Just last week, I got word from Johns Hopkins that I had been accepted to their dual enrollment classes which would take place this summer. In exchange for five weeks of being taught by world-renowned professors and sharing classes with undergraduate students, I was going to be given status as a full student and seven credits to be transferred to the college of my choice upon high school graduation.
Of course, my mother rejoiced, and thus followed a week of her telling everybody who would listen. It felt very similar to a point that happened around this same time last year when I had been accepted to NYU's summer dual enrollment sessions. Acceptance. My mom telling everybody the good news. Tuition sticker shock. Anger that I couldn't pay it. Receiving full scholarship. My mom telling everybody the good news about the tuition. Packing. Going crazy. It's following the same pattern now: rinse and repeat, it seems.
Everybody says New York is where they find themselves and I can't disagree. New York is where I first discovered fashion; what it felt like to be myself.
Hipster wannabes commuting from Brooklyn for their daily classes, some professors who dressed like hippies, girls who clearly had walked the five blocks or so from SoHo, people in suits meeting in bistros for important brunches. It was me. And I loved every minute of it.
For the first time that I could remember, I actually held my head up when I walked down the street. I wore heels everyday to class and I felt like I could cry every time I walked from my dorm's lobby to Bobst Library down the street, feeling as if I could conquer the world.
That was when I knew fashion got me.
It wasn't so much the change of scenery that made me feel this way, but my relation to the atmosphere. The way I never got yelled at as I crossed the street or felt as if I was going to be roughed up by someone because I happened to be wearing an outfit that made me feel at home and alive.
It was during the last week of my stay that I walked into Jimmy Choo and tried on every pair of wedges I could find, sipping on a fizzy Perrier and still reeling from the fact that the door had to be opened by a security guard. I went into Current/Elliott and browsed. I sat in Prada and grazed my hands over the leather of a cherry red bag. I went into Margiela rapping Kanye West verses in my head like an idiot: What's that jacket, Margiela? Coming back to my dorm empty-handed after a day of window shopping, I felt as if I floated all the way back from Bleecker Street. Because I was just me. You could only imagine my sadness when I finally returned to Philadelphia, rolling my huge suitcase over the garbage patches in the street wearing my standard uniform of jeans, t-shirt, and brown sneakers with a velcro strap.
This of course sounds like a love letter to New York City, but in actuality, it's not. It's a love letter to fashion and what it did for me last summer.
It hooked me and it trapped me because it made me feel alive for the first time in my life. I didn't have to deny myself or do two hundred push-ups in a cramped bedroom to feel real and tangible. I could put on a structured blazer or a bright, yellow top and finally feel something. At the age of sixteen and eight months, I found myself.
Here's to hoping Baltimore will give me the same peace.