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Differences Don’t Define Me

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Gianna Chiappetta

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Spirituality creates bonds rather than breaks them.

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Differences Don’t Define Me

Looks can be deceiving. From the outside, one might not read as a Catholic, but on the inside it is what they speak, practice and reflect about. Attending a public school may be difficult for those who believe in a spiritual path different from those that they are surrounded by. They might feel out of the loop or have trouble fitting in, but that is not always the case. Many have come to find that their spirituality does not separate them from their peers, but instead makes their differences an opportunity to educate others about their beliefs.

Atre           

For junior Ashutosh Atre, Hinduism does not define him as a person and he does not feel that his spirituality makes him different, but instead, empowers him.

“I’m separate from my religion and spirituality, but I feel like it’s a big part of me,” Atre said.

Hinduism is made up of two sides: spiritual and religious.

“My family is more of a spiritual Hindu,” Atre said. “We don’t really believe in praying to a god as much. I mean we still do, but we’re more about centering ourselves and really focusing on not praying to god, but seeing archetypes of good people and how we should behave like them.”

Growing up, Atre’s childhood was no different than any other. Like most other families, Atre still has annual holidays. Although not all holidays may be the same. Atre does not feel different from his peers. Instead, he finds it an opportunity to enlighten them about his culture.

“My parents like educating people about my religion because [they believe] if you can understand [a person] better, you can get to know them better,” Atre said. “When I was really young my parents would come into my elementary school classes and explain Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, to [the students] and then I would get out of school for a day or two to celebrate with my family.”

For many, spirituality is the key to their success. With a form of greater power, one may seek help or advice to bring positivity into their life. For Atre, it is no different.

“We have a little altar at my house that I pray [to] before tests or big events at school,” Atre said.

Although Atre prays to stay connected to his spirituality, he still feels less cultured than his family.

“My grandma is super, super spiritual; she knows all the stories and all the aspects of it,” Atre said. “My parents know a lot, too. I’ve learned a lot, but I don’t think it’s always with me as it is with them. I feel like being in America and being especially in a predominantly white town, it’s kind of hard to stay connected with my culture all the time.”

For those who believe in Hinduism, Antioch is not the easiest place to stay vigorously connected to their beliefs. Antioch is filled with over 15 churches, yet the closest Hindu temple is found in Grayslake. With that struggle, Atre is limited and only visit a temple a couple times a year.

Even with those differences, Atre does not feel like he is viewed negatively. He embraces his spirituality and is always willing to teach others his virtues to those who ask. He is not afraid of who he is, where he comes from or what he believes in; he is a Hindu and he is proud.

Phillips

This also holds true for junior Amber Phillips who is Christian, more specifically she, Lutheran.

“I’m a Lutheran and I believe in God,” Phillips said. “I believe that God is the Father, the Holy Spirit and the Son.”

Before attending Antioch Community High School, Phillips went to Faith Evangelical Lutheran School and was one of nine in her grade level. Phillips found this aspect difficult to make friends when transitioning to ACHS.

“I didn’t know anyone that went to Antioch other than Jessica [Nettgen] and Rachel [Phillips],” Phillips said.

Phillips is not ashamed of where she comes from, but she does not always explicitly say what school she used to attend.

“Most people thought I went to Emmons, so people didn’t look at me like the girl that went to Faith,” Phillips said.

With attending a Lutheran school, most of Phillips’ teachers expected her to follow through with attending Shoreland Lutheran High School. This gave Phillips the difficult choice of choosing which high school to attend.

“Being from Faith, my teachers looked down upon me because I [chose to go] to Antioch,” Phillips said. “[I chose to attend Antioch because] it’s closer [to home]; my siblings went there and it was cheaper.”

Since attending ACHS the last three years, Phillips has come to the realization that her spirituality does not make her that much different from everybody else. There are still some differences from some of her friends, but not anything she perceives as a major difference.

“[The only differences are] praying before I eat [and] going to church on Sunday,” Phillips said. “[Being Lutheran doesn’t] make me feel that different because even though I don’t really share [my religion] with people, I know a lot of people who believe in God, too, so it’s not that different.”

Szaflik

People have the right to believe in anything they want to, even if that means not believing in anything. For senior Kamil Szaflik, this is how he views spirituality.

“I’m an atheist,” Szaflik said. “[It is a] person that doesn’t believe in a specific god or any god. When growing up, I just had too many questions that nobody could answer directly, so I kind of grew out of religion.”

Although Szaflik is an atheist, this does not hold true for the rest of his family.

“I come from a Polish community, so everyone is super religious,” Szaflik said. “Whenever I mention I’m an atheist, I get into a lot of arguments; people try to convert me back, but it doesn’t end well.”

Even though Szaflik does not hold the same beliefs as the rest of his family, he still attends their religious events.

“I still go to church, I just don’t participate in any of the stuff,” Szaflik said.

For most adolescents, they practice the same spirituality as the rest of their family. It is not the path he wishes to travel.

“My parents don’t know [I’m an atheist],” Szaflik said. “They still think I believe in God. They’re super religious, so I’m afraid to tell them.”

Although Szaflik has to face these difficulties, he does not let his problems stop him from having his own opinions on spirituality. He will one day have to face his family on his views, but as of now he is less worried about what they will think of him and more worried about the person he wishes to one day  become.

“I’m kind of proud that I go my own way,” Szaflik said. “Just because my parent are religious, I believe in what I want to believe in.”

When bringing spirituality into a school setting, Szaflik feels no different than anybody else.

“Schools don’t really let religion in, so I’m fine in school,”  Szaflik said.

Overall, most students at ACHS do not focus of what a person may believe in, but more so on what a person has to offer in friendship. Although spirituality may be a big part of someone’s life, not all believe their spirituality defines them. For Atre, Phillips and Szaflik, they practice different spiritual pathways, but they hold the ideology that they are no different from their peers. ACHS has a diverse student body; coming together as a community, is what the school is about. ACHS does not judge people for what they wear or how they look. This school, this community and this town are all for learning about one another and discovering the differences that make people unique.

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Differences Don’t Define Me