In a tumultuous and temporary world, time often slips away from us, and we remain chasing after it for the rest of our lives. Only yesterday there were gaps in my gums waiting for adult teeth to emerge, and gaps in my personality waiting for adult characteristics to grow. The only consistency in my life since then has been the lack of consistency, the everlasting cycle of change that dictates my daily activities. I have always been amazed by the fact that no matter how detailed my routine becomes, every single day of my life manages to be distinctly unique: I have never lived the same day twice. One day I was anticipating the election of a woman to the most powerful position in the world: the next, I woke up to a familiarly leering face of her male opponent, who had not for one moment crossed my mind as eligible to become President of the United States. One day I quickly glanced away from the sight of a piece of lined paper on my bedroom floor; the next day I forced myself to read every word, and decided that I liked what I’d read. Each day brought and continues to bring new surprises, the good and the bad.
One of the most powerful moments of change came early on in my life. On the last day of second grade, shyness swept over me as I approached my English teacher. She smiled as I held out a catalog with a red cover.
“Can you sign my yearbook, please?” I asked in a small voice.
“Of course.” she said, and scribbled furiously as I waited, my heart full.
“Have a great summer, Baya.” she said as she held out the yearbook. “See you next year!”
I couldn’t wait for third grade.
During the ride home, I read all the comments left by teachers, friends, and administrators who had said goodbye that day. My teacher’s note read:
“Little Baya, You have so many gifts to bring to the world, and the strength to change things for the better.”
As I read it, tears of happiness sprung in my eyes. I was going to bring my gifts to the world. I was going to change things for the better.
Nine years later, I am in the position to reflect on the changes that have occurred around and within me since that day. I moved schools and never saw my English teacher again. Her words remain with me, embalmed in a red yearbook that I keep under my mattress. Words remain. I have realized that words are the catalysts of every major change, and mark the beginning of every great movement. Change begins with words.
In second grade, I left stories on paper napkins in my classes. My science teacher enjoyed them the most, collecting and reading them. In fifth grade, I wrote stories for extra credit, and my teacher told me that I would do well as a writer. In seventh grade, I was writing a story on a piece of scratch paper during class. My history teacher snatched it out of my hands and skimmed it quickly. My cheeks turned red, and he smirked.
“I think I should read this in front of the entire school at lunch.” he said.
I burst into tears and covered my face with my hands.
I stopped writing my little stories, instead writing the things that crossed my mind in notebooks. I collected my thoughts and fancies. My writing changed again when my thoughts began to take the form of short poems in freshman year of high school. In the middle of ninth grade, my notes took a viciously political turn, as the turmoil of the 2016 election upended my state of mind and sent me scrambling for change. On March 24th, 2018, I wrote a phrase that had pounded within my skull on a poster and went to the March for Our Lives march in Phoenix. My words, “Am I Next?”, appeared on other signs. The words of a movement. The words of a single thought.
Today, I write research papers for my classes. I write speeches for my campaign for Student Council president. I write document-based questions for my practice tests. I write.
My teacher told me that I had many gifts to bring to the world. What were they? Determination, ambition, an undying work ethic, and a love for words.Time is slipping away, but I have not chased time. I have chased change, consistently pursuing inconsistency. I have been waiting for new teeth and new traits to fill me up until I am brimming with the strength to change not only myself, but the entire world for the better.
My greatest gift to offer to the world? Words. Words remain.