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The semesters were set up to last a month at the Academy. While you only spent four weeks with the instructors, you spent over 10 months growing close to the group you started with. By the time the first semester came to an end, the 15 students in my class had dwindled down to roughly eight. Myself, Raya, Charlie, Cara, Sarah, Darren, Nadeerh, and Severen were all that were left. Miss B— had failed to prepare us for our freshman semester exit exam. She crawled back into the room after collecting our tests, shaking her head while telling us not a single one of us had passed. For me, that was hard to believe, the theory was ridiculously easy. Still, I retook the test, being too lazy and far too tired to fight my drunk instructor.
Just two weeks into the next semester, just as we left Miss B—, she was fired for being heavily intoxicated on the job. No one ever mentioned her black eye. It was a stark reminder of the horror that came with that territory. Nobody wanted to talk about what was actually happening. Our last day with her, Miss B— did a rap for us, that was her hobby, her dream. To be a rap artist. That had to have added to her drinking problem… most hairstylists get into the industry as a back up plan. Because whatever plan "A" was, didn’t work out or would take a little more time. I would feel that harsh reality myself later down the line.
Our first day in the second semester was unnerving if only for the new instructor. The eight of us were together, and Andrew. Who had interestingly grown distant and awkward around Sarah. Our new instructor had resting bitch face, blonde hair, and wore silver bracelets and toe rings in the summer visible under her wedged sandals. She wrote her name across her stand up white board, and told us a short introduction about her life. Her name was Miss Dean, she was married with three kids and spent several years in a salon before leaping into education for the Academy. Miss Dean and myself didn’t get along well at first. My first impression of her was: “This is grade school all over again. This woman hates me for no reason.”
Here I learned the first lesson in the beauty industry: Don’t mouth off to anyone even if what you’re saying is harmless. Though I wasn’t having lunch with the college girls and their pimp Andrew anymore, I would exchange one or two words with Andrew between breaks. I didn’t speak to him much on a personal level, let alone in class.
“How do you like the new semester?” Andrew asked me during the morning break.
I shrugged, chuckling a little. “I’m pretty sure Miss Dean hates me. But it’s alright.”
“No she doesn’t.”
“She definitely does.”
Andrew reported this information back to Miss Dean, whose reply was one I laughed about later: “The ones I hate, don’t even know that I hate them.” Thankfully, it turned out that Miss Dean didn’t hate me, in fact I became one of her favorite students and she absolutely became my favorite instructor. But when I heard that Andrew had reported this information back to her, I was stunned. This was a grown man after all, carrying someone’s personal opinion. That kind of phrase could easily stir a drama pot, and that’s not something I want to be a part of. For instance, what if Miss Dean actually hated me? She could use that piece of information against me, and could make my life a living hell in that semester. After that, I kept my words to myself unless I purposely put out there what I wanted to be known.
Later, I would use such tactics in the cooperate world.
Just a few days before I started the semester, I took three days off to go down to Florida. There was a lot going on for me on the home front and I needed to take some time to go over it. My band was playing underhanded shit behind my back, making decisions without my knowledge, and stalling on potential shows other than one lined up for the summer. When I returned, I heard nothing about our band practice and they told me they went on hiatus without informing me or asking my input. I threw in the towel, casting aside any doubts I had about staying or moving on. The beauty academy had my full attention and I could focus on my future. Shortly after, my boyfriend (if you could call him that) at the time broke up with me. Confirming my suspicion that he was dating me because my life sounded glamorous to him. With no band, no modeling on my part, there was nothing for the loser to brag about and I was useless to him. Like most dogs, he gave me several excuses and I let myself get consumed by the pain. It was the most short lived "heart ache" I endured, thanks to Raya and Charlie.
Sarah completely vanished from the Academy by late Spring, early Summer. Cara had long before ditched us for her Junior level friends, so Raya and Charlie had completely brought me into their fold by this time.
“You need to sleep with somebody, get that shit outta your head.” Charlie said as we wandered off across the parking lot to get Chinese food. The parking lot was massive, with a pizza joint, gas station, McDonalds, Taco Bell, and a gym. Most of the time, the three of us would go to McDonalds or order Chinese. We were all broke to an extent, and at least a couple times a week I would walk over to the Chinese restaurant just for their crab wontons. As we walked across this nearly oppressive asphalt, Charlie and Raya would be smoking a joint. I’m not much of a smoker, but I indulged with them every so often. Just like I could smoke cigarettes and stop whenever I feel like it. I’ve never “needed” a cigarette. Besides, smoking weed with black people is much different than smoking with white people. White people act retarded, almost like they have to talk constantly about how high they are. Black people handle their weed better, they don’t act like god damn fools about it, they hardly even mention that they’re smoking weed at all.
“No, you can’t rush something like that. She caught feelings, she’ll get rid of them on her own.” Raya puffed. It was hot and sticky, so we chose McDonalds if only for their ice cream. Severn, our old classmate, left for financial reasons, just as many students whose parents weren’t paying for their tuition did. Now he was working at the McDonalds across the parking lot, always hooking us up with free fries or discounted drinks. Life went on that way for quite a while at the Academy. Laughs, lunches, long parking lot walks... As Charlie neared her due date, she invited close members of our class to her baby shower. I was the only one who appeared at the shower, gift and all. Not even Raya came, but I think Charlie quite literally forgot about all that. Like most people, she discredited me as a friend later, forgetting that I was there for her in any way at all.
At the baby shower, I realized that though I had good intentions, I was an outsider. I felt eyes all me the entire duration of the affair: Who is that silly pink-haired freak of a white girl? What is SHE doing here?
It doesn't matter now, but I handed my gift over, and quietly left. After Charlie went on maternity leave, it was just Raya and I, and awkwardly Darren before he vanished for a time too. Then Raya disappeared, on and off again until it was just me. Clinging on the line towards graduation.