“Are you comfortable?” asked one of the paramedics, I lied and answered, “yes.” With my mother beside me and my father following behind in the car, we finally took off to New York-Presbyterian Westchester Division Hospital. I was mortified but surprisingly calm. I gazed at miles upon miles of greenery as it ‘wooshed’ by outside of the van window. It was a distinct contrast to the endless asphalt and concrete so prevalent in my South Bronx neighborhood. As we approached the institution all of the tranquility that I harbored in my body instantly departed. I was here. This wasn’t a dream; I was actually being checked into a stay at an institution for troubled teens. I wasn’t a truant. I had never cut class, never tasted alcohol, and never smoked marijuana. But in October of 2018, I found myself in a van to the unknown. How did this happen? Seven days flew by. It was the same mundane routine, every day. Wake up at 7:00am, eat, recite our daily goals, attend individual and group therapy, eat lunch, eat dinner, do activities, and then conclude the day by trying to rest my head on institutional linen by 9:00 p.m. Days were spent in my room catching up on homework, resting, and writing letters to family and friends. I made friends with the staff, who kept me sane during my stay. Prior to my release, I was talking to one of the staff members and she conveyed a message that will always stick with me: “I’ve seen the same people come in and out of here. You’re not one of them. I know you’re onto bigger things after you leave.
Get yourself together Nisa. You don’t belong here, you understand me?” I nodded with an unspoken but implicit understanding. Circumstances within forced me to utilize my idle time by retreating into a deep self-reflection. A week later, God had blessed me to resurface with a renewed realization: I was strong. Stronger than I thought I was. Post release, I relinquished social media and eighty-sixed ‘Snap’ and ‘Insta’. No more silly, vain and unrealistic comparisons that had me beating myself up into a state of depression. I embraced ME (i.e., strong-intelligent-caring-Black-Woman-in-the making); mended broken relationships; found new ones (got a boyfriend!); joined a gym; was elected student body president; took on Advanced Placement courses; participated in an array of extra-curricular school activities and attended Saturday morning classes at the Museum of the City of New York. That experience was such a blessing – tragedy is transforming into triumph. Whilst still in my teens, I have realized my strength and resilience. After stepping outside the hospital, I strutted into the sunshine knowing that my life was going to change for the better. And it has and will continue to do so. I am ready for my next life phase – for the challenges and tests and trials and lessons and victories and experiences and relationships and friendships. I am ready. Bring it on.