Six years ago, just after I met my sidekick, we went to Kenyon College. We spent four years there, studying mostly English literature, creative writing, and Italian, though there was some astronomy, calculus, anthropology, and even a political science class thrown in there. I participated in class too—my sidekick says I’m quite vocal with my grumbling—but only when I felt the class discussion really needed it. We played in the band—my sidekick on the clarinet, and me leading the dogophone section. We made wonderful friends, and we played Humans versus Zombees and were tributes in the Kenyon Hunger Games—actually, I just watched my sidekick do those things, because she’s crazy, while my other people gave me scratches. My sidekick and her friends also did this thing where they sat around in a circle and told stories and then talked about the stories (I didn’t really get it, but I liked listening to all the stories).
Then, after four years at Kenyon, we graduated. That’s what my sidekick called it, anyway. As far as I could tell, they got all of us into a big room, there was a lot of talking and sitting and standing and sitting again, and then we lined up and walked across a stage, and my sidekick and I were each given a piece of paper, and then more sitting and standing, and then we were packing up all our things and getting in the car and my sidekick was crying and I didn’j know what was going on. Also, I had to wear a robe and a stupid flat hat that kept falling in my eyes. The piece of paper was important, because both mine and my sidekick’s are now in frames. I didn’t know what was going on that day, but now I know that I received a degree from Kenyon College. “Artium Bark-alaurei,” my diploma says. My sidekick’s says something different, I guess because she’s my sidekick and she can’t bark.
My sidekick told me that we were off on a new adventure, but we would come back to Kenyon. Only, we didn’t. Instead, we went to Italy. Some of my people from Kenyon did come to say hi while we were there—they were studying in England that year—and then more of them came to say hi when we were back in the United States and working at the Disability Rights Center.
Then, last weekend, we returned to Kenyon to celebrate with a bunch of our people who were getting their Artium Bark-alaurei. I was so happy to be back and to play with all my friends again. I knew where I was going, and I knew the way to all my sidekick’s favorite places. I was sad that she wouldn’t let me go to my favorite place—the dining hall (she said it would be too crowded, and she was probably right). But we did go to all the ceremonies, and I stood and sat and covered my ears with my paws when the people behind us blasted us with their air horn without warning.
It was a great weekend, but I could tell that everyone was having lots of feelings—the same feelings my sidekick and I had when we left Kenyon two years ago. We even felt those feelings again, because with most of our friends off to new places, we weren’t sure when we’d be coming back ourselves. And it was sure something to walk the paths we’d walked for four years and no that in the time since we left, we have become completely different, my sidekick and I. I’ve learned, a little unfortunately, that the outside world is not as safe as Gambier, Ohio, and that not everyone likes me and wants to let me come inside with my sidekick like they’re supposed to. And my sidekick has convinced me that our talents will be put to better use defending the world from villains who don’t understand the rights of people with disabilities. (I was getting bored with Italian literature, honestly. Do you know how weird some of those books are?) Still, I could tell that my sidekick was a little sad, being back at Kenyon. She felt like she’d gone off into the world, and the world had systematically crushed all her dreams, and now she was back here, and nothing she’d wanted then had worked out the way she’d hoped.
But that isn’t true. Okay, there was a fair amount of dream crushing that happened, for both of us, but that isn’t why we’re going to law school. We’re going to law school because our dreams changed, and that doesn’t negate the dreams we had or even mean they’re impossible. There are still plenty of adventures to be had. And another reason why we were so moved by the graduation ceremony, we’re about to start the first: Harvard Law School, or as I see it, our training to confront evil villains and save the world. Also, I want a framed juris dog-torate degree from Harvard Law School on my office wall, right next to my Artium Bark-alaurei from Kenyon College.