We would cackle through the halls, planning our next great night out. My friends and I gathered here in between classes for debriefing lunches, mulling over what happened in our latest lecture, who had stolen our attention on campus and everything in between. The cafeteria, lodged in the student center, was the center of everything and where I have so many beloved memories.
College at Framingham State University was one of the best times in my life. Not only did I meet amazing people, friends and teachers alike, but I got really fell into my passion. I came to school for fashion, but I left with the knowledge and a very special connection to style that I couldn’t imagine.
I bet many people have adoration for their alma maters and the time they spent there. It would explain why homecoming tailgates and bumper stickers scream lifelong pride and community. Among the many things that make the time beautiful, I have a special connection to my time there.
My time as a college student was the last time I was considered able-bodied.
As a 24-year-old grad student, I became diagnosed with my rare disease, limb-girdle muscular dystrophy. The few years prior, I’d been prancing the those cafeteria hallways, strutting down the Fashion Club catwalks, posted up with a plastered smile and a drink in hand on a Saturday night, and carrying groceries and laundry up to my dorm room.
Of course, I didn’t realize it then, but those cafeteria hallways were my last hurrah at walking without worry about tumbling over.
This year, Framingham welcomed me back.
Right before the pandemic hit the United States, I had the opportunity to return to the same lecture spaces I knew as a young adult. I was on the other side of the podium this time, teaching current fashion students about the necessity of adaptive fashion.
When I was a student, I’d never even heard of such a thing. It was never taught, and as someone who was able-bodied, I didn’t even consider the need for less buttons and more “handicapable” options like Velcro and magnetic straps for closures. It was an honor to be able to share what I’d learned post-college with the students, equipping them with solutions that often go unnoticed.
It was amazing! I couldn’t believe how wonderful it felt to share what I’d gained from my own experiences as a fashion lover with a disability.
The coolest thing about this experience is how it came full circle. The point where the student became the teacher.
Framingham has always been such a supportive place for me. It’s nice to know that as a young 18-year-old freshman with life ahead of me, a 24-year-old grad student with a new life-changing diagnoses and even now, an adjusted business owner with a disabled community and fashion line (heyyyyy #GCRFamily!), they accept and welcome me at every stage.
Those cafeterias that meant so much to me back then? They changed. They aren’t traditional anymore, they now look like sports bar with high-tech touch screens for the current students to order their meals. As I was turning the corner in awe, I saw my face. On the wall. Framed. Promoting Girls Chronically Rock. And branded with the Framingham State crest.
I was so honored. I couldn’t believe my eyes. But my heart was full. I made an impact and left a legacy and I couldn’t be happier. Framingham has and always will be a huge part of my life. I’m glad that I could continue to share this fashion space with them and hope bring an element of adaptive and inclusive style into the community.
I took lots of photos! Check them out here!