Nayla Kidd, was a sophomore at Columbia University, who on a full scholarship in their engineering program disappeared, disconnected, went missing and set off a social media storm as her mother (rightfully so) went through all ends to find her only daughter. They found her two weeks later, chilling in Brooklyn, in her new apartment in hipsterville Williamsburg. She didn’t or doesn’t know how the cops found her. She penned a letter for the NYPost explaining why she plotted out disappearing and disconnecting to start anew in Williamsburg.
Nayla represents the complexities that most young Black women face as they enter college. The expectation that we will and should do well without the support systems that acknowledge the nuances of the micro aggressions and the minutiae of coming into yourself as a Black person, as a woman…as a Black woman. That intersectionality runs deep and there is no guidebook on how to find the balance that gives you peace whilst having the fire to fight.
I love the cute & together college Black girls that are doing the damn thing on their YouTube vlogs. Laid and slaying while attending college. I am here for it, and it is empowering imagery to see. But plenty of us were, and I imagine still are, part of the join-NSBE-as-a-meal-plan, photocopy your course books cause they cost too much and headscarfed, hoodied and sponge bob square pajama pants’ed down club. No matter how you dress for class there is an innate experience that is very unique to the Black woman in college. Especially for those who entered into male dominated fields at PWIs (predominantly white institution) and Ivy League colleges.
Nayla provides an interesting case study that hits on many of the layers to this complex experience. First, she clearly had a breakdown and that is not anything to be ashamed of, nor is it uncommon. I experienced my first panic attack sophomore year in the middle of Italian class at the George Washington University. Just started screaming, sobbing and I could not control it. College is experiencing a new world at time when you are coming into your own identity. Topple that with dealing with new forms of racism, microaggressions, judgmental folk who look just like you and you thought you would be cool with but nope there goes respectability politics popping up and the prevalence of rape culture with the dismissal of women’s rights over their bodies. There is weight after weight that is placed on any college student, and Black women enter bearing the brunt of those weights.
College is absolutely rough. You are going to go through a deep wave of emotions. I wrote a whole book based around the emotional evolution I experienced during this time. There are no easy answers for you or Nayla. But here’s my advice.
- Stay vocal — this is also the time period where you can learn how to better articulate.
- Stay thoughtful — It’s annoying to have to battle racism and teach people what they should already know as Google is free and plentiful. But truth is this never stops and thoughtful doesn’t mean you get walked all over. You’re learning how to navigate, what you will stand for and how to speak to people on different wavelengths.
- Stay committed — I can’t condone or condemn Nayla for dropping out. I did the same thing my sophomore year of college (though my Mom knew I was moving to NYC). But I also had or still have destination syndrome where I envision where I should be in life and feel like I have to reach there RIGHT NOW THIS VERY SECOND. It’s not the best habit to have, and it can lead to a lot of unnecessary challenges. Sure take some time off or transfer programs, but stay in one place for at least three years during college tenure. I promise it will work out for the best in the long run, because commitment is really the key to success.
- Utilize! Yes utilize that network and every single resource your school has to offer. Current students, faculty, alumni, student organizations, and affiliate companies, find out how these resources can benefit you. The worst you can get is a no or no response.
My issue with Nayla’s story is that she voluntarily disappeared. Never do that. No matter what you think or feel in that moment there is always someone who cares about you, even if they are horrible at showing it. Use a proxy if you can’t communicate it yourself. “Hey I need space I’m going to be unavailable for a while. I will not be responsive, I will reach out in time.” Then walk away.
But I have no understanding of how she didn’t think that someone would go looking for her. To be honest her narrative is quite cliche a la Lena Dunham’s GIRLS. Nayla met some hipster in Billysburg named Charlie…sis! And got turned out to by hedge fund hipster babies who can live dangerously because the safety net of watching whiteness work is something else especially in NYC. When you think doing drugs will ruin your life then realize Becky can sort that mound of coke and still end up with a brownstone in Tribeca living the good life at 28.
So here to all my #SmartBrownGirls, share your stories, share your hardships. The internet is here and use it to bring shared experiences together. Remember you’re loved. This is the time to make mistakes. Don’t expense too much time beating yourself up about those mistakes. You’re learning, Growing and evolving. That’s more than a lot of people will ever be capable of.