Get to know Aaliyah, a member of AO Class of 2027 attending Gateway High School.
AO: This past year has been tough for a multitude of reasons, however there were definitely times worth celebrating, especially because they occurred despite the hardship. What was a standout accomplishment, a time where you felt like you climbed a mountain?
Aaliyah: A standout accomplishment for me would be overcoming my anxiety and fear of public speaking. During quarantine, I had times where I wanted to give up. Most of this stemmed from my fear of talking in front of people. Despite this, I continuously pushed past my adversity. Eventually, I got the marvelous opportunity to speak out to over 100 teachers and faculty at Gateway High School. I talked about racism and inequities in my school and around the community. After my speech, I received tons of emails from the faculty at my school, expressing that I inspired them to do better. I also received more opportunities to speak out about racism and equity.
AO: Where there are mountains, there are also valleys. When you were in the valleys, the lows, of the past year, what were your sources of rejuvenation, so that you could keep climbing?
My mom. She has been the #1 thing I go to whenever my techniques to combat anxiety aren’t working such as breathing, exercising, and positive affirmations. Having her to talk to and being able to learn from her wisdom has made me into the person I am. My mother makes sure she pushes me to be my best, but she also cares about my mental health. Having her simply asking about my day and listening has helped wonders with alleviating my worries.
AO: Did any books you read over the last year stick with you?
Aaliyah: I read a book named "Stories Of Your Life and Others" By Ted Chiang. There was a short story in it that genuinely made me reflect on myself. It was about embracing the good and ugly life has to bring us. While it is challenging for me, this philosophical book has helped change my perspective. Specifically, learning to accept the adversity and the riches of life and how this can be liberating and peaceful. Instead of shaming myself for words or actions, unsaid or said, I try to use these as opportunities for growth and impactful change.
AO: All in all, what have you learned in this journey of the past year? What will you take with you for your next journey?
Aaliyah: I've learned to let things go and enjoy the journey. I am always thinking about the past or future; this can have positives and negatives, for example, worrying. When something becomes overwhelming, I have had times where I needed to reflect and ask, why am I worried about this? After this past year, I've noticed troubling situations tend to work out in the end. No matter how many hours I spend dwelling on my worries and memories, time goes on. So I try my best to live in the moment and accept my journey.