Nayla Kidd Writes Essay on Why She Escaped her Ivy League Life Without Telling Anyone

Nayla Kidd stands by a missing person flier in her new Brooklyn neighborhood, a reminder of her bizarre disappearance. Photo: J.C. Rice
Nayla Kidd stands by a missing person flier in her new Brooklyn neighborhood, a reminder of her bizarre disappearance. Photo: J.C. Rice

Nayla Kidd was an engineering student at Columbia University when reports that she had gone missing went viral. She was found perfectly healthy nearly two weeks later, only telling police she wanted to “start fresh.” But the 19-year-old’s reason for going off the grid, without informing family or friends, remained a mystery. Here, Kidd reveals to The Post’s Melkorka Licea what triggered her brazen escape from the Ivy League, how she pulled it off and where she goes from here.

I  found out I was a missing person on May 14.

I had been ignoring the avalanche of calls and texts from friends and family asking where I was and if I was OK. But that night I caved, turned on my phone and decided to look.

Scrolling down the list of messages, I saw one from a friend that read: “Just Google yourself.”

I typed my name into the search bar and a huge list of news reports with photos of my face stared back at me.

Shocked, all I could think was, “Oh my God, the police are looking for me.”

I was living two lives at once, and it was so surreal.

Two weeks earlier, I was almost finished with my sophomore year at the Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science when I decided to start my new life.

I skipped my final exams, changed bank accounts, got a second phone number and deleted my Facebook page.

I needed to break from my old life of high pressure and unreasonable expectations.

I grew up in Louisville, Ky., where my mom, LaCreis, worked as a cancer research scientist at the University of Louisville. It was just her and I; she raised me as a single mom.

I was always very independent, even at a young age. Louisville bored me, so when I was going to start high school, I insisted on moving to California to attend boarding school.

My mom didn’t want me to move so far away but supported my ­decision.

I got into Thacher, a highly competitive prep school in Ojai. Not long after I started, I became known as “The Science Girl.”

In my sophomore year, my chemistry teacher announced to all 240 students at an assembly that I had scored highest on the Regional Chemistry Olympiad — a national chemistry competition.

The teachers also used my homework as an example of what other students should strive for.

I enjoyed the praise and self-worth I felt when I excelled in school, and I wanted to keep aiming higher.

The ultimate climax was when I got into Columbia. Because it’s such a prestigious school, it made me feel like I had proven to myself, and everyone around me, that I made it.

And it seemed natural that I would continue to study science in college.

I had always fantasized about living in New York, but the first day I moved it was also my birthday. I felt really alienated and alone and didn’t find the Columbia students very welcoming.

During my freshman year, I quickly went from star student to slacker.

School just wasn’t interesting to me anymore because I didn’t have any close connections with my teachers.

I came from a small, tight-knit community at Thacher, and at ­Columbia I was lucky if a teacher talked to me. I’m a social learner and Columbia didn’t provide me that opportunity.

I felt like I had to choose between living a life I was passionate about and doing well in school.

Even though I was wired to be a good student, I didn’t feel ­inspired.

I got through the year, getting B’s and C’s, but I didn’t care. I was just happy the summer had arrived.

On a magical night in July, my friend Charlie invited me back to her apartment in Brooklyn. While we were up on her rooftop, she confessed to a strange love of walking on dangerous ledges.

I started imagining if I would have the guts to walk the line ­between life and death.

The feeling of risk, freedom and fearlessness that she experienced while on the ledge were all things I yearned for. That night, Charlie didn’t actually walk the ledge, but the idea excited me.

When school started again in September, I took computer science classes and hated every minute of it.

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Source: The New York Post