The Meaning of that Little Black Ring
By Kaitlin Petruska
“Onyxxxxxxx picture!!!!!!! “ Shouted a girl from the class of 2012 at last year’s class day; “Kaitlin, will you please take a picture for us?” insisted one of the girls. Without an ounce of hesitation, I took her camera and was instantly handed four more (for Facebook purposes, of course.) Quickly and effortlessly a group of twenty or more girls from my Big Sis class leaned in smiling, right hand out, onyxes sparkling. The lovely ladies of the class of 2012 were laughing and enjoying their day, despite the looming rainclouds that would soon move the ceremony indoors. I couldn’t control my own smile as I snapped picture after picture, thinking to myself about how in just a few more months that would finally be me and about how I couldn’t wait to finally have a little black ring on my own finger.
After I handed the cameras back to their rightful owners, I glanced down at my own onyx-free hand, nail polish chipping, and I felt a rush of emotions wash over me like a bucket of cold water. I couldn’t tell if I was happy, sad, ashamed, or hopeful. There were just so many feelings racing through my brain as I recalled how much that onyx would mean to me and how many years I’ve been waiting to wear it—to wear the ring that symbolizes so much here at Meredith and that has symbolized so much for so many past generations.
I thought about my own freshman year, which unlike the rest of the class of 2014, was back in fall of 2007. I made the decision to come to Meredith because my mom had gone to a small, private women’s college. The choice to come to Meredith felt so perfect and so fitting. However, back then I was so shy and timid, and I so wanted that “true college experience” more than anything. I remember trying to find my place in the sisterhood, desperately trying to understand and asking breathlessly over and over what Cornhuskin’ was, and trying to figure out who I was and where I was going. I remember as a freshman trying so hard to fit in, not yet realizing that true friends would accept me for who I was inside. My efforts rapidly turned sour, and I became so overly concerned about what other people thought of me that nothing else in the world mattered. After a year and a half I wasn’t attending my classes, and all I cared about was losing weight and what I looked like. I let an eating disorder take priority over my college experience. Once my parents finally figured out what was going on, they gave me a four-day warning to pack up my dorm room in Brewer and come home. I still cannot look back on that day without shuddering. I look back as I carried out boxes to my mom’s minivan while my friends went on with life as usual on their way to classes, texting, and making lunch plans. Back then, I was convinced that day was probably the most humiliating day of my life. Thinking about that day now, I think about it as the most humbling.
I missed Meredith every single day when I was back at home in Gastonia. I missed the freedom I had, I missed my friends—I missed the sisterhood. I kept telling myself daily, “This is only temporary,” as I fought tooth and nail against the eating disorder that was keeping me away from a place that I had learned to call home. I only viewed Ring Dinner from Facebook pictures as my original class, the class of 2011, received their onyxes. Finally, after two years of hard work and the patience that it took holding down a full-time job, I had proven to myself and my family that I was ready to return to school.
I still had some worries about returning to Meredith College as a sophomore last year and starting anew, this time as an Even, but I must say that the decision to return and enter the class of 2014 was the best decision I have ever made. They have embraced me and accepted me for who I am without question; I have learned so much from these amazing women and I have never felt so blessed. I know that these friendships will last a lifetime. Most importantly, I know that these lovely ladies will be there to encourage one another throughout the journey and remind us that we can live out our dreams, just as so many angels already have. To the class of 2014, thank you so much! Congratulations on that little black ring, ladies! Always know that you are all strong enough, you are all smart enough, and you are all beautiful enough. Now it’s our turn, ladies! “Onyxxxxxxx picture!!!!!!!”
Kaitlin, what a beautiful story! I prayed for you when I found out why you had come home. I don’t know if you know it or not, but Adam had an eating disorder as a middle school student. As hard as it is on the child, it’s just as difficult, if not more, on the parents. I knew the heartache your parents were going through, and I lifted you to God to be healed. I am so proud of you! You have a wonderful story for people to hear and all through your life you will be used to help others. Congrats!
Kaitlin, what a brave story, beautifully told, with honesty and humility. I am so proud of you for taking charge of your life, and for the courage to share your journey with others.
I am so glad you asked me if I had received your email re: this. ~ Kaitlin — I don’t have the words to say how full of happiness my heart is for you. You humble me by your presence on this earth. I am blessed to know you. ~ The ring is so well-deserved, but moreso is the joy and full life you have now since overcoming the disease we call “eating disorder” — May you feel tremendous love surrounding you as you read this, because you are: loved. ~ Kathleen