When former Columbia University student Nayla Kidd went missing in April, it set off a city-wide police search in New York. She hadn’t been seen for weeks, she missed her final exams and hadn’t called her mother on Mother’s Day.
Clearly, people were worried. But soon after her disappearance made national news, police stated that Kidd, 19, had deleted her Facebook account and closed out her checking account. They believed that perhaps she didn’t want to be found. A thought that was soon confirmed, when the teenager was found safe and sound in her new apartment in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood.
Why didn’t Kidd show up for her finals? Why did she refuse to return phone calls and texts from her family and friends? What was going on in her head that she needed to walk it away from everything she had worked so hard for?
Now, we finally have those answers.
On Sunday, Kidd told her side of the story to the New York Post saying that she needed to escape a life that was riddled with “high pressure and unreasonable expectations.”
“I had been waking up every day for months with a feeling of dread and doom. I couldn’t keep putting my all into something I cared nothing about,” she said.
“I never expected it to get so out of hand.”
“I wanted the time to make sense of my situation alone and have the space to comprehend it,” Kidd wrote. “I felt like sharing would force me to explain something I hadn’t even figured out myself. It wasn’t normal to just quit school. But I never expected it to get so out of hand.”
The Missouri-native wrote that since she was a child she was a free-thinker and an overachiever who left home as a young kid to attend boarding school in California, an opportunity she was grateful for. She was heralded a science whiz by her teachers and soon after received a full scholarship to the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia. But when she got there, she “quickly went from star student to slacker,” saying she was uninspired and felt alienated from the other students and the faculty.
“I came from a small, tight-knit community at Thacher, and at Columbia I was lucky if a teacher talked to me. I’m a social learner and Columbia didn’t provide me that opportunity,” she explained.
“School just wasn’t interesting to me anymore because I didn’t have any close connections with my teachers. I felt like I had to choose between living a life I was passionate about and doing well in school. Even though I was wired to be a good student, I didn’t feel inspired,” she added.
Most important, this just wasn’t who she was anymore and she wasn’t happy.
“On a rainy day in early April, I couldn’t take it anymore. I broke down hysterically crying on campus while I was trying to study for a test in Lerner Hall. Completely overwhelmed, I didn’t stop sobbing for all 10 blocks to my apartment on 124th Street and Broadway.
Then she decided to move out of her apartment in Harlem and live in Brooklyn. While, she knew she ignoring messages, she claimed that she didn’t know the police were looking for her, until she saw a message telling her to “Google herself.”
Kidd also described the day she was found in her new apartment:
About two weeks later, I heard a loud knock on my door.
“Are you Nayla Kidd?” one of the officers said sternly.
“Yes,” I replied.
“It’s the police. Can we come in?”
My jaw dropped to the ground.
“Yes,” I said sheepishly.
Three big cops came into my room.
“You know we’ve been looking for you nonstop for the past three days?” said Detective Alex Argiro, who had dark hair and a piercing stare.
At that point, I knew I needed to face reality. They told me since my mom wasn’t picking up the phone, it would be best for me to come to the 26th Precinct station house with them.
Kidd also talked about seeing her mother for the first time after going off the grid.
“I haven’t slept the last few days,” she said to me.
I couldn’t bring myself to say much. I just listened.
“Trust me, honey, I understand. You don’t have to explain anything,” she reassured me. I nodded and felt myself tearing up.
“An investigator told me you might be stripping. Even if you’re a stripper, you’re gonna be the best stripper out there,” she said to me.
I laughed and felt grateful for her support. And of course, that stripper tip wasn’t true.
According to Kidd, she doesn’t know how the police knew where she was, but she is sure she isn’t going back to school. She wants to pursue her modeling career and exploring the artistic side of who she is.
“I realize now that I don’t need to prove anything to anyone else or myself. School isn’t for me, and I’m OK with that. There are a lot of different things I would like to work on and develop now. I want to make and produce music and work on my writing…I’m back in touch with my friends and family, but I’m not going back to how things used to be,” she concluded.
While Twitter has erupted with less than empathetic comments calling her “selfish” and “immature,” there are supporters who relate to Kidd’s depression and are proud that she is finally living the life that she wants, on her own terms.
What do you think? Do you believe there was a better way to express that she didn’t want to be in school anymore?