In my dream, I was 17 years old. My parents had separated when I was a baby, and my mother had raised me. I was close to my dad, but he had never been a physical presence in my life.

But, a little while back (a month or so ago), my Dad had come to the house to get me. He had enrolled me in the college where he was a teacher. I had to pack up everything I wanted to keep and say goodbye to my mother…I would live at the school now.

At the college were all colors of students. Some had skin as black as a moonless night and their abilities as powerful. Others looked like different flavors of sherbet. A few had pale skin, like me, but it was the exception, not the norm. There were so many colors, but besides me, only the youngest among them had human-colored skin.

And their hair! Their hair was every color under the rainbow and some that have yet to be imagined. My closest friend had skin like mine, but hair as pink as cotton candy. I knew that her hair color identified the type of fairy she was, while her skin color, when it changed, would bring on and identify the gifts she received at birth.

It was morning, and we were hanging out before classes. Classes at this school were unique in that students choose the classes they attended by their continued attendance. The entire school revolved around the students…a teacher would sit or stand at the front of the class, not behind a desk, while the students sat in chairs in an open circle near the educator. Class was about conversation and learning through discussion and involvement, not textbooks and notes.

Students opted in to a class by continually visiting that class. If a teacher held the students’ interest, they had no trouble keeping their classes filled. Poor teachers received no compensation from students, and so they didn’t stay long, while excellent teachers always had new students wanting to learn from them.

On the day that I dreamed about, I had been at the school, like I said, for about a month. Classes were interesting, although I was still getting my feet under me and figuring out what I wanted to learn. My friend and I had started the morning at the cafeteria for breakfast, and as we left and headed towards our class, I noticed that her skin was peeling, long stripes of dead skin, like peeled sunburn or the bark from trees, was peeling down, and underneath, her skin matched her hair color.

I’m concerned for her, so we go to the school nurse. By the time we get there, my friend is becoming hysterical. She runs the gamut of emotions, from laughter and excitement to tears and sadness. In the infirmary, they talk about the fact that it’s her Naming Day. Then the nurse looks at me. “You haven’t started yet? You should be starting to peel too. Your skin color won’t change much, but there’ll be a slight shade difference.”

I am in shock. I’m still adjusting to the idea that I’m more than human. I have no idea what Naming Day is or means, and I run out of the nurse’s office and to my Father’s classroom. He’s in the middle of teaching an upper level class, but the students there know me because I’ve sat in the class before. Today, when I come in upset, the class stops the lesson their on. When I say that the nurse said it’s my naming day, they all circle around me, sharing information and asking questions.

Naming Day, they explain, occurs four times a year, during 4 special full moons. It happens at the halfway point between 17 and 18 years old, the last few months before you become an adult. On your Naming Day, your human skin peels off and you say goodbye to your old life. Hormones are raging during this period, so emotions are usually high and hard to contain. Because everyone older has already been through this, they’re very patient with the young fairies who are molting.

Over the course of the day, they continue, the skin will peel completely off, revealing your actual fairy skin underneath. The skin color will let everyone know what type of fairy you are, and you’ll have the abilities that come from being that type of fairy. In addition, they inform me, there are often giftings that you receive that were promised at your birth (the original fairy godmothers and godfathers), and perhaps most important, on Naming Day, you choose the qualities that will define you. You can choose anything, some choose to be kind and considerate. Some choose darker options. Any emotion or value can be chosen, and your choice will determine the path your life takes.

Choosing your qualities, I’m informed, MUST be done before your skin has fully peeled or you won’t get the ones you want. I look down as I’m told this, and noticed that the skin on my arms is starting to peel. But I don’t know what gifts to choose. The others have had 17 years of looking forward to Naming Day. I’m just learning about it and need to make a decision now.

My emotions are starting to hit as I feel bombarded with this rushed knowledge. I grow fearful, of choosing wrong, of running out of time, and my father comes over and puts his arms around me. What do I choose? What if I choose wrong? My skin is starting to itch and peel more, which only adds to my frantic terror. How do I choose from all the values and emotions to determine my course through life?

And as I grow frantic, I realize that I’m dreaming, and I wake up.

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