Heart racing fast, stomach twirling and sinking intensely. Mind filled with absolute hopelessness and misery. Body drained and full of tears of devastation and suffering. Feeling completely out of place, meaningless and empty. Looking all around and seeing myself as insignificant.

The first time I took a breath and saw my first peak of light, it wasn’t even my time yet. I was born four months too early, seeing the earth's surface without even being fully developed or functional mentally and physically. Only one pound and twelve ounces, my body fit inside my father’s hand. My life was extremely fragile, like an egg or a teacup. My head was as small as a softball, my feet and hands as tiny as the top of a spoon. My brain didn’t even get the chance to fully develop or properly organize. Growing up, I had to break through having a brain that didn’t match my age. I had to deal with the agony of existing as a child that possessed executive dysfunction, ADHD, and speech delays.

Oftentimes during schooling, I would play with my hair, bite my nails, pick at my acne, play with my jeans, or doodle uncontrollably. I toiled to pay attention as the teacher would be giving a lesson; I struggled to focus when I needed to work on an assignment. I would even sometimes just space out, staring at the board or ceiling, completely checked out from the environment around me. Then, other times, I would be jumping off the walls, running around the class, talking nonstop, passing notes, or making paper airplanes. These actions caused me to be called out in front of the class, or sometimes even removed from the classroom, and often resulted in me being given Ds and Fs.

I felt like I wasn’t capable of being normal. No one understood my internal battle. I would be given assignments and all I could do was stare at the paper and become frustrated. I could not understand the directions. The sentences swirled on the paper. The questions seemed to taunt me and certain words looked like they were from another language. I would get assigned essays and my teacher wouldn’t be able to comprehend what I wrote. Being in school felt incredibly uncomfortable. I would sweat and scratch; my heart constantly pounded through my chest. My nose would twitch, my eyes would water, and my palms would feel hot with nervous energy. I would be assigned packets and only get a quarter of the questions right. I would be in a group project and be the only one who couldn’t do anything right. I felt embarrassed to read aloud in class and often replaced unknown phrases and words with made up ones. My classmates didn’t understand and would constantly laugh at me, which created this huge load of depression, anxiety, self-doubt, and self-hatred upon me. That contributed to me viewing myself as a failure — a disappointment, a disgrace. Did I even have a brain? I questioned God as a little girl, asking, “Why did you make me like this? Why did you do this to me?”

This went on until one day, it all came to an end when my stepfather received a job offer in Washington State, eighteen hours away from all I had known in LA. At the age of 12, in the middle of 7th grade, we did a big move to Walla Walla, Washington. It was a small city, and on top of that, it had very few Black people. Most of the time, I would be the only Black person in class. People asked about my braid extensions. Were they real or fake? Could they grab them? They’d ask to touch my afro and some even made jokes about my darker skin complexion. Even through all that, I was able to succeed. My new teachers welcomed me with open arms. They took hold of my education and enthusiastically found ways for me to do my best. They made me feel comfortable, safe, unjudged, capable, and not like the ‘stupid kid’ I had come to see myself as. I began to feel like I could fit in and not just be seen as the special needs student in the classroom. They also gave me an outstanding 504 plan that met more specifically what I needed academically. These accommodations allowed me to focus on my strengths and provided me with the resources I needed to perform efficiently.

This new plan empowered me with the belief that I was capable. I knew now that I could persevere. I began to push myself beyond my limits. I started to set myself to a higher standard. I did everything in my power to prevail and my education skyrocketed. I never thought I was smart enough to keep pace with everyone else. Now I knew I could. Throughout the middle of 7th grade, I jumped from a 1.5 GPA to 3.5, and even 4.0 in some of my classes! I stayed at the academic lab after school for two hours every day to get help with homework. I found a greater sense of motivation, and strived to be at my best and maintain my high GPA. With the right tools, I was determined to prove to myself and others that I was indeed smart.

Overall, the obstacles that I’ve had to deal with have shaped my tenacity and endurance. The challenges I have faced have shaped me to be stronger and more empowered. They have enhanced my character and drive.

Over time, I’ve come to realize that I have a talent for writing. I love it. I feel good when I’m writing. It just flows through me. I could write for hours and hours. The process of putting things together — pulling from different thoughts and experiences — became so intriguing and thrilling to me. Whenever I write, it feels as though I am floating; the physical world fades and dissolves, and I feel as if I’m in another dimension with my pen and paper, escaping from reality and planet earth.

I usually start by picturing the narrative, theme, and thesis in my mind, playing it in my head like a movie or TV show. I try to write as if I am in the shoes of my characters, so when it comes time for others to read it, they can feel every emotion dramatically. Empathy is beneficial to making my writing more appealing, impactful, purposeful, and in-depth in so many ways. Seeing the end product makes me feel proud and accomplished, which has prompted me to major in journalism and American literature. I want to write short stories, poems, and essays in newspapers and magazines. I want to publish books that bring awareness and empowerment to People of Color. I want to write in a way that touches on Black struggles and the excitement of Black culture, that encourages and motivates others to love the shade of their skin and their ethnicity, to embrace their roots, cultural traditions, and ancestry as a whole, loving their bloodline and DNA entirely. All around, I want to bring enlightenment and satisfaction in the most uncut, uncensored, unfiltered, and unsugarcoated form. I want to take a stand, forevermore making my mark, and have my name be remembered. 

At this time in my life, I’m looking forward to attending college, giving myself the opportunity to be surrounded by good energy and journalism programs that can accelerate my writing skills. At college, I will be around others who want me to live in purpose, be successful, work hard, and chase after my dreams. Going to college will fuel my enthusiasm and surround me with like-minded students and writers. Being at college will help me to utilize my talents, discover new ways to express myself, and learn more techniques and methods to increase my potential. Ultimately, I want to write more passionately, courageously, and unapologetically.

With that being said, college will also grow and expand who I am as an individual. College will help me grow into my greatest self, ready to shape my future, carry out my destiny, and conquer the world without fear. I look forward to continuing to grow and transform into an educated, confident, and empowered young woman.

Anyla is a student at Walla Walla High School. She aspires to become a poet, short story writer, and essayist speaking about racism against Black people, current world problems, and hot topics. When she writes, she does it with purpose and passion. Anyla feels destined to touch others with her words, and wants to be known as someone who takes a stand and impacts lives with her writing.