Featured Young Writer of the Month: Zyaun Dent

Zyaun, left, shares some Christmas joy.

Zyaun Dent is a 7th grade middle school student in Springfield, Illinois. She enjoys reading and dancing and playing soccer. Her favorite picture book as a young girl was If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and the best YA book she’s recently read is The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis. This is her first published piece for Little Pickle Press.

Recently, while talking to my guidance dean at school, I was surprised to hear her ask me a question. What does it mean to be big? I wasn’t sure how to answer right away, and after thinking about it I decided on this:

When you are big, you don’t let what others say get you down. Being big is not a physical appearance. Big is an emotion that allows you to believe that anything is possible. As long as you put your mind to it and believe that you can succeed in life, you will always achieve your dreams or in other words be big. Being big is all about handling situations the right way.

I have a story about being big and how, for the first time, I felt like it. I was the baby of the family until age seven when my younger sister came along. Her father raised me, but he isn’t my natural birth father. That was about the time when I stopped telling my mother everything. I felt like there was an ocean between us.

At twelve years old I remembered how much I used to tell all of my problems to my mother. I still tried to keep my emotions bottled up inside of me. I could only do that for so long until I would cry myself to sleep. What nobody knew about me was that my father had died, from what cause I never knew. Whenever I asked my mother questions about my father, my mother would simply reply with, “I’ll tell you when you get older.” My mother never understood, then, why I was so disrespectful and unhappy all the time.

This went on for some time until we reached a crucial part of the year for us: the day before my father’s birthday. My mother decided to treat the family to a special dinner at a restaurant that night. As usual, I was being disrespectful to my mother and she was trying to figure out why I was being so bitter towards her.

The next day, my mother woke everyone up and told us to get ready. She didn’t tell us where we were going, but while she drove, my sister figured out where we were going. Our father’s grave.

I have often dreaded the walk from the car to the grave and, like so many times before, I just stared at the gravestone that I’d became so accustomed to. I read my father’s name: Shaun Dent.

It turns out that my grandmother had told our mom to tell her children the truth about where our father was. After all the bitterness and disrespect I had towards my mother she finally decided to tell us about him.

The three of us stood there staring at the headstone of his grave until my mother broke the silence and began to talk. She said, “I have kept you guys hidden way too long, and I can’t do it any more.” As soon as she said that my sisters and I began to cry. We knew what she was going to tell us how our father died. My mother started off by saying, “Your father committed suicide, and no one knows why.”

Just by the look in her eyes you could tell this had to be the hardest thing for her to do. This isn’t something we talked about before. Our mother always told us that we were too young to know.

But in this moment, she was being big. She had pulled her children in as they cried and she looked at me especially when she said, “You treat me so bad all the time and I can’t understand why. When you say it’s not fair that you don’t have a father, it’s not my fault.” And for the first time I actually felt a little bit guilty for my actions while pulling my mother in closer.

“I’m sorry, Mommy. I promise to treat you better.” And from that day I tried to work on the way I have treated others. No matter how horrible I’ve felt I will always remember my mother’s words: “Don’t ever think about self-harming even if you think you can’t deal with the things that are going on around you. There is always someone out there that cares. It doesn’t matter if it is a teacher, a parent, or a grandparent. Someone cares. The purpose of life is to live a life of purpose.”

I know now that I wasn’t being very big when I disrespected my mother or failed to tell her how important my feelings were. I know that I wasn’t being very big at all with my bitterness. Disrespecting my mother and failing to tell her how important my feelings were was not very big of me.

I am Zyaun Dent and I am big.

28 thoughts on “Featured Young Writer of the Month: Zyaun Dent

  1. Zyaun,
    You have written a beautiful and important piece about the difficulties with life’s changes and becoming big. Your writing brought me along with your family to your birth father’s grave and I
    cried with you because this was the big turning moment in your relationships with your mother and other people. You have looked at yourself and found that you too could be big. I agree … you are big.

    Thank you for sharing your story so eloquently.

  2. Dear Zyaun,
    You are indeed big. You are big in spirit and power, as a young woman. Thank you so much for your powerful words. We are with you 100% in

    your no doubt immense impact on the world in a positive way.

  3. Zyaun, I love that you have claimed being big! This world needs people who can speak their truth, show up, and be big. There will always be people who try to get you to remain small – even some people who claim to love you – but let their words roll off you like water off a duck’s feathers. You deserve to be big! I’m so glad you took the big step of becoming published on this site.

  4. Zyaun, thanks so much for writing a piece so eloquently. I am proud of the wonderful article you have written. Continue your excellence!

  5. I love this. I have often thought about ways that relationships or jobs or other life circumstances have made me feel small, but I’ve never thought about the other side of that coin before. I love the idea that we don’t only need to avoid being small, but we can actually strive to be big. Thank you for this. Keep writing!

  6. Love this, and I hope you will share this story with your classmates and peers, as they can learn from your honesty and self-reflection, something that most adults are afraid to do.

  7. Zyaun, you’ve captured some tremendous insight, with your eloquent yet heartfelt prose. Speaking as someone who has been on both sides of the heartbreak of suicide – people close to me have taken their own lives, and I’ve had to face the consequences of my own failed attempts, in the past – you’re words ring true. I hope you continue to write, and to draw strength from your writing. Namaste.

  8. My father was elderly, but he left us. Sometimes I don’t think I am treating mom as well as I could. You really touched me. TY.

  9. Zyaun, you have a fantastic voice. Your voice is the part of your writing that people ‘hear’ when they read your pieces; it’s what connect the reader’s emotions to those of the writer. Your voice is raw and youthful and real, and that’s exactly as it should be. I can’t wait to read your first book. You have started your book… right? 🙂

  10. Dearest Zyaun,
    You are a natural writer. You spoke your truth and allowed us to travel with you as you came to claim your bigness. You must keep writing because you have a gift, and your story has value.

  11. No, Zyaun, you are NOT big- you are GIGANTIC!! I wish I could give you a massive hug right now. Thank you for sharing what being big means to you, and your beautiful story- please, please, please, keep writing, and hold on to your dreams!

  12. A good writer can create pieces that some people can relate to. You have created something anyone with a heart can relate to! Congratulations, and please keep writing,

  13. Wow! This is very powerful writing. You are big and I’m sure that you will be even bigger in the not so distant future. Own who you are and where you come from and don’t let anybody make you feel small.

  14. What a brave big story. You have made me step back and think about my responses to people, and family members. My best friend also committed suicide. Neither easy to understand nor work though – but I am sure if you take this approach and continue to write about your life, you will come to peace with the situation. This was a big fierce piece. Well done!

  15. Zyaun, you are big indeed. I’m so sorry that you lost your father that way, it’s very hard if not impossible to understand why someone we love would commit suicide. My son also lost his father that way. Great writing, keep telling your stories.

  16. Thank you for being vulnerable enough to share your story and for doing it so eloquently. As you grow in your relationships and in life, continue to write and to explore the art of words. I look forward to reading more from you!

  17. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It’s an amazing story and you seem like an amazing, courageous kid. I think people will benefit from what you have to say. Please keep writing!

  18. You – and your voice and your story – are big. So big I could feel your words from here. I hope that others read this and realize how much the leave behind when they believe the terrible lies that depression tells. I’m so sorry for your loss, but I’m so happy that you’ve shared such a powerful and important story with such grace and wisdom. Thank you.

  19. Well done! I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your father. I want you to know that when you take the risk of Being Big, like your mother did that day for you and your sister, you empower others to also Be Big, and that is very powerful. Keep writing!

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