My name is Bariidakara Meneh and I am a senior in high school. For me getting into a good college has always been the end goal. I have an idea of what I want to do after college, but it always seemed a hazy mist of possibilities. Between my loving, but demanding family, a rather small social circle, and my dreamer's mind I never was the most future focused person. I was happy living in the moment, enjoying my life and helping my family when needed. I always assumed that everything else would clear up when I got older. Meanwhile I continued to do my best, thriving in the life I had, going to school, the occasional club meeting, home with 5 siblings and 2 parents and church on Sunday.

Then came my junior year, I still did all the same things, but I was starting to look towards the mysterious future. I wondered what being independent would look like, leaving being a kid behind, moving out and becoming my own woman. College was no distant fantasy, but a rapidly approaching responsibility that I needed to prepare for, but for all my looking into it it never became “real”. 

I was, and still am, lucky enough to have parents who want me to whatever is best for my future, regardless of what that entails. 

Then, COVID happened and life was put on hold. Now, after a year of being trapped in close quarters with my 5 other siblings, losing the chance to travel and see potential colleges in person, drifting away from some friends, growing closer to others, watching the world fall apart after the brutal death of another person with skin that looks like mine, applying to college and helping watch the little ones through it all, I realize how much I invested in a future I never really worried about. In between the craziness, siblings, procrastinating, applications for college, scholarships, and other things I managed some soul-searching. 

Long before I woke up on my 18th birthday, I realized that the future is never going to magically unknot itself. The future is always going to be uncertain and that’s fine. “Growing up” does not mean all the puzzle pieces fall into place, it just means you get better at adapting and living life one day at a time. 

‘So that’s what I did. I worked to get my life just a bit more in order. Turning in college applications, looking at the specifics of what I want to major in, where I want to go in college, internships, work studies, scholarships and more. Now with virtual schooling I work to keep my grades up to ensure that I can get into the school I want. I’m not perfect, I’ll be distracted by any number of things, whether it’s an annoying sibling or a new book, but I manage.

College is still the closest goal for me; it’s a tangible focus for me to look towards, but I now see a future before me. It is still pretty hazy, I’m still defining it with my choices today, but I’m not as worried. It’s not the product of some magical force I will never understand. I make my future with my thoughts, my choices, my hopes and dreams. If I pass one lesson on to the people coming behind me, it would be this. Your choices are what define you, and no one can take them from you.