When sophomore Alice Nicholes was younger, her mother always told her that whatever she was, she was wonderful.
Nicholes has always been a little different. Growing up in rural Montana, Nicholes lived in a town that had five occupied houses and she felt like “one of the only geeky people in Meagher County.”
“Everyone in Montana dreams of being a cowboy,” Nicholes said. “I didn’t fit in.”
Things only became more difficult for Nicholes when her classmates learned of her bisexuality in high school.
The abuse she received from her classmates became serious enough that she left school during her sophomore year. She earned her GED six months later.
Now that she is a sophomore at Knox College, Nicholes feels like she is somewhere she can be accepted for who she is.
“Everybody’s fine with being weird and everybody’s fine with you being weird,” she said.
Nicholes has found her place at Knox. She is passionate about psychology and creative writing. She is an active member in the Live Action Role-Playing Club, where she is a storyteller—the player who lays out the game’s rules, challenges and quests—in the game, “Mage: The Awakening.”
When Nicholes talks about the game, her face lights up. She has a fascination with what-if situations and that’s what live action role-playing (LARP) is all about. Although it is unlikely that a kracken will found in Lake Michigan, in a round of “Mage,” for a few hours, the players can imagine a world where that can happen and then create what happens next.
However, even at a broadminded school like Knox, some still look upon Nicholes as an outsider because of one aspect of her personality.
“I am an otherkin,” she said.
An otherkin is a person who does not feel completely human. In some cases, this means that the otherkin considers a certain creature their totem, or they believe that they were that being in another life. In Nicholes’ case, she just wishes she was a dragon. She sometimes wears a pair of wings around campus and wears clothes that evoke the draconic, which has caused some students to call her “Dragon Girl.” Despite the nickname, Nicholes says that her connection to dragons is not a big deal.
“It’s not like a huge part of my personality. It’s like I have blue eyes,” said Nicholes. “It’s not something I can directly see, but it’s there.”
The intolerance that Nicholes has faced in her life has not made her less sympathetic towards other people. Instead, it has inspired her to help those who feel out of place and try to make the world a little more tolerant.
“I want to teach people that it’s not so strange to be strange,” said Nicholes. “My dream job is to take troubled kids from … schools, particularly the bullies, and teach them how to train dogs.”
She explained that teaching dogs requires the trainer to accept the dog’s quirks and create a bond of mutual respect. The hope then is that the self-control and respect students learn while training the dogs will carry through to how they treat their fellow classmates.
If she cannot do that, Nicholes wants to be an adolescent psychologist because she believes that adolescence is one of the toughest periods of growth, and she wants to be there “to pick them up when they’re having trouble.”