Tale of an Unsung Writer
By Nyasia Bailey
I decided the best way to approach this year’s broad theme centered around history was to show how I can change the trajectory of my own story by being honest about my passions.
I became a writer at six years old. My career began with a series that told the tale of two brothers, pencil and paper, (derivative of their appearance). The idea for their epic tale actualized when I got bored during first grade Social Studies and decided to entertain myself by using my school supplies as dolls. Stirring up stories and re-enacting them through writing and objects helped pass the monotony of the long day at school. Even at family functions, I’d dig in my grandmother’s bag animating her makeup as my made-up characters. But, my elementary years came and went like the ebb and flow of an ocean tide. At the end of fourth grade, my classmates and I were given superlatives based on our character and achievements over the past four years. I was given the award in scripted print saying: “The most interesting stories.” Winning this award provided proof of my ability to tell interesting stories and made me feel valued. Aside from these few memories, I do not remember much from elementary school but that I often felt neglected. Thus, I turned my attention to the safety and comfort of my imagination. Going into middle school, I took being a naturally born writer in stride and hoped to receive the same recognition. A younger me held so much excitement for the new wave of change to come.
No one told me middle school would suck. The stress of balancing grades, family, and friends left little time to dream—no time to casually read a book or immerse myself in my favorite adventure cartoons. Everything became exhausting. I continued to write but found myself unable to fully free myself from life’s complications. My writing took a rather peculiar shape: I’d rant about everything and aggressively scribble lyrics from 2000s emo songs in my notebook (songs from Paramore’s album Brand New Eyes stayed on repeat in my iPod during this time). Writing remained my cure and gave me comfort in the face of the unknown. Then, one fateful spring day, mid-year superlatives came once again bringing the hope of renewed validation from the faculty and my peers. In my head, I thought some teacher who was secretly a shaman had been watching me from afar and decided to conspicuously nominate me as the best writer. Another girl won the award as “The Aspiring Novelist.” In my heart, I wished I was accepting the certificate for that award. Just as I felt my body go cold, my name was called for the very last award for Mathematics. Once again, I found myself receiving praise for an achievement I unknowingly made. From that day on to my first year in high school, I decided to familiarize myself with “Nyasia, the Mathematician.”
To be frank, I hate math. People say it’s a perfectionist’s paradise because there’s usually only one correct answer to any math problem. I won’t lie and say I’m not a perfectionist but I simply value the freedom of being able to have my own answer. Despite the feeling that the people around me were trying to contort my ideas, writing let me express them freely without judgment. In retrospect, school has always set me up to believe I’m not good at something until I’m told. In my first two years of high school, I continued to pursue STEAM because everyone around me pushed me in that direction without asking if that’s what I wanted. On the rare occasion I was asked, the simplest answer was “yes,” since it is the twenty-first century and people empower women by suggesting they pursue male-dominated careers. Because I haven’t been honest with myself I became caught up in other people’s expectations. Beginning to write again feels like too much exposure and a tedious task. Because of the ubiquitous toxicity and pressure of school, I’ve realized that comparing myself to my peers has impacted how my external identity shapeshifted throughout the years. Nothing I’ve done has ever been for myself but has been in search of validation from others.
Now I know I never needed it, but yes, I still care what people think. Like the sun lying along the edge of a horizon, honesty is the beginning of my revolution. A small step is the beginning of an unsung writer’s story.
Nyasia Bailey is a class of 2020 Girls Write Now mentee based in New York, NY.