Natalie Horah ’19: Keep Going


Senior Natalie Horah has been at Darlington for six years and began her journey coming into seventh grade. The transition, however, was not so easy.

“I never really had to be faced with anything that’s too challenging, because in public school and especially in middle school, things aren’t really that challenging,” Horah said. “So coming to Darlington and being faced with things that are really challenging and seeing myself struggle, was not fun and it scared me. I kind of internalized that as I’m not smart enough to do well on these things.”  

From this transition Horah learned a valuable skill that helped her throughout high school.

“I had to realize that different environments give different results. It was particularly difficult to detach my changing grades from my worth, so when I finally decided this has nothing to do with how worthy I am or how valuable I am as student or a person I started to enjoy my experience a lot more,” Horah said.

Horah also learned other valuable lessons throughout high school through her participation in DarFarm.

“DarFarm has taught me to accept things no matter how they turn out. We put a lot of effort into what we grow each year and things don’t turn out well every time. When [these] things happen, like our plants end up not producing much fruit or they dry up or they get eaten by ants we have to figure out something to do to fix that problem,” Horah said. “But we also have to go ‘ok well this is just how it is, that’s just part of nature and there’s gonna be things that hurt our plants so this is what we have to do instead’. It’s not a particularly bad thing that it didn’t work out, we just learned something.”

On top of school and activities, Horah had to take on mental illness throughout her career at Darlington.

“I have had anxiety pretty much my entire life. I cannot remember a time that it wasn’t a part of who I am. Most of my family struggles with mental illness, most commonly anxiety. So it’s something we all have to learn to deal with,” Horah said. “I decided I needed to seek help in about late eighth grade and by the end of ninth grade I needed to start medication to help with my anxiety. Even though I’ve had anxiety my entire life, things kind of came to a boiling point in late middle school.”

Horah’s anxiety amplified the academic challenges many students face at Darlington.

“One of the most common ways I dealt with it was by not dealing with it. Which is the worst way, in my opinion. One of the most common ways my anxiety presents itself is through procrastination. I have a fear of failure that comes from my anxiety and a fear of disappointing people and myself. So when I look at an assignment, I immediately think ‘this is difficult, I don’t see myself succeeding at this, I want to avoid it,” Horah said.

Another issue Horah faced through high school was the communication of her mental illness with teachers.

“Through high school it’s been very difficult to balance anxiety and depression with school because there’s a lot of shame. It’s hard to go up to a teacher and you have to spill your guts. If you had the flu and you had to be out for a couple of days you can be like ‘i had the flu’, but if you have to go to your teacher and say ‘sorry I wasn’t in my last class because I needed to take a mental health day because I was having panic attacks and couldn’t get out of bed’, you just told them so much,” Horah said. “That’s hard to tell them because you think they might look down on you like ‘oh ok geez dramatic’ or ‘wow you can’t handle high school’. It’s also a struggle because I’ve always feared my teachers don’t think I’m trying hard enough. Which is irrational because I always put effort into my work.”

However, the academic struggles Horah faced with her anxiety did not stop her, and she ended up learning from them.

“I have a lot of strengths that come from my weaknesses because you have to learn how to compensate. For my procrastination, I have learned how to be very proactive in my planning. I use as many planning strategies as I can. So I really know how to buckle down when I have no other option,” Horah said. “I can handle a lot of stress too because I’m constantly stressed. My anxiety persists whether I’m being successful or not, so I know that it is there and I just have to keep pushing forward. When things get extremely stressful the coping skills I have from learning how to deal with anxiety, teach me how to deal with stress as well.”

The lessons Horah learned were not just academic lessons.

“I have a really good handle on telling who’s good and who’s going to be good to me. My depression, I think, stemmed from some very toxic relationships I had in middle school. I have gained a lot of perspective and a lot of wisdom from having those experiences and then having to deal with the consequences like the aftermath of it,” Horah said.  “And I know very well how to seek out people who can support me and who I can support. And I know how to find a relationship that is going to be mutually beneficial, so that’s going to be helpful in life.”

Looking back on her memories at Darlington, Horah will miss the sense of community.

“I’m gonna miss that [the community of Darlington], because there’s something special about how I’ve got pals that are sophomores and juniors and friends in my own grade, and a couple freshman here and there. I think that’s really cool that you can be friends with people regardless of their grade,” Horah said. “And then to also be able to be friends with people from all around the world and all over the country, that’s something that I have loved.”

Reflecting on her experience, Horah wishes she had gotten more involved.

“The thing that comes to mind, that I have a hard time admitting, is I wish I would’ve done more. My friends have always been very active in things like theatre, and in that group of people that I spend the most time with I’m pretty much the only one that doesn’t do theatre,” Horah said. “I have a hard time saying whether that’s because I didn’t want to do theatre or I was scared to do theatre. Maybe I should’ve tried that, and maybe it would’ve been great.”

Horah also wishes she would’ve gotten involved in athletics.

“I also wish I would’ve gone after things like swimming for all four years of high school. Or gone after volleyball because even though I was never wonderful at it in middle school, I really loved doing it,” Horah said. “So I wish I would’ve taken more risks and put myself out there more often to do things that could be more enriching and give me an outlet for some of my own stress and frustration.”

As Horah plans to attend the University of Alabama at Huntsville, she leaves advice for underclassmen.

“When things seem like they’re the hardest they’ll ever be and you will not get through it, you’re wrong it will get harder, but you can handle it,” Horah said. “There’s more strength within us than we realize until we have no choice but to use that strength.”