There is something to be said about children who were raised to “be seen and not heard.”
Kayla Darnley belongs to a younger generation that is still familiar with the saying. Understanding that there is also a time to be quiet and a time to speak is another age-old adage the 21-year-old Darnley learned at an early age. Both concepts were fine with her, because Darnley has always had to struggle with timidness.
“I’ve always been really, really shy,” Darnley admits. “I mean, I wouldn’t even talk to distant family members if they came over because I was so shy. I grew up thinking you speak when you’re spoken to. It’s that kind of mindset. It’s a respect thing to stay quiet and listen.”
The advantage of listening more than she speaks, according to Darnley, is that she is always learning new things, understanding others more and becoming more aware of the types of things that interest her most.
“I’ve learned a lot which sparked my interest in learning about people,” Darnley said. “Everybody has their own story. You figure that out just by listening and asking questions when necessary. I’m a big people watcher. I’ll sit somewhere and watch a bunch of people just to see how people interact. It’s one of my favorite things.”
Darnley, who is majoring in communication with an emphasis in journalism and a minor in psychology at Lee University, is all about improving her understanding of and interactions with others.
“I’ve always loved psychology,” she said. “I’ve had eight psychology courses. I think it’s that thing of wanting to learn about people. I just love intricate details of people.”
Because she does not fit the description of an introvert or an extrovert, there is somewhat of a mystique surrounding the Georgia native. While she prefers the inconspicuous role of disappearing in plain sight, the soft-spoken student of human behavior is actually fascinated with listening to and learning about others. It’s part of the enigma wrapped in the riddle of why a young woman prefers to be seen and not heard, more specifically, why she prefers to give voice to herself in writing over having a conversation.
“I’m not really that social, but I get along with a lot of people,” she said. “It would be nice to get more into it. I’m just afraid to say the wrong thing, sometimes. If I can write everything on my mind I’m perfectly fine with that. I’m good with my writing. But actually speaking doesn’t come out that well.”
Elaborating on the disadvantages of being shy, Darnley said she has struggled in communicating with people, adding, “Not necessarily in asking them questions during interviews, but when having normal conversations. People find me awkward, but that comes with the shyness.”
When asked about her earliest recollections with paper and pen, Darnley responded, “I have loved writing since elementary school. One of the biggest assignments I can remember was when my first-grade teacher gave us assignments to write a paragraph about how an animal received something. I wrote more than a paragraph. It was about how the elephant got his trunk. He wanted some water but it was too low for him to reach. So he went to a cement place and made a trunk. But it got stuck to his face. From then on, elephants had trunks.”
Darnley said from that moment on she knew she loved creative writing and found building a story to be one of her favorite things.
“I always thought I would become a teacher,” she said. “I was always a huge teacher’s pet. I always stayed after school helping them grade papers. But as I got older I realized there was much I could do with my writing, which led me into journalism. People are my favorite subject to write about. Hearing their stories is amazing. You can learn a lot in life just by listening. Everyone has a story to tell. You just have to figure out what it is. I also like writing about music, entertainment and new businesses.”
Darnley said she had no intention of going to college at Lee, but after touring the premises, she fell in love with the surroundings and atmosphere of the prestigious university. In addition to that, Darnley added, “A lot of colleges and universities are going toward technology-based writing. I wanted to stick to print and Lee had that.”
Lee also opened up the opportunity for Darnley to intern at the Cleveland Daily Banner where she experienced what it was like to develop a story, sit in on interviews, go on an assignment, work under a deadline and be mentored by professional journalists and editors. As a result, the promising young writer saw several of her stories published in the Banner.
“It’s all been exciting,” Darnley said. “I used to write to relax, but I haven’t really had the chance lately. I go home on the weekends and spend time with my boyfriend and friends. This summer I hope to get an internship with a magazine. I’ll be graduating in December. Hopefully I can find a job here during school or right after.”
Born in Cobb County and raised in Douglas, Ga., Darnley has an older brother, Hugh, and an older sister, Brittany.
“My sister is the most outgoing person I know. Hugh was pretty shy growing up,” she said. With a personality somewhere in the middle of her siblings’ tendencies, Darnley said she is working on becoming more outgoing and articulate. When asked about things most people don’t know about her, Darnley smiled and offered a shy laugh.
“I love baseball,” she said. “I love the Atlanta Braves. I play tennis. I played in high school for three years. I sing, but not in front of people. I took vocal lessons. I’d love to own my own magazine. I probably know, like, every Disney movie and song. I grew up on it. We didn’t have cable, so I always watched my Disney VHS tapes. My favorite was “Pocahontas.”
“I’ve been to four countries doing mission work — Jamaica, Guatemala, Brazil and Ukraine. Each of them has been completely different and amazing in their own way. The Ukraine was not really a mission trip. It was more of a cultural trip with Lee. We got to stay there for three weeks and visit different places. It was really neat to learn about their culture. Jamaica was my favorite place. The people there are so nice!”
Darnley said she is also involved with a new nonprofit organization called Drive With A Purpose.
“We just kicked it off and it’s going great,” she said. “It’s a nonprofit centered around going out into the community and helping in any way we can — we being the Jeep community” of owners of that vehicle, she said.
For a self-described shy person, Darnley is not letting her timid tendencies make her reserved about her life and plans for the future. She has a clear vision of what she wants and where she would like to be.
She said, “I plan to get engaged soon. I want to move to Oregon. Just looking up things about it, seeing pictures — I fell in love with everything there. It’s so beautiful. I feel I could bring a new perspective into my job. Moving from Georgia to Oregon, I will know nothing. I would have a completely new perspective to the job I would go to. I would like to travel and write. I want to be a mom. So, we’ll see.”
With her whole life ahead of her, Darnley plans to graduate early from Lee and make the kind of contributions in life that speak louder than words — that give voice to the people who are seen but not heard — because she learned early, as a youth and as an aspiring journalist, when to stay quiet and when to speak.