The Power and Progression of Inevitable Change
by Fatoumata Jaiteh
“Have a great summer Mrs. Johnson, I cannot wait to see you in fourth grade!”
“Girl, pack your bags. We are going to New York!” “You’re smart, you will eventually be able to adapt.”
“I love this, and lord knows I would not trade it for the world.”
Those are a few of the many quotes that I heard or said within the summer of 2012, and with those you will be able to understand the most important and eventful parts of my seventeen years of life.
Flashback to June 21st, 2012:
Change tends to be very challenging for people, and sudden change is even worse. Imagine turning nine years old, ready to go into the fourth grade with the individuals you have grown up with all your life, and then you are told that you are going on a vacation to New York for the summer. On my last day of school I exclaimed, “Have a great summer Mrs. Johnson, I cannot wait to see you in fourth grade!” Of course, I was excited being that all of my family lives over there, and the only memories I had from the huge city came from stories I was told during my visit in 2006. On my first day of “vacation,” I ended up at my aunt’s house. My aunt took me to the grocery store to pick up whatever I wanted, and nine-year-old Fatou was very excited. The first thing I grabbed was a family size box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Seeing all of my cousins was the best part of my first day, for they all lived in a four-block radius. They all came to my aunt’s house, and I was introduced to things that I have never seen. Nine-year-old me had no idea what Facebook was, and when my cousin enlightened me on what it was all I could say was “wow.” Sitting in the middle of a wire-framed bed, we were on a chunky black Dell computer reading about all the latest inside scoop. My first day in New York was quite eventful, and within those twenty-four hours, I could say that I learned a lot about my soon to be new home.
September 4th, 2012:
It has been three months since I landed in New York, and a couple weeks ago I was introduced to the fact that this would be my new home. I was truly baffled, for I thought I was only here for vacation. On August 31st, I calmly asked my mom when we would be going back home, and the conversation literally went like this:
Fatou: “Um ma’am why are we still here. I am supposed to be school shopping for fourth grade at Eisenhower. I don’t even have school supplies, dude.”
Mom: “Girl we are moving here. You’re smart, and you will eventually be able to adapt.”
Fatou: “How do you expect me to adapt …”
It broke my little heart to know that I would never see the friends that I thought I would have for a lifetime ever again. The environments of New York and Minnesota are completely different, so one could imagine how hard it would be for a fourth grader to adapt. Walking into Mrs. Craig’s classroom on the first day was the most awkward day of my little old life at the time. Wearing my little navy skirt and my yellow button up I was able to make friends instantly. I have always been an introvert, but I had to step out of my comfort zone being that this would be my new home. I walked into my new school PS 53x with no friends on September 4th, 2012 without knowing anyone, and on June 22nd, 2013 I graduated with friends that I have till this day. On the day of my fifth grade prom we were able to design our class T- shirts, and mine said “I love this, and lord knows I would not trade it for the world.”
The year of two thousand- and twelve definitely was one for the books in my life, for it had one of the biggest impacts ever. A prime example being the fact that my fourth grade teacher influenced both my occupational and post-secondary choice of school. With this move, I gained the ability to live in the moment, and adapted to the fact that not everything may happen in a fashion where I would want or understand. At the time I was younger, so I did not realize that it was a skill that I would heavily need later on in life, for you must expect the unexpected in this day and age.
Post-New York move:
The move was very sudden but it taught me a lot, and I do not feel like I would be the person I am today without it. Growing up in the city of New York forces one to grow tough skin, and communicate how they feel effortlessly. It is important to have those abilities, and I was a very sensitive person prior to moving. It forced that little fourth grader to grow up faster than expected, but each and everything that she experienced molded her to be the strong person she is today. Change can be very hard, but it can be worth it. As time went on, that little fourth grader who hated the city grew to love it, and in that same year she learned that her dream college would be in the beautiful city of New York. Fatou made it her goal to attend that school in the year of 2021, and she is an individual who makes all of her dreams into reality.
As you have read, one would assume that I hated New York with everything in me, but as I adapted I started to love it. New York taught me things that I do not feel like I would have ever learned in Minnesota. I was fortunate enough to go to a school that was very close to home, and many of the kids that I attended school with lived either in my apartment building or block. I resided in New York for both my elementary and middle school years. The shift of moving from Minneapolis to the huge city was tough, but as I got acclimated to the environment, middle school came to me as a breeze.
I attended the High School of Medical Science. It sounds crazy, but my school had both high school and middle school in the same building. During my seventh grade year, I built bonds with teachers in ways that I thought I never would. I am now a senior in high school, and I still conversate with the teachers who have shaped me to be as academically successful as I am today. Walking into their classes made me feel as though I was in a safe space, and it felt good to know that they genuinely cared about their duty as a teacher. Being around older kids as I was growing as an individual helped me realize that the individuals whom you choose to surround yourself with represent you as an individual as well. My best friend was a year older than me, but she graduated a year older and that made me proud to have the ability to call her my friend. In the year 2020 she is now attending one of the best schools, and started her own fashion line at just the tender age of eighteen. I was once highly upset about moving, but the saying “everything happens for a reason” definitely came into play with this. If I had the opportunity to move back today I would, for New York had a huge role in the development of myself both personally and spiritually.
For those reasons when anyone asks me:“Where are you from Fatou ?”
I respond with “The Bronx, New York”, for I felt as though all my mental growth happened while I resided there. For personal reasons we eventually moved back to Minnesota.
Fast-forward to 2020:
Growing up I was very shielded from the reality of what goes on in our society, and the wrongdoings of folks all around the world. I would always see the CNN headlines pop up, and of course being the curious cat that I am I would ask various questions. My dad would answer my questions completely, but in a way that a child would understand without scaring them for life.
An example of this is when Michael Jackson passed away. On June 25th, 2009, the headline of his passing aired on CNN bright and clear on my box TV. As a six-year-old child, I was truly confused as to why so many people were crying on the screen, so I asked my dad “what is going on” and he simply responded with “it was time for the great man to rest in peace.” A couple years later I was able to search into his music, reason of death, etc. and it all made sense to me.
My move to New York opened up my eyes, and I was forced to learn about things that I was once shielded from. In school I learned about slavery, the police system, and how individuals of authority should treat civilians. My first “educating moment” of the repetition of history occurred with the death of Trayvon Martin. I thought that with the way our world was set up, and all that we have dealt with as a country, that a tragedy like that would not happen again. Now we are in the year of twenty- twenty, and the murder of George Floyd took place in our state of Minnesota. Buildings were burned down, riots took place, and arrests were made, but there were also many positives that came out of it. The community was brought together, and even I joined in to see the George Floyd mural that was painted on Chicago Ave. It was a breath of fresh air, and it’s weird to say that being that we are in the middle of a pandemic. The impassioned speeches that took place in many different tones, tongues, and forms of expression was great to see with my own eyes. Despite the fact that it took such a sad event to bring everyone together, it was well needed, for George Floyd’s death impacted all Minnesotans whether it was directly or indirectly. It is hard enough that the world has to deal with a health pandemic, but the racial pandemic definitely brings light to how things must change. The COVID- 19 pandemic will eventually vanish, for a vaccine can be created, but the pandemic within one’s heart cannot change unless they really want that to happen.
Throughout these mini accounts of my life, it is safe to say that I have seen and learned a lot at a young age. There were times where I had to grow up just a little bit faster than others around my age due to environmental change; as I reflect on those times, I am happy that it happened. The move to New York caused me to learn deeply about myself and eventually opened my eyes to the reality of the world around me. Learning at a young age that there is more to life than where you were born, and understanding that change is okay, is a lesson that I will carry on throughout my lifetime. The cruel actions that continue to happen in our world are sad, but hopefully with the determination and the mindset of Generation Z change will soon come. Equity and education are the foundations of both inner and societal peace.