As Told To Ruth Etiesit Samuel
Reygan Myers is a junior at Houston High School in Memphis, Tennessee. She is a leader in Bridge Builders, a community advocacy and outreach student organization, and a passionate dancer. As she thinks about college and the future, she’s nervous but excited about the prospect of change.
If you’d have asked me about graduating when I first got to high school, I would have said I was very excited and ready to go. Now that it’s coming up, I’m a little nervous. Going on to a different path in life is going to be nerve-wracking in general, but it’s also exciting to see where that will take me.
I spent my sophomore year in the pandemic, and at first, it was fun. Then it turned into something incredibly worse. School became something hard. It was hard for me to focus. It was hard for me to stay motivated. That was probably my hardest year mentally and academically.
As a Black girl, I was taught to be fierce, strong, and to show no weakness. I’ve struggled with mental health in a way, but never to that extent. Then it came to the point where I was like, “Maybe this is OK to be like this. Maybe it’s OK to understand it or not understand it, but you have to go through it to get to the other side of it.”
I think past generations made it hard to express our vulnerabilities. Back then, you couldn’t be weak because someone could take advantage of that. You had to show exterior strength and also interior strength. My parents, my grandparents, my great-grandparents understand that this world is hard on Black people, Black women and Black little girls. It’s not kind — and you have to learn how to be OK with that. That expectation does come from understanding the world and understanding how Black girls fit into this notion that we have to be a certain way.
I did therapy through Bridge Builders, so they provided that opportunity for anyone who wanted it. My mom actually suggested the idea because she got the email about it. I was like, “OK, that seems like a good idea because the pandemic doesn’t seem to be getting any easier.”
My parents understand that mental health is a big deal. They’re very open to the idea of therapy, so I was happy in that aspect. I know some parents seem to think that if you get therapy, you’re somehow weak. I leaned on my mom a lot. I checked in with my friends as much as I could. I spent a lot of time with my family, and I think that was my saving grace many, many times. They are everything to me.
I’m a ballet dancer, and COVID changed a lot for dance because there is a great difference from being in person dancing to being through a Zoom screen and dancing. Early on in the pandemic, I would attempt to try out TikTok dances, and that would give me some sort of distraction from the things that have stopped in my life. They also gave me access to new ways to exercise.
It took me a while to understand that I am who I am. Definitely being around other Black girls who share similar stories helps empower me. I think we find comfort in each other because we’ve experienced the same things. I get around them and I realize that there’s nothing wrong with who we are or what we look like.
Up next? College is definitely on the table. I definitely want to go an arts route, whether that be a primarily art school or a university with a good arts program. I definitely look forward to my own career. I’m very excited to see how I’m going to grow up, given the world’s circumstances now. It’s not exactly how I expected it to go, but I think the idea that we grow more, we understand more about what’s going on in the world daily, and we have new ideas … that gives me peace of mind.