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“So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and all that road going, all the people dreaming in the immensity of it, and in Iowa I know by now the children must be crying in the land where they let the children cry, and tonight the stars’ll be out, and don’t you know that God is Pooh Bear? The evening star must be drooping and shedding her sparkler dims on the prairie, which is just before the coming of complete night that blesses the earth, darkens all rivers, cups the peaks and folds the final shore in, and nobody, nobody knows what’s going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rages of growing old, I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty.” (Jack Kerouac, On the Road)
Jack Kerouac uses his novel On the Road to tell about his life-altering experience as he traveled around America with his friend Neal Cassidy (Dean Moriarty). At the end of the book, he reaches a point where he has to move forward from these journeys, and he is apprehensive about how to move on after the experience. He sits in silence, knowing that things are different somehow. My life-changing experience was Governor’s School. The academic facet was wonderful; but the social bonding that took place was something that no one back home understands, not even my closest friends. For six weeks we grew up together, learning about each other and becoming a family. The things I learned are indescribable; it was so difficult to come back home.
The last night of Governor’s School we had a formal dance. Spirits were up when we piled into our dorm room with several others. We began talking about how we all prayed to get into Governor’s School and how now, we were not prepared to leave. We laughed, we cried. It was now three in the morning and about ten girls were spread out on beds, chairs, and the floor. My friend Emily began to sing a beautiful song called “Skylark”. When she finishes, we all were crying silent tears.
We knew that leaving Governor’s School would be the hardest thing we had ever done. In that long period of silence, our thoughts filled the room. I have never experienced any presence as strong as the spirit of Governor’s School in that quiet moment. Just as Kerouac knew he was changed from his journey, I knew that I was a different person and that a new chapter in my life was about to begin. Never again would we all be together like this. We had separated ourselves from the real world and built our own community, and in the innocent silence, we all acknowledged that we did not want those bonds to be broken.
The silence spoke to us all. Governor’s School is a book in our past, just like On the Road was for Kerouac. I will always hold onto the memories of that time, and will never forget the depth and meaning of our silence on that final night.
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