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26 January 2021

To me, coming of age doesn’t necessarily mean becoming an adult. It means being able to think for myself and make my own decisions. It means finally being comfortable in myself.

2021 has already been a rough year for me and many other people. The new year didn’t exactly feel new; it felt like we carried over a lot of unwanted baggage from 2020.

As a child, I always thought that turning 18 would be a huge game-changer. I would have the biggest party, with lots of friends. I would finally be an adult. I would be able to move out as soon as possible and start a life. Now, five months until my 18th and it’s nothing like I imagined. I want to stay at home. I don’t want any more responsibilities and I don’t feel ready to juggle education and a retail job just to see me through university. To me, just because you turn 18 doesn’t mean you’re an adult. It feels like I’m still a child, just with more responsibilities.

Other people don’t understand what it means to me but that won’t stop me from celebrating my identity and having pride in my heritage.

Growing up in London isn’t exactly like movies portray it to be. And despite all the progress we’ve made, being an ethnic minority in London isn’t easy. I’ve experienced micro-aggressions and racism throughout my life. I’ve been told to stop speaking patois because I’m in England. I have been told my hair is “making a statement,” but not a good one. I’ve been told that my braids are “too extravagant” for school and that I should take them out.

The deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd last year made me realise that even though slavery was abolished, and segregation was made illegal, Black people still face discrimination even in 2021 because of the colour of our skin.

However, I take pride in being a descendent of a slave. It makes me feel liberated to know that my people went through turmoil but still made it through. It makes me feel like a strong, beautiful, confident Black woman who isn’t afraid to wear her afro despite the stares of others. Other people don’t understand what it means to me but that won’t stop me from celebrating my identity and having pride in my heritage.

With stricter lockdown rules and more research into the virus, I am confident that we can collectively make this year better than last. And in 2021 I’m turning 18 and will start navigating life as an adult. Coming of age, to me, means realising that I am and should be comfortable in my own skin, being independent and not being afraid to be who I am in spite of the judgement I might receive.

– Kalliyah, Young Ambassador

This blog is part of our new Coming of Age in the Capital series. Young people are facing huge challenges as a result of the pandemic, but too often their voices go largely unheard in the mainstream. As part of this campaign, we’re giving young Londoners a chance to share their perspectives, ideas and lived experience.

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