain to reach your potential, helped me overcome some of my hardest years academically and emotionally. Just like my coach always said, if you miss a basket or cause a turnover you should be the first one back on defense instead of feeling sorry for yourself. And that is exactly what I did on the court and academically. I let my bad grades fuel my ambitions to succeed, and I proved to myself and to my teachers that I was capable of earning higher than 75% on a test.
- Don’t plan it all out. Enjoy the ride. In basketball, we have many different plays against specific teams and different types of defense and offense. However, rarely do we as a team execute these plays perfectly. I’m not going to lie; most of the time we just hand the ball over to Audrey Bennett and let her dunk for us. But jokes aside, we still had a very successful basketball year this year despite our inability to run the correct plays. Similarly, we cannot plan out our future, we can only wait and see how they unfold and find the positives in our new path. I learned this lesson my sophomore year. After being told I was to stay on the JV team again I was frustrated that I had not proven to my coach my abilities and almost quit. However I pushed through and was made Junior Varsity Captain and awarded the most valuable player on the team. As the only sophomore, I was given the task of bossing around all the new little freshmen. Needless to say, I was not happy with the situation. However, if it weren’t for my coach placing me on JV again I wouldn’t have made the incredible friendships with the juniors and would never have met my beautiful ring sister. It taught me leadership skills, a role I had never played nor thought I could ever succeed in. Throughout the season we suffered from loss after loss, which frustrated me greatly, but I soon realized it wasn’t about the end result. It was the juniors who taught me it was about the team, not the game.
- The power of sisterhood. It wasn’t until Junior and Senior year that I learned the power of sisterhood. I found the power of sisterhood through my team. A team composed of freshmen through seniors from different places, religions, experiences, GPAs, and faces. When I look at my team, I see my sisters. I see a family and a home I know will always support me and I can always come back to. Yes, I see a team who accidently gives each other black eyes, can’t execute a play thoroughly, and cannot plan anything together and a team that didn’t make league. But I also see a family whose members are willing to drive 45 minutes to each other’s houses to celebrate a birthday, a family that lets you borrow their socks when you forget yours. I see a family that, even after basketball season is over, still has lunchtime meetings and still makes fun of our coach. A family that will probably still have that annoying group chat three years from now. A family that, when we couldn’t have our senior night, set up a last-minute dinner celebration.
This is the best gift Catalina has to offer; the gift of sisterhood and a second family. So If I had one thing to tell underclassmen, is to join a sports team, or do a show. Five, ten years from now, you won’t remember that project you got an A on, but you’ll remember that time your whole team piled into your coach’s car. You’ll remember the sisters you made and the memories you had with them.
Hello, for those of you who don’t know me, my name is Sofia D’Amico. As I sat down to write this, the first thing I thought was, wow four years is actually a long time. In fact, it is the longest consecutive number of years I’ve been at a single school. A lot has happened in four years. When I came to Catalina I was full of fear and self-hate and teenage angst. I was not at all sure of myself, my values, or my goals for the future. I struggled with depression and self-harm, often feeling isolated and friendless. I can say with confidence that I am not the same person that I was freshman year by any means. While I honor her and value the lessons she taught me, I am so relieved that she is in the past, because quite frankly, I love who I am today, and while I am not done evolving, I have reached peace with myself.
In my sophomore year I really focused on self-acceptance. I went through the process of learning to look in the mirror and not completely hate what I see. I came to love my mind too, accepting my thoughts, validating my emotions, and fostering my character. I accepted my eccentricities and learned to love all the things that make me who I am. After I could do this, I was able to truly let my friends into my life. In junior year, I really became close to the friends I have today. They helped to lift me up and taught me that sometimes laughing is the best remedy. To you I say, cherish yourself as your own best friend first, love the journey, love the people in it, love the mosaic of moments that make life what it is, the good and the bad.
Catalina has offered me a loving and supportive community. I am so grateful for all the pieces that make Catalina what it is. I love the jagged coastal cliffs of the peninsula, the fog and the sound of seagulls. I love KK’s, Ring Week, Cake Auction, and Community Dinner. I love flopping on my bed in my dorm room after a long day of school, the sound of the resident faculty kids playing outside at dinner, the new science building, and even all the plants on campus that give me terrible allergies. More importantly, I love the people at Catalina. I will miss saying hi to Leo in the kitchen, Father Marini, my teachers and mentors and friends. The community has essentially been a massive safe haven for me in that I have always felt warm, loved, and valued. The Catalina community was there for me through ups and downs, both personally and in my family. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t thank God for the community that Catalina has offered me, and I will never ever take that for granted, and I urge you not to, either. Remember to be kind to one another, to be kind to yourself, to always take pictures, to listen to your heart, to sleep when you are tired, to laugh ’til you can’t breathe, to wear sunscreen every day, to eat whatever you want, to talk to your parents because they love you very much, and to never let anyone make you feel unworthy or inferior. The experience I gained at Catalina was so incredibly special and better than I could have ever imagined. While I am ready to depart and take on the next chapter of my life at Baylor University, I will hold Santa Catalina School in my heart forever and know that my life has been significantly changed by my time here. Thank you.
I came to Catalina from the International School of Monterey. I didn’t know anyone, I was super shy, and I didn’t want to be at Catalina. Not many people from my school had gone to Catalina, so it was extremely difficult for me to adjust. I didn’t feel comfortable with the amount of wealth people had, nor the Catholic environment, since both of those were foreign to me. I thought I would leave sophomore year, but I decided to stay because of all the friends I made. As soon as I immersed myself in the Catalina community, I started to “fit in,” I guess you would say. I made more friends, felt happier, and was doing well academically. Yet I still felt like a fly on the wall. I didn’t think my presence in classes was significant,, nor did I feel confident about my opinions or ideas. I was just floating around unaware of my surroundings which put me into a dark state that I didn’t think I would be able to come out of. It wasn’t until I ran for sophomore vice president that I really came out of my shell. I gave my speech in front of my entire class, many of whom I didn’t know, and I won. And actually, I also ran unopposed, so that helped. Still, this leadership position really helped me with my public speaking skills and helped me meet more people and connect with more of my peers.
After four years here, I couldn’t be more grateful that I came to Catalina. I owe so much to this school. The connections I have made can never be replaced. The friendships I have made are so dear to me that I want to cry thinking about the fact that we only have 29 days left. Sure, I’m stoked to graduate, but I don’t want to leave this place and stop seeing all of my friends every day, sitting on the couches, leading assembly, and just the campus itself, because it is so beautiful. I love my friends so much. They are my family. Since I come from a super small family, just my mom and me, it was really important for me that I make lasting friendships. I can honestly say that I have so many sisters now. I had never really felt the love of other people than from my family before until I made friends at Catalina. I am eternally grateful for playing field hockey with Giselle for four years, because she taught me to stay true to the sport I love and will be playing in college, I am grateful to Allie for always putting a smile on my face even when I’ve had the worst day possible. This not only helped improve my mood but helped me feel whole again. I am blessed that I have had Taylor in my life because she has been my best friend for four years. I don’t know what we are going to do being so far apart. We have talked about it and we can’t even imagine being three thousand miles apart. Also to Nikki and Keona, thank you for helping me grow more confident on the field, in life, and for always being there for me even if we don’t talk every day. There are countless others because I love my whole class, but I’m going to stop before it makes me more emotional.
“This too shall pass” is a mantra that has run through my mind constantly since my sophomore year. I typically think of it several times a day. It serves as a reminder to be mindful of two things: to treasure the good moments and get over the bad moments, because they are just that—little snippets of time that are fleeting.
However, on March 28, with only 59 days until graduation, I completely lost sight of this. Three days earlier, I had been admitted to the school of my dreams—the University of Southern California. When I received my acceptance package in the mail, I immediately broke down sobbing. I felt that all of my hard work had been validated, that the sacrifices I made had been worth it, that my consumption with the college process had finally been vindicated, and that my goal of attending a top, prestigious school had paid off, a goal I have had ever since I learned what college was. It was much more than just an acceptance for me, because everything became unquestionably all worth it when I received that red acceptance folder printed with the words, “Welcome to the Trojan Family.” I had never been as happy in my life, and for the next three days, I could not wipe a smile off of my face, thinking only of my next cardinal-and-gold colored years. My family and I were so excited to join the Trojan family together.
However, on March 28, my financial aid information was released, and we learned that it would be impossible for me to attend the school of our dreams. To put it lightly, I was absolutely, phenomenally crushed. While I had felt just three days earlier that all of my hard work had been validated, that the sacrifices I made had been worth it, I was now overwhelmed with the opposite feeling, because to me, college was much more than the next stage of life or education: it represented all that I had put into Catalina for the past 14 years. To me, it represented my life up until this point. And then, my goal of years was yanked out from under me in one fell click of the refresh icon on my financial aid page.
Now, I am a generally happy person who finds joy in most things, but I fell into a period of wallowing in self-pity at this point that I did not come out of for a good while. My failure to truly reach my goal consumed almost every thought of mine, even if I didn’t outwardly, constantly show it after the first few days. I lost the joy in the little everyday things I had so appreciated and been mindful of before. Instead of celebrating the countdown to graduation and all of the hard work my class and I put in to get there, I dreaded it, because graduating from here meant that I would have to move on to a place I had no desire to go. While I was so fortunate to have been offered an excellent scholarship at a beautiful school, and while I knew that some people would have killed to be in my position, I was completely overcome by my sorrow and disappointment instead of reveling in the last times I would get to spend here at Catalina as a student.
Now, you may be a little confused, because you know that I am attending USC next year. I discovered on April 15 that my dream actually could be made possible, and I am indescribably grateful for this opportunity and that everything worked out in my favor. However, I still want to say what I planned to when I wholeheartedly believed it would be impossible for me to attend USC and that everything I had done up until this point had seemingly not paid off.
Catalina has offered me more than I can ever express, and it is hard for me to talk about because I love it so much. Despite the stress, late nights, and tough times, there is not a single thing I would change about my experience, even though after discovering I would not be able to attend USC, I wanted nothing more than to rewind the clock to get all of my time and effort back. But I now know that everything I did was worth it, not because of whatever college I will end up at next year, but because it is here that I have created a family made up of peers, faculty members, and teachers—people I can rely on in good times and bad, people who have shaped me, supported me, and people who I truly hope to have in my life until my last days. It is here that I learned how to spell my name and do my multiplication tables, here that I learned a little bit of statistics and biology, here that I learned how to formulate a strong argument, how to speak in public and be a leader, how to do well and do good, and that Catalina girls truly can. Catalina is my home, and without my hard work and many wonderful experiences here, I would not be who I am today or have created the friendships, bonds, and memories that are now so dear to me.
So, especially after experiencing the little bump in my road of almost not getting to attend my first-choice college, I always, always try to keep in mind, more than ever, “This too shall pass.” I hope that you can keep that in your own mind as you move forward. At your lowest point, know that that moment is fleeting. And at your highest, know to treasure that moment, because you will never have it again. Don’t dwell on the bad. Embrace the good. Treasure every single moment you have left here with love, with gratitude, and with care, because it will be over before you know it, and I promise you: you will miss it, and it will all have been worth it.
Having a big red reminder of how many days left I have here has altered my perception of our campus. Walking to classes with that number in my head has made me realize how much this 30-acre plot of adobe and rose gardens has influenced who I am today.
In these classrooms, I learned to look for nuance and to voice my opinion. In this library, I learned that the harder you work, the luckier you get. On the cross country course, I learned I need to get out of my comfort zone in order to get better, and that the most important workouts are the ones you do when it feels like the last thing you want to do. In this dining hall, I learned that sometimes the best medicine is soup in a bread bowl and laughing with your friends. In these offices, I learned the power of having people who care about you and believe in you. At the kiosk, I learned to never trust an automatic gate in a power outage. In the PAC, I learned the joy of being part of something bigger than myself. On the softball field, I learned the value of not being afraid to try something new. In this chapel, I learned the importance of self-reflection. In this gym is where I learned that leadership is not built on superiority but rather understanding, and that hard work and positivity are infectious. On windy field trips to the tide pools, I learned that curiosity will take you far and that asking questions is sometimes more important than knowing the answers. In study hall, in the midst of sister speeches, random dance parties, and frees spent on the couches, I learned that I have not just two sisters but two hundred.
As I look forward past these 30 days or so, past the scent of roses in the air and past the long stretch of summer ahead of us, I am nervous about defining my identity at a completely new place, with 8000 acres instead of 30 and more palm trees than rose gardens. These past four years my identity has been so intertwined with these 30 acres, with these classrooms, this chapel, these sports teams, these people. As scary as it is to uproot, I realize that I will always keep my experiences here as an integral part of my identity. I learned that Catalina is more than just a place and a ring on my finger; it is part of who I am now, and no matter where I am, I will always keep Catalina and the people here close to my heart.
1920 marked a turning point for women in the United States. Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone, and too many other women to name were finally heard and granted the right to vote. However, while women then had the same rights for the most part as a man in the eyes of the federal government, people did not become gender blind. Only 11 years after the 19th Amendment was passed, Virginia Woolf penned a powerful piece on society and its expectations of women in the workforce. Woolf commented, “Even when the path is nominally open—when there is nothing to prevent a woman from being a doctor, a lawyer, a civil servant—there are many phantoms and obstacles, as I believe, looming in her way,” showing that preconceived notions about women being the weaker sex still ran rampant. This is still true today.
Despite being legally recognized as fully equal to men, women still face numerous obstacles in their careers today due to unfair perceptions regarding women, or familial duties many women feel responsible for, similar to what Virginia Woolf observed and wrote about in the early the 20th century.
Double standards and unfair expectations when hiring or evaluating women at work must still be overcome by teaching children from a young age that all people are equal and that; in general, standards and expectations for all should be the same. While there is American legislation ensuring equal opportunity and pay for women in the workplace, such as the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Department of Labor’s Women Bureau, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, there are still structural biases in the system. Under the seams of the corporate world, there is the dark underbelly of discrimination. In a 2014 study by the Australian Human Rights Organization, countless biases were uncovered in the Australian workforce. The results of this study reflect similar conditions in the United States and Western world and are depicted in the pictograph above. Additionally, other statistics on the subject of gender inequality in the workplace were covered in Sheryl Sandberg’s 2010 TED talk. According Sandberg’s TED talk, “Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders,” only nine out of 190 heads of state globally are women. No more than 16% of women in the corporate business world hold high-level positions. These statistics show just how grave the subject of gender inequality is and just how important it is to overcome.
Women are not only held back by others, but are also held back by self-made perceptions and by their own personal sense of need to personally care more for their families, which in most women is greater than in men. Although this is certainly not the case for some, men are seen as prestigious when they accept more demanding work commitments, whereas a woman who accepts a demanding commitment is often looked down upon for sacrificing her family life for her career.
Working women are currently in a career limbo, where women who elect not to have children are judged, working mothers are gossiped about for not keeping their families in mind, and non-working mothers are seen as antifeminist women with no ambition.
Women face more difficulty in being hired and promoted, as seen in a 2016 Women in the Workplace study, which shows that for every 100 female promotions, 130 men are promoted. This provides great insight into the hiring process. As is supported by other research as well, employers are less likely to promote women because women are less likely than their male colleagues to push for a promotion or even accept one when offered due to their familial sense of duty. These commonly held perceptions make it nearly impossible for one to find a correct balance in society’s eyes. On top of drastically holding fewer top company job positions, per the statistics mentioned before, the few high-achieving women who do make it to the top are often then judged harshly, being held to different and more judgmental standards than their male counterparts. Often labeled as “aggressive,” “bossy,” or even “bitchy” for simply doing their job and trying to push past gender discrimination barriers. Women naturally and unintentionally do not always put themselves out there or first in the workplace. 57% of men negotiate for their salary in their first entry-level job, while only 7% of women do so. This double standard that forces women to prove themselves by working harder than men is a key barrier to equality in the workplace and is a “phantom [or] obstacle” as Virginia Woolf would say.
Workplace and hiring discrimination against women, whether purposeful or unintentional, must be ended, as these are what prevent full gender equality from being reached. According to a 2014 PEW Research Center survey, a large reason why women are held back from “top jobs” is that females are held to a higher standard than men. The survey also shows data that supports the fact that women are held back because of employers who are unwilling to hire females, female family responsibilities, the perception that women are not “tough enough” or good managers. These perceptions are the ones that must be overcome in order to achieve full workplace equality and are precisely what Virginia Woolf spoke about in her essay. These hidden biases are the roadblocks that have been present since the early 20th century when women began to enter the workforce.
Virginia Woolf’s words from 1932 still pertain to the world today, as women work to overcome both outside and personally imposed workplace and familial expectations and perceptions. Pre-conceived notions of workingwomen color their ability to succeed in business and the corporate world; however, these can be overcome through thoughtful education and professional conduct. Although Virginia Woolf’s words, “there are many phantoms and obstacles . . . looming in [a woman’s] way,” still ring true today, there is a bright future ahead for women in the workplace and in the world.