By Jaida Dent
It is hard being a teenager in this day and age. Layla is constantly pestered with questions about what she wants to do with her life and is it going to make her money. However, she just wants the freedom to be happy in her career path.
“To get to a place where you could love anything you chose—not to need permission for desire—well now, that was freedom.” –Toni Morrison
Sitting up in her bed, jerking forward quickly, escaping these stressful thoughts that have bothered her for the past few months. She is reading over “Sweetness” for a third time today with scattered pieces of paper on her bed. Layla wants to be like her, for her words to have an effect on people. Yet sadly, that is not the way the world works. The world requires you to have a good job, make money, and provide for yourself or an entire family.
Don’t get me wrong, I want to do that, but doing that means that I probably can’t live my dream. What is my dream, you ask? To write, that’s what it is. To be able to live a life where I can write endlessly for days, talking about the things people want to hear and saying the things that need to be said. To be able to write under my own name and be satisfied with the work I produce.
Her parents are a different story. For the last few weeks, her parents have been pestering her with questions Layla asks herself.
“Layla, you have got to start thinking about what you want to do with your life. College applications are around the corner and you have to know what you will spend your four years on,” her mother had commented a couple of weeks ago.
Her father added, “Your mother is right. We don’t have time to waste thousands of dollars for you to work a subpar job. You need a career that is going to put you somewhere in Life.”
“Layla, you are never too young to think about what you want to do with your life. The sooner you know, the more likely you’ll be able to accomplish it.” A statement said far too often for the young girl.
“But what if I want to be somewhere in history, not just life?” In silence, she sits.
Her mother had walked around the mahogany dinner table and sat next to Layla. She saw the disappointment in her daughter’s eyes, knowing that they had stepped on her dreams like it was nothing. The woman hugged her daughter, bringing warmth in a cold conversation.
“We want you to be different, better than us. We want you to be able to be happy, but also financially supported no matter what.”
“But why can’t I be both happy and financially supported in writing?”
“We’re only saying these things because we love you and we know you can do amazing Things.”
“I know, Mom,” she said dejectedly.
She sighs. With a foggy vision, she remembered back to when she had time. No deadline, no due date, nothing to stress over. There used to be a time when she had freedom. Now, everything seems like it’s about doing things for your future. Yet, it’s at the cost of killing your present.
What if I get so far, but barely scrape success? What if my dream is never meant to be chased? What if everyone was right? What if it was time to get practical?
With no resolution to her problem, she was overwhelmed. No one seemed to give her the answer she needs, or at least the one she wants to hear. At times like this, she turned to her brother: an eleven-year-old wise beyond his years was somehow a solution for all her problems. He ran from his room on the second floor into the dining room, to be faced only with gloom etched on his older sister’s face.
“You seem stressed. What’s got you down?” His brown eyes had pierced into her playfully.
“You wouldn’t understand. It’s too mature for you.”
“When has that ever stopped me from helping you?” She laughed.
“I’m having a problem figuring out what I want to do with my life, Aiden. Mom and Dad want me to have a job that’s boring and is just good for money when I want to have a job that is fun and makes me happy.”
“Why can’t you have both? Who said there isn’t a fun job that makes you money?”
She knew her baby brother was smart, but not this smart. The dinner table was always a place for serious, gut-wrenching conversations. Yet, the carefree answer her brother gave her opened up what else could be talked about here.
Laying back into her bed, she breathed. Forgot everything in the world and took a moment to live. She took in the feeling of the bed beneath her. The way the pillows cradled her head, the way the sheets hugged her body. She calmed her raging thoughts and finally felt some Peace.
Yesterday is yesterday, today is tomorrow, and I am growing up too fast.
Jaida Dent, born in Brooklyn, New York, is a student, poet, and writer. Coming out of East New York, Brooklyn, she has been writing since middle school and has performed her slam poetry in multiple spaces. She uses her creativity to develop pieces that she loves and hopes her audience does as well. She aspires to continue writing and hopes to develop her skills, even more in her future career.