[creative nonfiction]

Well, this is gonna hurt like a female dog (unfortunately I have to watch my profanity, so just use your imagination). The autobiography of seventeen-year-old me, that is. I feel like I have some insight, enough insight on being a black young woman in America. Being born so, I’m automatically important and destined to make history. Although the government may disagree. Try to keep up. Leave your sense of humor at home and adopt mine. Enjoy or whatever.

I guess we could start at the beginning. I was born with Tetralogy of Fallot aka “Blue Baby Syndrome.” I’d love to explain it but I don’t want to confuse anyone. Basically, it’s a rare condition caused by a combination of four heart defects that are present at birth, according to Google. I had open heart surgery at five days old so I’m good now. I think. The surgery left a big scar that starts at my neck and ends above my belly button. I’ve never really been insecure about it, even with all the questions and stares. No real problems come along with this disease. I’m just not supposed to partake in anything strenuous or anything that could cause stress on my heart. I wish someone would tell my anxiety that. Haha. So funny.

Growing up I had fun. I’d like to think I loved life. I mean I was the youngest of three, what could possibly go wrong in my life? I grew up in the South Bronx with my mother, my siblings, my grandmother, my uncle, and my in-and-out father. My father was not as consistent as any human would want. He was not the best influence or the best parent. Better yet, he was not the best man. But I wanted it to work so I gave more of myself than he did; I forgave him. I mean I forgive him.

As I said before, not very eventful. I guess I liked it. It was the last time I could remember being joyful and naive. I was the last to exit my mother for a full nine years. It went by too quickly. But she married and let three other children exit her even quicker. My innocence in school and at home was mistakenly equated with happiness. So because of that, I and affection weren’t really familiar. The lack of affection I received encouraged my struggle with trust. Encouraged my cynical ways. Encouraged me to bloom late. No, not puberty. Puberty hit me in the 8th grade and left me busty and curvy. Yet, I remained inexperienced. Which is quite ironic because playing “house” was a lifestyle in my childhood. Being a wife, having kids. It was all fantasized by ten-year-old me. Looking back with the hate of union and responsibilities in my heart, I can’t believe how naive I was back then. But many things brought me to this conclusion.

It was eighth grade. Now before this happened, I’ve never really been fond of boys, and boys have never really been fond of me. However this one day I decided to give this one boy attention. Lunch was over and so was my strategically planned middle school career. Nick threw a paper ball at my face and so I did what I knew all the other girls would do; chased him. I chased him out the lunchroom, up the stairs, down the hall, and almost around the corner. I was running on air I was so fast. I was basically Usain Bolt. But in a matter of seconds, I was eating the floor. It wasn’t how I fell but how long the fall took to end. I slid across the hallway floor on my goddamn stomach. Feet sprung in the air followed by my arms. The crowd grew big but silence grew even bigger. I glided across the hallway floor like a hockey puck and once I came to a stop, laughter erupted. I got up, back turned to the crowd to drown their noise and limped over to Nick. He stood in front of me as I punched his head in with the fear and frustration I felt. How could he do this to me? Why did God hate me? Why didn’t the universe work in my favor? After that day, I learned to NEVER CHASE BOYS!

Church was important. The relationship you held with God was important. Your fear of God was important. For you should believe your happiness, your trust, your heart should lie within him, root from him. From singing in the Baptist House of Prayer choir to watching people falling out from the Holy Ghost, I could never grab this “concept.” Sister Trish tumbled to the ground one time as her wig followed. But she didn’t leave that moment, that mistake, that embarrassment with God. She paused her praise to pick up her wig and put it back where it belonged. Then she allowed the Holy Ghost to possess her once more. Due to kids being so naive, when things like this would happen it was overlooked. There were no questions asked, which is scary. I already know what you’re thinking. Well if your wig were to fall off, wouldn’t you get up to put it back on? See the thing is that they teach you if you have no family, the church is your family. But since the Christians are oh so very judgmental, you’re forced to walk in fear. Not only did I struggle (and fail) to find myself within the “family,” I struggled (and continue to) find myself in the world.

I came to this realization pretty young, I guess. (But the sooner the better, right?) It was the first time I’ve ever felt alone in a room full of people. Middle school. Again. My mother dropped me off across the street from the school. Wishing she could walk me in like the other kids and their parents but I knew she couldn’t because I wasn’t the only child. Once I get inside, I was directed to the lunchroom where we receive our schedules. I instantly feel my mouth get dry; cotton mouth like a smoker. My sight got really blurry as a tear grew bigger and bigger and if I blinked it would fall. I felt a strong pain in my throat kind of like when you’re crying in silence… but you really want to scream. My heart started to pound in my chest, increasing rapidly by the second. My name was called to go grab my schedule. So stuck in place, my face began to burn as if I was staring at the sun for too long. I mean my body starts to drip in sweat, sweating bullets if you must. My feet started moving and fear washed over me as the lunchroom watched. I was so embarrassed. Trying not to break eye contact with the teacher because I didn’t want to face the faces staring at me. In that moment I felt guilty, scared of being me. Scared of the world seeing me. It’s funny actually. I take pride in my race and culture (I mean because there are too many of us that are culture-shocked and I won’t be another), but I won’t take pride in me as a person.

The birth years of my older siblings and I are 1999, 2000, and 2001. To think we’d be close but it never felt so. I was always deemed too emotional; I mean I am a writer. But in the morning before school, my mother tucked pride in my pants along with my collared shirt for the charter school we all attended. She sprinkled prudence onto the pan of soon to be baked mac and cheese before she put it into the oven. She kissed neglect on my forehead before heading out to the club on the weekends. My siblings followed in her footsteps for they learned to adapt and readapt. Completely unconcerned with everyone else but themselves and sometimes unconcerned with themselves. But because I feel everything and feel for everyone, I didn’t fit. I didn’t respect the tough love shown to me. I didn’t respect the shun that was placed on me due to my interests in girls. I didn’t respect the forcing of religion upon me and the fear I felt for not respecting it. I didn’t respect the exclusion I felt because my mother made a new family. Or how lies were told to protect the wrongdoer. Or how my modern beliefs were shot down and declared wrong. Or how they tell you that blood is thicker than water even when it doesn’t feel that way. Even when it isn’t that way. Actions always justified since its “normal.” I didn’t like a lot, as you can see. I didn’t like my childhood.

I do have three younger siblings. I miss them and wish I could be there to step in when all has gone wrong. Praying that the man above doesn’t hold a grudge against me for questioning him because I have to believe someone can stop the madness bound to happen in their life.

See, I’m not your average teenager. I can’t include a teen love quarrel in my memoir or a life-changing, eye-opening heartbreak. I’ve never committed to anything, to anyone. As I said before, people aren’t really fond of me and I’m not really fond of people either. You see, I can’t seem to look in the mirror and like what I see. I’m “disagreeably looking.” I love to be alone but hate being lonely. I tend to expect the worse of all situations. I guess it’s better to expect nothing. I don’t want your pity or your story of how you can too relate. It doesn’t matter, it’s not about you. I’ve become a hermit, I don’t have any friends and it’s been like that for some time now. Doctors call it depression and anxiety. Seeing how socializing and articulating anything isn’t really my thing, I get it. I used to think death was the only option to end all the confusion. Simply hurting and not understanding how and why. Soaking pillows and sheets because there’s nothing I could possibly do. I mean sometimes I just deal with it. I just let it be; I just let me be sad. Waiting for the universe to award me with good energy I don’t put out. I think if things were meant to be or meant to change, then it would be so.

Over the years I’ve adopted new coping mechanisms. Middle school was my lacerate stage. (I hope I don’t have to edit this word later because I can’t describe this in any other way.) Which was hard and not because I was addicted because if I wanted to stop I could. I had control, or at least that’s what I tell my therapist. And it wasn’t that it was concerning due to it being unhealthy or life-threatening. It wasn’t okay because black girls from the Bronx don’t hurt themselves because they hurt. Black girls from the Bronx demand respect and if it’s not given they wild out. Automatically becoming the stereotypical angry black woman. It was always a “white thing” to be hurt, diagnosed, and treated from mental illnesses. In tenth grade, I took a different approach. A cloud nine type of approach. It was a distraction; merely a stimulation. I enjoyed it so I guess that’s what really matters. I guess that brings us to now and I don’t really have much to say. As said previously, I just deal with it. It’s a part of life, right?

Now I think that’s about it. I know it was short; again not very eventful. At the age of seventeen, I have yet to meet and take pride in “happiness.” But I’d love to share it with you when I do. Thanks for coming to my TED talk.


Kayla Barton is a young, aspiring writer from the Bronx. At age seventeen, she moved across the country to Arizona in hopes to come across new and better opportunities. She writes in her free time and in school. Amongst writing, she shares an interest in things like drawing, astrology, and psychology. She hopes to entwine all of her interests into her career one day.