Princess Smith says she’s still trying to “grow into” her name. When she was younger, she says it fit her well. “Every girl feels like a princess [at that age]. I’m trying to get used to it…Am I going to be 30 years old and called Princess?” She shrugs. “I’m stuck with the name forever, so…” We remind her of a little-known artist who once called himself Prince long into adulthood and was, by all accounts, a pretty cool character.
Mounds has been Princess’s kingdom for her entire life. In fact, her grandma’s house is located right beside Meridian. “It’s kind of boring,” she admits, “but I live here, so it’s home.” Grandma is one person who has inspired her to venture out and discover bigger and better things. “She’s actually a registered nurse, so that’s what I want to go to school for and be a CRNA so I can be an anesthesiologist,” she says. “She really inspired me to be a nurse.”
Princess intends her career path to not carry her too far away from Mounds and her family just yet. She’s researched Murray State, SIU-Carbondale, and SIU-Edwardsville as her current top picks to attend college. “I really want to stay close to home because I want to see my grandma and my mom and my other grandma,” she says. “I really want to be close to them so I don’t want to go anywhere out of state.”
However, with a cumulative 4.0 GPA, and an activity list that includes cheerleading, Beta Club, FCCLA, and Educators Rising, not to mention a set of dangerously effective intellectual and intuitive skills, she’s already fighting off interested e-mails from schools out-of-state. For now, she thinks she’ll stick to her plan and take the college admission process one careful step at a time. She’s preparing for her SAT and ACT but isn’t sweating it. “I think I’ll do good because I love math,” Princess says. “Math won’t be a problem for me.” When she’s not preparing for her undoubtedly successful future, she’s still hard at work. Next month she will be bumped up to a Trainer at Olive Garden. “I’m actually doing pretty good in my life,” she beams.
Princess’s overwhelming positivity and motivation are inspired by friends and family and how they’ve handled hardship. “One of my friends has been through the worse you can ever imagine and seeing her strive today gives me hope,” she explains. “I love people like that. They can go through anything, and they still wake up in the morning and be like, ‘Okay, I’ve got to get through this day.’” She’s put this attitude to “strive” to good use in her own life during rough periods that left her deflated. Last year was one such time that she describes as “a very dark place.” “I didn’t even want to get out of bed,” she says. “I was just so sad. I was depressed, but seeing [my friend] and seeing my grandma and them get up in the morning and say, ‘It’s going to be okay, you just gotta pull yourself together.’ I just love that motivation. I appreciate that.”
“Because it’s life,” Princess says, punctuating her point. “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. That’s what I always think about. Joy will come in the morning, it will be a better day, you just gotta push through.”
The days will keep improving for Princess, and though she loves home, she doesn’t completely discount the idea of seeing the world beyond Mounds. “You know how [sometimes] you feel like you’re somewhere in a place where you feel like you probably won’t grow here?” she asks. “That’s how I feel. I love it here, but I need more of a challenge.” Princess says her grandma would have a more point-blank spin on that idea: “Girl you can’t stay here, you gotta do something.”
In a challenging world where the pressure keeps mounting, it’s nice to know that royalty walks among us. Not only that, but this Princess is fiercely intelligent, fired up, and ready to make a difference as a traveling nurse, friend, family member, and whatever else she puts her talented mind to.
Joy will come in the morning, it will be a better day, you just gotta push through.