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My Ivory Tower

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My earliest memory: I am watching my father in battle. The sun glints off his bronze armor, his red cape swishes as he raises his spear with its rounded duct-tape tip. I sit on my long hair, a flower wreath atop my head, pulling at grass with my toes. My parents have been medieval re-enactors since long before my birth. Week long medieval camping events across the country have shaped me into a girl who doesn’t quite seem to belong in the 21st century. I can juggle, belly dance, shoot arrows, sing lauds, recite ballads, barter, dine with a king and put a knight in armor. Until recently, however, I could barely turn a computer on or find my way through my neighborhood.

This past April, my class flew to Mississippi for a week of Katrina relief work; reconstruction and interviewing victims. I saw a different world that week, one full of people who had never turned away from reality; they'd had to face it every day, relying only on their own strength to sustain themselves. Meeting these people showed me that I had boxed myself into an outdated feminine ideal; I had kept myself essentially helpless. Because the medieval world was my childhood, I wanted to embody it forever. After Mississippi, however, I knew it was time to learn to fight my own dragons.

I contacted a former teacher and asked if I could volunteer on his farm, and convinced my parents to let me visit our former Swedish exchange student. There was certainly nobody kissing my hand on the farm. I was getting exactly what I had wanted; an experience to show me that I could be strong and independent. I worked twelve hours a day for a month, my hair in long braids, tossing hay-bails, gardening, and carrying buckets of animal food. Although I sobbed the first night, homesick and intimidated by the work, I came to think of the farm as a second home.

In July, I flew alone to Stockholm. During my month there, I struck out into the city many times. I knew I would get lost, and I often did, but I learned to read a map. On my last day there, I decided to get my first haircut. When I sat down in the salon chair, everyone in the shop stopped to watch. I breathed in deeply and closed my eyes. There was a sharp snip, and over two feet of blond curls fell away, lifting a weight I didn’t know was there. I reached up to feel my hair. It felt like I reached up forever.

I don’t intend to forget of whence I came, but I do intend to become a part of where I am. While I will always love the old world, I want to be a woman of my time. My ivory tower has crumbled now, and I know I can never go back, but that’s all right, because I'm ready to explore this new world.



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