Looking through her things as she put them into their boxes, Dakota found herself reminiscing of her childhood. She found an old, worn out doll from when she was four. Elementary school was an awkward time for her. She remembered she was a shy tomboy meets nerd. She kept to herself a lot, was really quiet, but athletic. She still remembered that this doll, a small fabric plush toy of a cute cartoon character, was the reason for her very first fight in kindergarten. And it was how Dakota would go on to have one of the most bizarre nicknames in her life.
“Hey, give me that!” A much larger girl, Lauren, screamed at a four year-old Dakota. The two were at the playground, specifically the sandbox, in Ellsworth Elementary School, with the entire kindergarten grade watching them fearfully. “No!” The brunette insisted, clutching on tightly to her doll. There was no way she was going to hand it over to Lauren “Doll-Smasher” Smith. As the nickname implied, Lauren enjoyed taking dolls, ripping them apart, and stomping on them. For some odd reason, that was her idea of fun. “Give it!” She screamed, readying a punch at Dakota. “No means no!” She cried back, kicking Lauren squarely in the gut. The larger girl fell over. “Whoa! She took down the Doll-Smasher!” One of the boys in Dakota’s class said in awe. “Wow, for a nerd, she’s really fierce.” A girl remarked. “Fierce Nerd! Fierce Nerd!” The crowd of children chanted enthusiastically. That was Dakota’s nickname throughout all of elementary school. Hilariously enough, nobody tried to pick a fight with her just because of that.
Middle school at Jefferson Junior High School was a rather nonchalant transitional period for the brunette. Even through puberty, Dakota never really tried to use make up or do her hair. The idea of looking pretty or glamorous never really appealed to her. She was fine with just being the nerd who did well in school. With the exception of life science in 7th grade, the brunette got straight A’s. Granted, she had to study extensively in Pre-Algebra and Algebra, but getting A’s in math was very rewarding. She lost the title of “Fierce Nerd”, mostly because the need for that title diminished. Girls became a lot less aggressive and confrontational with their fighting, and a lot more catty and passive aggressive. It was a different pace, but Dakota just ignored a lot of the social norms of that time. Her parents taught her that middle school was an awkward period, and not to think too much about it. Just stick true to what she thought was right, and try not to let emotions get too involved in your decisions.
High school was when Dakota started to develop a need to maintain her appearance It started with the first day of Beginner Dance. She was the only girl who looked…homely. Nobody wanted to talk to her, and there were initial rumors going around that Dakota was a lesbian. She obviously was not, and hearing those lies spreading, it hurt. So she changed her appearance completely. She started grooming her hair, using make up, acne cream, she started choosing outfits that focused more on style than comfort. High school made Dakota resent dancing: between the discipline she had to learn through the lifestyle of a ballet dancer, as well as the bitchiness of her teammates, she just did not want to have anything to do with dancing after her sophomore year of high school. And then she started embodying a lot more old-fashioned female stereotypes when she started dating Phillip, and relying on him to be her knight in shining armor. Looking back on it, Dakota was both embarrassed and ashamed of herself. What ever happened to the “Fierce Nerd?”
Unfortunately, college only made this habit of relying on Phillip more obvious. Freshmen year, Dakota could not be unglued from him. Sophomore year, even when she was pledging in Omicron, she would rely on Phillip in secret to help her with memorizing the lineages, Greek alphabet, and for a lot of the crafts that they had to do. She knew deep down that she could have done these things on her own, but she wanted to do them together with Phillip as a way to keep them close together. It was really pathetic and desperate. Even though they stayed together during that whole period, Dakota knows, looking back on it now, that she was wrong for doing that. Why did she feel the need to involve and rely on Phillip? Insecurity. She was afraid of being called a lesbian for being independent. So she conformed to society and changed herself. She gave up a large part of what made her Dakota Logan, which was her independence and ability to take charge of her own decisions.
But looking back even further, Dakota knew that she did not always rely on Phillip. A lot of the pledging process, she had to do with her sisters. And because she was a sophomore, the freshmen pledges all looked to her as a role model within their pledge class. When she was not around Phillip, Dakota remembers fondly how much of a leader she actually was. These freshmen, she had to lead them to crossing. She had to show them why she was chosen by the sisters to be a part of their sorority. In those instances, Dakota was indeed the “Fierce Nerd” she always was. “It’s always been inside of me, this whole time. My independence.” She gasped, as she looked at her half emptied apartment. It had only been two hours, and she singlehandedly disassembled the entire living room and packed it away. If Dakota knew how to do one thing, it was making and executing a plan.
“Hm…” The brunette sighed to herself. She was still looking at apartments in other cities. At the moment, she was conflicted between Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and New York City. Of the four options, she just had different rationales. Los Angeles, the city of Angels. A stark contrast from the Windy City that was Chicago. It was a gorgeous city. San Francisco, the same cases can be made about its beauty and the lifestyle, it suited Dakota’s personality: a young go-getter. Seattle was a lot more laid back, but it was a beautiful, artsy city, perfect for photo opportunities. And then there was New York City. She could easily find and live her American dream there, like many before her. Sighing to herself, she knew she needed to make a decision and find an apartment soon. And then there was finding a job. She had marketing experience for medicine, but would people really hire her to market other things? No. She shook her head. She needed to find something new for herself. Marketing was her past. She used to like it because she loved being creative and finding solutions. Now, she just wanted to be free and expressive of herself. “Photography.” The brunette smiled to herself, looking at her camera bag in the corner. “Oh, an email?” She saw. “Congratulations, you just won…” She was puzzled. “Wait, what?!”