“I’ve always been a person who likes to document things.”
Lauryn Hartridge wants to remember. Maybe it’s all the people she’s left behind.
“I have a terrible memory, except for other people’s stories.” She doesn’t remember much about life outside Frankfurt, where she was born while her parents were living on a US military base. In Anchorage she remembers dressing up for Halloween like Tinkerbell. In New Jersey she remembers the morning of 9/11. She could see the smoke rising up into the New York sky, and remembers her Dad coming to pick her up early from day care, unspoken panic pulsing through Fort Monmouth military base. Then, they moved again, this time to DC to live with her Grandma and Aunts and Uncles, before landing in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, for two years. After that, her Mom Karen accepted a transfer to Selfridge Air Force Base in Michigan, and her family landed in Rochester Hills. That’s where Lauryn the Writer really began.
“It was…being in isolation. Completely alone.” One of only a few Black students in the whole school, “It was like I wasn’t there.” In class, in lunch, after school, unseen by classmates, she was a ghost. “Reading was my friend. And, that’s when I started writing. Fantasy stories. That’s when I fell in love with writing stories.” But for 7th grade, she moved to a different school in another district, one with more kids like her, and for the first time, “I had a good friend group.” She loved her church and started figure skating. “I really liked who I was becoming.”
After that school year, her Mom shared the news: they were moving back to Virginia, back to Fort Belvoir. After a tough 8th grade year, Lauryn and her family moved again, to Waldorf, Maryland. To West Lake High School. “I was super depressed in high school. Wasn’t eating. Wasn’t talking to anyone. Constantly criticizing myself, isolating myself.” In her Junior and Senior years, Lauryn never went to the lunch room, but went to the library to read instead. “I think I was waiting for someone to come up to me and say, ‘Hey, are you OK?’”
Lauryn graduated from West Lake in 2015. She knew she had to get out of Waldorf, and she visited a friend in LA and toured the Fashion School of Technology. She thought, “This is it. This is where I’m going to go.” Three weeks after she returned home to Maryland, she found out she was pregnant.
Samarah Marie Hartridge was born at 10:43am on November 21st of 2016. Seven pounds, one ounce. Lauryn was 19.
Today, Samarah is four and Lauryn is a Junior at Howard University and a Scholar at Generation Hope, a DC-area nonprofit that support young mothers. Lauryn splits time between DC and her parents’ home in Maryland. Lauryn hasn’t stopped writing either, hasn’t stopped creating better stories, stories where kids aren’t on the outside. Stories where people “…feel special. Feel seen.” The stories she writes for VOA focus on people and moments-- like those moments when Lauryn was skating in Michigan or riding bikes during a Virginia summer or catching the Metro to NYC -- when she felt like herself. When she belonged. When she was writing her own story.
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Lauryn Hartridge is the Marketing & Communications Intern at VOA through Generation Hope. She works on the “I Am VOA” campaign to share stories from volunteers and staff of hope, joy, strength and resilience.