You know that you are a black swan and not an ugly duckling for a few reasons:
1. You’re older than most of the other ducklings, so it’s unlikely that your feathers are still downy.
2. You don’t look like anybody else.
3. You are looked at, but not necessarily with disdain. Interest, primarily.
4. Nobody talks to you.
It’s an old-new feeling. This is a new kind of minority, or you are experiencing your otherness to a greater degree. You are a minority with an explanation point. It’s not a bad thing, really. Just different.
Everyone else seems to have made friends with each other and made a final decision, but you are not so bold – or maybe you forgot to drink the kool-aid. Or maybe they didn’t give it to you because you are, after all, too ridiculously out of place. A sore thumb is only one of ten; you’re one of hundreds. Even the admissions office didn’t realize you were actually coming until you stood before them, in flesh and hijab, hoping for a t-shirt like the rest of the pre-Ls.
It’s not so bad. More than ever, you realize that you are school-bound to study, and you will need to study more than you ever have before. If you continue to be The Visible Invisible Woman to your classmates, it’ll only be that much easier to spend you life in the library – which looks like Hogwarts, so that shouldn’t be so bad. You envision yourself the Hermione of the incoming class – nerdy, ambitious, a little over-eager – the only difference will be that instead of a frizzy mop of hair, yours is ensconced neatly under a pretty scarf. Either way, you’ve missed an important social cue.
You try. During a faculty panel, you raise your hand and call yourself an “aspiring con law superdork,” and they all laugh. That’s a good start. If you’re going to be strange, you might as well be strange and funny; they may still hold you at arm’s length, but at least they’ll be tepidly fond of your presence. You’re good at this, you tell yourself. A year of public speaking experience won’t go to waste. This is what you do: you win people over despite themselves. You’ve just never had to live-work-breathe-study with your audience before.
Two potential classmates introduce themselves. One needs to look at your schedule; the other has spent two years living in the Middle East, so you’re a familiar sight. Around you, they take each other to coffee and compare grades from junior year, or maybe biceps. They have matching jeans and shoes and probably the same hairdryer. Many of them have that Midwest accent you’re starting to hear: their a’s have more i in them. This is not to say that they are cookie-cutters of each other. They are individuals too; they just have identifiable things that can be shared over the course of a weekend. They feel familiar to each other. You’re a purple peacock in comparison: something that is not found in their natural habitat, though not inconceivable given the subtleties of postmodern identity. You miss the East Coast.
(Where are the men in beards? The girls with skinny jeans and messenger bags? Is there a divey cafe anywhere? Bueller? Bueller?)
So you finish your novel, you chat with the faculty, and long neverendingly for a cigarette. It’s the beginning of a new beginning, one you have longed for, one from which you cannot, will not, be dissuaded. Maybe you’re just different. Maybe you’re blowing everything out of proportion. Maybe you’re even special. Maybe in 20 years there will be a hundred future yous parading through your office, drinking in the solace of the path you’ve trailblazed for them…that would be a nice ending to this story.
In any case, you’re sitting alone in an airport in Philly with a dead phone and nothing but your black swan blog to shore you up for the long days that lay between you and the promising future. Curtain up…