Phantom of the Halls: A profile of Claire Billingsley
Published: Wednesday, May 2, 2012 - 3:37pm
For those students who don’t spend their time on the first floor, a Claire Billingsley sighting might be a rare experience. Even as a senior, only occasionally have I seen her napping in the lounge or working diligently at a table in the hallway, instantly recognizable due to her blonde dreadlocks.
Often alone, Claire haunts the halls once occupied by the Class of 2011, the class with which she was originally supposed to graduate. The circumstances which separated Claire from the rest of her class are unfortunate, keeping her in high school even though it has been almost six years since her induction as a subbie.
“I have to try not to get angry,” Claire said when I asked exactly what her situation is. “I decided that I couldn’t stand it here — this school and this town — so I went to Denmark for a year. Originally, the plan was that I would be able to graduate with the Class of 2011, and that’s what everyone seemed to be on board with. Then it was decided a few months before the end of the school year that that wasn’t possible and that I had to finish my English and PE credits, even though I took those classes in Denmark.”
Claire is an incredibly calm person. Even when talking about how she has been stuck in high school for an extra year, her voice is even and her speech measured. Despite this calmness, however, she says that when she found out that she wasn’t going to be able to graduate, she was incensed.
“I was very upset,” she said. “This year everyone’s been complaining that the administration doesn’t communicate enough with students and I mean, I’m a testament to that. I just wish they would’ve been a little more clear about their intentions because there were some faculty members saying that they were so excited that I could do this and graduate and all of a sudden...”
Claire pauses to search for the words.
“I’m just... six years!” she later continued. “At the beginning of the year I was really pissed. Like, it’s so unnecessary, like I could be in college right now. Now I’m pretty apathetic and just pretty ready to just get on with it.”
However, despite the situation she has found herself in, she says that her trip to Denmark was entirely worth it.
“It was a great experience," she said. "It was like home after a while, and coming back here was a shock, especially coming back to high school.”
Part of the shock, she said, was the reaction to how she had changed while out of the country, in particular to her now-trademark dreadlocks.
"A lot of people there [Denmark] have dreadlocks," she explained. "And my friends did, and they were just like, 'Oh, we’ll give you dreadlocks.' It was not a big deal."
Aside from the new hairstyle, Claire also feels that she grew up significantly while in Denmark.
“It was very strange what you’re permitted to do and what you’re not,” she said. “I felt that I was much older there; I had much more freedom. Coming back to the United States has been... different."
Living under her parents' jurisdiction again felt particularly different.
“When I came back I think we had different expectations of what it would be like at home,” Claire said of her parents. “I sort of expected more freedom, but it just sort of went back to the way it was before I left. We had a little trouble with that at first, but we get along better now.”
Now, as she approaches the end of her Uni career, Claire is looking forward to moving out and joining her former classmates in college, where she plans to study International Studies.
“I just didn’t know what else to put down as my major,” she said. “‘Cause people keep telling me to do art, but I honestly don't want to study art for four years and then try and be an artist and starve to death. But I love languages and travel, so it [International Studies] made sense to me.”
Despite an evident gift for painting, Claire is quite humble when it comes to her ability.
“I feel embarrassed to say I’m into art when I look around and see all these amazingly talented people,” she said.
When I asked her to describe her paintings and her style, though, Claire’s passion was evident despite her typically reserved demeanor.
“I really like adding water to paintings that shouldn’t have water in them and just seeing what happens,” she said. “I have actually lots of really different styles that I like to mess around with. Last night I started this painting with this Indian medicine man, but I’m doing it like black-and-white, but his face paint is in color and it’s partly just washed away. Yeah, that’s what I get excited about, painting.”
However, most people wouldn’t know about Claire’s art because she isn’t inclined to broadcast herself to the rest of the world.
“I’m fine with being mysterious,” she said. “I just don’t want people to have this image of me that I’m very angsty, like I don’t give a s--- about anything; that’s not true. I care about some things — people. I care about people — the good ones. I care a lot about my family. I care about learning, but the reason I just have this resentment towards Uni is because I didn’t learn very much here and I don’t know if that’s just from my own not trying enough or if that’s the environment.”
While one might think that Claire’s disillusionment with Uni might be caused by her own situation, when asked what she would change about the school, she referenced other issues.
“The acceptance pool,” she said. “I feel like a lot of the people here are way too similarly-minded, which makes sense because they’re applying to Uni [so] they want a school that is academically rigorous, but it just doesn’t flow well. I don’t even know how else to describe it.”
However, despite having some negative feelings towards the school, when it comes down to it, Claire doesn’t harbor any bitterness. At the very least, she "met a lot of really great people here."