Why The Root’s Demetria Lucas D’Oyley Thinks Columbia Student Nayla Kidd Is Courageous

Nayla Kidd

Earlier this month, a Columbia University engineering student, Nayla Kidd, 19, was reported missing after she didn’t show up for her final exams at the Ivy League school in New York City. The story made national news. After a citywide (wo)man hunt—and terrifying her friends and family—Kidd was found in Brooklyn, N.Y., where she had rented an apartment. She had also changed her bank account and cellphone numbers. In a personal essay for the New York Post, Kidd explained why she abruptly left school. 

“I had been waking up every day for months with a feeling of dread and doom,” Kidd wrote. “I couldn’t keep putting my all into something I cared nothing about.”

She added, “I finally broke down because I was living a life I thought I should be living instead of living the life I want.”

Kidd recounted an incident in which she had a “hysterical” crying fit and felt “completely overwhelmed.” She said that she sobbed during a 10-block walk to her apartment and the next morning decided, “I’m going to change this.” Kidd saved money from her work-study job and sold her clothes in order to make money for an apartment (for those who wondered how she was able to afford to move to pricey Williamsburg in Brooklyn) and moved in with two roommates.

Of why she didn’t tell anyone where she was, Kidd says, “I wanted the time to make sense of my situation alone and have the space to comprehend it. I felt like sharing would force me to explain something I hadn’t even figured out myself. It wasn’t normal to just quit school. But I never expected it to get so out of hand.”

I empathize with Kidd. I remember what it was like to be 19 and trying to live up to lofty expectations so as not to disappoint my parents. The difference between me and her—other than my having no inclination for math and science—is that by sophomore year, I had professors and teacher assistants who mentored me and helped me figure out a plan to reach my goals of becoming a writer-author (bloggers didn’t exist yet). I also had parents who were gullible (or hopeful) enough to believe that I was going to use an English degree to go law school, and then who were so convinced that I’d never make it in professional life with an English degree that they financed grad school so that I’d have a shot at a decent career. (Thanks, Dad.)

So perhaps that’s why I feel bad for Kidd. But from what I’ve read, I am, by far, in the minority. Reactions to her essay explanation have been overwhelmingly negative. Across social media, she’s been called a “brat,” “entitled” and “selfish.” The general sentiment is that she worried her mother to death and wasted taxpayers’ money.

Really? I can’t be the only one who sees that Kidd was clearly on the brink. No one able-bodied and in a healthy emotional space packs up her whole life, moves across a bridge, doesn’t answer the phone or texts for weeks, and doesn’t call her mama on Mother’s Day. It’s obvious to me, especially after reading Kidd’s essay, that escaping to Williamsburg was a lifesaving move for her. But folks want her to “suck it up” and “push through.”

Um. For what? ’Cause you did? She ain’t you. So she can live up to some stereotype of being a strong black woman? It’s overrated.

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Source: The Root | Demetria Lucas D’Oyley