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The Aquilian

The Aquilian

The Aquilian

The brotherhood of Gonzaga

’22 Prom Photo credit Christopher Kaelin

Despite really only being on campus for two and a half years, Gonzaga has been a home to me. Sure I learned how to write papers faster, study overnight and even make up a presentation as I am giving it, but all of these I could have received at any high school. For me, the greatest asset Gonzaga had to teach was community and how it should be lived out. The phrase “brotherhood” gets tossed around so frequently that looking from the outside, it seems to have no meaning. Really, it is the opposite. The more I hear it, the more I see it and the better I understand it.

The concept of brotherhood is deeper than simply getting along or being close. I have had many friends throughout my life that I have been “close” to. These friendships were formed and then destroyed. Not by my choice, but as I moved between schools, and eventually on to Gonzaga, I gradually lost everyone I knew before. Arriving on the first day of freshman year, I didn’t know anyone. I looked blankly around at a couple of hundred other kids that also seemed lost. Random speakers said all sorts of expectations and the school, but it was all kind of a blur. St. Al’s was even nerve-wracking for me at the time as I genuinely believed that the old loft would come crashing down halfway through Mass. I sat at random tables for the first couple of weeks and gradually learned some names of the kids in my grade. I still did not really have friends at this point, but acquaintance-wise I was doing pretty well. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was my grasp of the brotherhood at Gonzaga.

I played soccer for Gonzaga in the fall, but even though I knew these guys I really did not talk much to them. I was just scared, really of everything. I stayed in my own lane, got work done and went home. It was a pretty sad way to exist, but my grades were OK, and freshman me was ok with that. Towards the end of my freshman year was when that really started to change.

I had a project for world cultures; I do not remember quite what but somehow at the end we had a five-minute-long presentation with a meme compilation listed in it along with a playdough model of some buildings. With the help of two other freshmen at the time, Calvo and Burton, everything gradually fell into place. Years later, I still talk with these two every day, but it had taken me nearly a full year to finally get to know someone well enough for them to be a friend.

Arriving in sophomore year, I felt even better than when I left. People whose names I barely knew the year prior now I high-fived and laughed with. I continued to play soccer, but now rather than just knowing my teammates’ names, I knew them. The feeling of pulling up to a rival’s school for a game while hearing blasting music coming from our bus is something I will never forget. I had made many more friends as the year progressed and even went on a snowboarding trip with Burton over spring break. Unfortunately, the day spring break ended was when COVID really started to hit hard. Two weeks to stop the spread became months of sitting behind a screen, and zoom really was not an optimal learning environment.

The rest of sophomore year was not terrible, but it was not great. Where I had once come into school and greeted my boys, I now rolled out of bed and logged in. The only people I spoke with face to face became my family, and friends only were there via the internet. I was a bit bummed out during this time, but I still kept up with work and in touch with my Gonzaga classmates. The “brotherhood” that I had finally started to understand took a massive blow the moment life behind a screen started, and this worsened as time went on.

Junior year was just a joke. For me, the entire year was spent virtually, and I was in a dark place for the majority of the year. My mental health took a pretty bad dive around January, which was also the first time I spoke with the school counselor outside of the mandatory meetings each student has to do. I could not get work done, I had no will to do anything and I was completely alone. My friends were there, but I just could not see it. I went to school and slept in the same room, and gradually sleeping became more of a hobby than a necessary bodily function. I could have come to school and fixed everything, but I didn’t. I could not bring myself to do it.

On the final day of real school, the day before reading day, I finally came in. Much to my surprise, all of my friends were still there, and they still knew me. This was a huge and necessary change of pace for me as all these people that I had not seen in over a year still cared about me. “Cared about me” is probably the cornerstone of the brotherhood at Gonzaga. Every person has their own interpretation of it, but being welcomed back after being gone like in the parable of the prodigal son was moving beyond words. On that day, I solidified every relationship I had made over the past three years, and “brotherhood” finally made sense. These guys were my brothers; I loved them and they loved me for who I am. In middle school, I had “my boys,” but those relationships were nothing compared to what I had at that moment.

Finals went alright, and over the summer I prepped for the SAT. On the first day of senior year, I felt nervous. Walking in through the front door past the seal, there’s a sort of welcoming smell of wood and stone that I cannot describe. It is nostalgic and was exactly the same smell that greeted me on orientation day four years prior. Immediately as I turned the corner to see the Arrupe commons, the dumbest smile came across my face. There, across from me, were about 20 guys I knew and I immediately ran over. I had not seen some of them since spring break of sophomore year, yet they treated me like no time had passed.

Senior year has been eventful for me; Kairos, parties, prom and more are all packed into one short year. Even more meaningful than those big events though are the day-to-day interactions that I get every morning on Eye Street. Whether it is laughing in class while finishing work, going as a group to get food by Walmart or even dunking on someone in a mobile game five minutes before classes start, Gonzaga is special. The friends I have made here are different from anyone else I have ever met, and I am confident that these relationships will last throughout my life.

The brotherhood is much more than just a concept. It is real, living and breathing on campus in each and every one of the students I see. There is nothing that I learned more about or will miss more than the brotherhood that I have found in my years on Eye Street.

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    Pam ValeirasMay 22, 2022 at 9:34 pm

    This is a beautiful chronicling of your time a Gonzaga. Great details and use of imagery. Gonzaga is a special place where you forge strong friendships. Best of luck to you as you move on to your next chapter! AMDG