November 13, 2015
My life story started in a dream. A dream in which I am always afraid. Afraid to be myself. Afraid to go explore. Afraid to leave comfort. I was only a kid from San Bernardino, California where no one really expected much. I don’t know how to explain how I got here, exactly.
As a child, I knew I was different. I walked differently. I talked differently. I was not like everyone else. Knowing that I was not like the rest, I consciously silenced myself. I was never comfortable in my own skin. Never did I embrace what I was or who I was, except on paper. Writing has been my escape because I could write the truth as it appeared to me.
The first people to truly see who I was in high school were Mr. Erik Sanchez and Mr. Brian Mudd. I recognize them today as my mentors because if it wasn’t for their constant pushing and shoving to break social barriers, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Both Sanchez and Mudd knew that my biggest barrier in life was myself. I have never given myself credit for the things I accomplished. I always doubted myself. I cared too much for what others thought of me rather than what I thought of myself. Others destroyed me just as quickly as they saw me. I didn’t know how to be who I was. I was afraid.
Both of these teachers saw in me so much more than I had ever seen in myself and they would constantly remind me that I was much more than I thought I was. They gave me a comfort zone where I could thrive and speak up when I needed to, but that didn’t seem to be enough. I always tended to need reinforcements to let me know that I was worth it. It seemed like life in San Bernardino was the only safeguard from the outside, where venturing out was neither a choice nor an option. Yet I was determined to leave. I could no longer stand the pain of being so afraid of who I was living where I was.
During my senior year in high school, I was one of the most known people around campus by both the administration and student body. I was just one huge social butterfly, and everyone seemed to know who I was, but no one knew me as well as my best friend, Aurora Mora. Aurora Mora was among one of the first people to know who I was and why I conducted myself as such. However, I don’t know what happened last year. I grew to embrace who I was. I can’t say it happened overnight, either, but it was a transformation that I couldn’t believe. I was proud of the things I had accomplished and younger classmates would come up to me and say that I was their inspiration. I didn’t know how to cope with it. It almost seemed like a dream. A dream I was afraid to dream.
That’s when it hit me the hardest. I was officially leaving. How could I leave after knowing that I had become a signal of hope for my community at Arroyo Valley High School? Hamilton was such a blessing, but I was growing to be afraid again. I was afraid of not being good enough. I was scared to disappoint the people who believed in me. I was terrified that I would lose everything that I had unconsciously created over the last four years. I didn’t know how to handle the pressure. The pressure was too much for me.
On June 28, 2015, I boarded my flight to New York to start the HEOP Summer Program at Hamilton College. I couldn’t even say my farewells to the people who got me here. I was tormented because I was leaving them and my mom. My mom has always believed in me no matter how drastic the situation was and leaving her behind was like ripping my heart into a half. I didn’t know if this was the right decision.
Fast forward two and a half months into the fall semester, I have realized that this move was definitely the right decision. Ms. Breland, Mrs. Davis and Counselor Davis have made Hamilton worth the trip across the country. They have been deconstructing my wall of fear by teaching me about diversity inclusion and giving me the hope and faith that everything will be all right here on the Hill.
The From Where I Sit column and its writers are sponsored by the ESOL program.