This is a tribute to me for my 16th birthday
One: Welcome to the world, Diarra. It’s your first year of life and much more to come. Things might be challenging for you and mom but everything will get better.
Two: You just woke up from surgery. It was a success. It might be a little painful at the moment but all scars will heal in the end.
Three: Ah, 09’ — the end of the decade. You made it this far. Right now you love Dora, cotton candy, and the color pink. All the simple things in life.
Four: My best friend Brianna. Even though you could not communicate your love due to her ailment, we had a blast doing art & crafts and dancing around the classroom.
Five: It’s your first day of kindergarten. It was hectic. You tussled with the assistant principal as she pulled you away from Mom — you were not going down without a fight.
Six: It was bad enough how the headaches made you feel like the world was spinning 2x the speed, then someone had the audacity to steal the best whiteboard in the classroom that you only got to use occasionally. It’s not about the whiteboard itself, it’s about the lies behind it. I hate liars, still do.
Seven: Peanut butter and honey on toast for breakfast every morning with a cup of ice-cold water to start the school day. Nothing better.
Eight: Looking back, I owe an apology to Ms. Kim, my 3rd-grade teacher, for putting chunky brown vomit on her open-toe sandals and mental breakdowns due to being unable to solve math problems. Boy was I a hassle.
Nine: 4th grade is the start of a 5-year crush. You discover what made you insecure and still, you build up the courage to confess to your crush. Go you.
Ten: Double digits, double problems. Acne started popping on your face and your body which was growing slower than most. You became a target for body shaming and unwanted attention and did not need “words of advice” from “friends” (note to self: don’t believe that these so-called friendships will last forever.)
Eleven: Your struggle with school and boys consumed most of your life. You had to get over a crush who rejected you and see all your friends live your dream. Things became hard for you and your self-esteem was destroyed. To fill that void, you made your voice louder and rowdier than the rest to make up for all the looks you didn’t have.
Twelve: It’s time to apply for high school, and all everyone cared about was grades, expectations were high due to family status. The pressure was on.
Thirteen: Results are in. I didn’t get into my dream school — bummer. I felt discouraged, it felt like my friends were succeeding and I was being held back.
Fourteen: I’m a freshman in high school (scary.) And it’s even scarier because I’m enrolled online. It was hard making friends through the screen, which is ironic looking back now, having gone through a global pandemic.
Fifteen: You made it. You switched schools. Still not super happy, not what you had envisioned at all but with family pushing you to your limits, you began your phase of teenage rebellion
Sixteen: Now you’re 16. You used to watch the show Sixteen on Youtube back in middle school, but now you are 16 even though this is far from what you imagined the stereotypical teenage dream to be. You’ve learned that the teenage dream was never meant for you; you were always meant for something greater. Remember that.
Happy Birthday Diarra
Sincerely, 16-year-old Diarra
I had never written something dedicated to me so I wanted to really tune into the last 16 years of my life and how that has impacted me. I learned that despite all the obstacles, I have accomplished a lot and have a lot to be proud of. This is about a girl whose story was never told.
Diarra Gadji is a junior in high school and is an aspiring English professor. In her free time, she likes to solve Rubix cubes and read romance novels.