BY MIA PENNEKAMP ’20
“Where are you going? Heaven or Hell?” read the billboard as I drove by on the Peter Pan bus. “New York?” I replied in my head. Then there was a number: “Call 1-800-TRUTH to find out!” Goodie!
Where are you going? What a loaded question. As a child I was given the freedom to roam relatively unquestioned. Then there’s a switch up, and suddenly everyone wants to know, “Where are you GOING?” I used to ask my dad “Well, where are you going?” “Crazy,” he’d always reply, “want to come?”
On Wednesday night, there was “The Frances Perkins Monologues.” You know, like “The Vagina Monologues,” but better. The theme was, loosely, the road to Mount Holyoke. How these nontraditional students got here. The stories were breathtaking, tragic, beautiful. I sat in the second row full-on belly laughing. Then crying, the tears streaming and rolling down my cheeks, an unmistakable tightness in my throat.
It was the kind of night that snaps you out of the self-obsessed, Instagram, fake tan, summer body haze and slaps you cold in the face with the darkness of the world. The soul-wrenching flood of sh-t, of chance, of life and the beauty that can grow in the cracks of the scorched foundation. These women were brilliant, ruthless and funny as hell. I sat stunned, drained, inspired. For days, their words replayed in my head. Their stories swimming in my brain inspiring thought and action considerably braver and kinder than my usual. If the question is “where are you going,” their answers might be: “Up from here.”
I thought of my road to Mount Holyoke. The brat in a tank top who didn’t want to go to a women’s college. The brat who toured the campus and felt something deep and scary, the gods of fate pinching her and drawing blood. The brat who met with the lovely, giving, graceful Carolyn Dietel of admissions, a woman who recognizes things in people even when they can’t — and still don’t — fully recognize these things in themselves. The brat who became terrified of not being one of the 10 selected to come from Miami with Posse. The brat who got the phone call that changed her life.
I am a mere two years in. The halfway point — as good a time as any to dole out some thanks. Thank you Mount Holyoke. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you to the people who put together the Monologues, and bravo. Thank you to the Mount Holyoke community. To the professors and students, the faculty and staff. To my beautiful friends. To Posse. To the school who opened their arms to a brat in a tank top, and probably laughed thinking “I’ll teach you a thing or two.” To the gods of fate, you brilliant f--kers. (To the MHN readers and editors, sorry for the cussing!) Dad, let’s go crazy and you can try to keep up. And in response to that billboard somewhere in Connecticut… I have no earthly idea where I am going. But my answer is: “Up from here.”