Nearly five months ago I let my simple grey dress fall over my shoulders, zipped up a royal blue gown over it and pinned a funny card board hat on my head. My name was called out amongst hundreds of others and an auditorium of people hid my loved ones faces as I walked across a platform and received a fancy, official-looking piece of paper. There was lots of laughing and a few tears. People I had known for 12 years hugged me in a surreal flurry of flowers and hand shakes. I graduated.
I'm not sure what I expected to happen when I walked across the stage and accepted that piece of paper, but it felt a bit anticlimactic. I mean that was the culminating moment of my entire high school career! I spent four years of my life at Worthington Kilbourne High School, and it ended in an hour half long ceremony. Graduating marked the last day of my grey dress experiment. It marked the end of my WKHS days-the end of an era I suppose.
After the ceremony, I took a few pictures with my closest friends, and a few more awkward pictures with kids I grew up with but wouldn't consider friends. We all knew that this was the last time we would see most of these people, so we humored each other and posed in front of weepy moms with digital cameras. After the last photos had been taken, and the crowd started to thin out there was an awkward feeling of solemnity amidst the celebration. I waved my last goodbyes, hugged a few final friends and piled into the back of my family's mini van. And that was that.
I'm not the type to stick around for the rolling credits, and staying in Columbus for the summer seemed silly to me. I was headed off to school in the fall, so why prolong the goodbye? So two days after graduation, I packed up my little honda with a missing muffler and drove south. All three of my older sisters were going to be in Nashville for the summer so I figured I would join them and the four of us could have one last summer together before we scattered in the wind again. Much of my summer in Nashville was spent reading, watching movies, playing with my niece and nephew and working. I had a job working as customer service for a company that recycles cell phones. I made my own hours, and worked as many hours as I wanted all from home in my pjs on the couch. It was a sweet job.
I had no one really to answer to, but truthfully no one really to talk to either. My sisters and brothers all worked full time jobs, so most of the day I was home alone with all the time in the world to think. I thought a lot about high school, and the days behind me. I thought about the friends I left in Ohio, and wondered wether we would stay in touch. I thought about the grey dress I had left hanging in my closet (I figured a summer apart would be good for our relationship.)
The second half of my senior year I learned a lot about freedom. I educated myself on the lack of freedom in our world. I now recognize the clever facade of freedom our nation wears to hide the thousands in slavery within our borders. I taught others what I knew about the crisis and I prayed countless prayers to God for freedom. My grey dress project had consumed much of me the last four months of my senior year, and it all came screeching to a halt in one short ceremony. I had talked and written a lot about freedom, and now that I had graduated and moved out of my parents house I was experiencing it first hand, and quite frankly, I was bored. The shift from final papers, class presentations, graduation parties and 'Thank You' cards, to sitting around my sisters house in my pjs watching movies and occasionally going to the pool, was so dramatic I think I got whiplash. I was a kid fresh out of high school, living without parental supervision, all the freedom in the world, yet I spent a majority of my time alone and inside.
Don't get me wrong, it was still a summer well spent. My sisters and I lived in the same city again for the first time in 10 years. I got to know my brother-in-law's much better than before, and can whole heartedly call them my good friends. I read lots of books, and filled two journals with my personal musings. I wouldn't trade that summer for anything-but it certainly wasn't what I had expected when I drove noisily away from my childhood home toward the unknown. I wrote a lot that summer about how different this freedom was and how different I could feel myself becoming. The taste of this freedom was less sweet, and surprisingly more weighty than I would have guessed. I learned less facts about freedom and the lack of it in the US, but I learned just as much by tasting a different kind of independence.
Through all of my musing about my new freedom, I have realized that just because I'm no longer wearing a grey dress everyday doesn't mean my exploration of freedom ends. My experience with the One Dress Campaign has permanently opened my eyes to freedom. My own freedom, others freedom, and the consequences of if all. I will continue to ponder and write about freedom as I learn more. I am keenly aware that freedom changes everything.
This post wasn't the most articulate piece of work, but I think it fits. More will follow soon with some recent updates on my exploration of freedom, but for now I think enough has been said about my transition from high school to the beyond.