Struggles, what is life without struggles? Heaven perhaps, but on Earth we must live with the reality that there are hardships, trials, and tribulations to find our happiness throughout our short existence. There have been many instances where I have been faced with personal struggles, but the one experience that had a life-changing effect on me was when I was forced to grow up quickly and help my family financially. The second year of college was the most stressful time of my life, my family was in financial hardship, I was in a toxic relationship, and my grandfather was dying from cancer. The world was falling apart in my eyes. We were a family of ten living in a two-story, three bedroom house while utilizing the garage as a fourth room. My boyfriend at the time was a "super senior", school was never his forte and I had to motivate him to get his high school diploma. All while my family was hit with the news that my grandfather has stage 4 stomach cancer. As depressed as I was, I knew I could not let my family down by shutting myself away. All I could think of was how much of an extra burden I would be if all I did was wallow in misery. I am the oldest child in my family and I knew I had to take responsibility and be a setting example for my siblings and younger cousins.The one thing that kept me going was hope, I saw hope that this was temporary, pain is temporary but a necessary part of life that helps you grow mentally and emotionally. My will to support my parents through this is what kept me going, I saw how hard they worked and figured it is time for me to step up, find a job, and help them while still being a full-time student. Once I finally found a job, I helped with the bills to ease my parent's stress, and every week I would tutor my boyfriend in math to help him pass his finals, while still studying to pass my own finals. After obtaining his degree, we shortly broke up at the end of summer. That situation made me feel worse because I was so heartbroken, but I knew I had to pick myself up, know my self-worth, and move on for the sake of my family. And slowly but surely, after 3 months of hospice care, my grandfather passed away in the Fall. Life can throw you in a downward spiral sometimes, but it is ultimately up to you to decide if you want to stay in that hole, or see that light, climb up and crawl out of it. If you ever feel like life is against you, remember you are not alone, there ARE people that care about you and in my case, I had to take care of the people that cared about me. My selflessness is what motivated me to be the woman I had to be for them. Now things are much better in our world, my parents found their own place, I graduated with honors, and my family is at peace knowing my grandfather is no longer suffering in pain. And although I am still learning from the teacher we call life, I would not be the person I am today if it were not for that time in my life. The mind is a very powerful influencer if you believe you cannot achieve it will truly be the reality. Do not see the glass as half empty or even half full, I always see it as it can still be filled. Take control of your life and make your own pitcher to fill the glass, because, in the end, you realize it was all in your total control.
It is truly surreal taking a look at the past and realizing that I am not the same human as I was before. For years I found comfort in self-pity, shame and insecurity. Blaming my endless list of character defects on traumatic experiences, purely out of the desire to stay sick, fed my obsession for validation. Always viewing myself as terminally unique allowed me to feel justified in my egomania while feeling perpetually alone due to my gnarly inferiority complex. I was emotionally manipulative, entitled, angry and dangerous. To this day I believe that I was an alcoholic/addict since the moment I first opened my eyes. And I wore that title like a badge of honor. It was my way out of actually having to live life.
A good friend and mentor of mine likes to say, “If you are left out in the rain as a child, shame on them. If you are still standing out in the rain, shame on you.” It is a metaphor I reflect on every day. It astonishes me that, still to this day, I will occasionally run out into the downpour of misery and think to myself, “This is nice. I think I will stay here for a while.” I know that it is cold, wet, and uncomfortable; yet, there I am, with not even enough common sense to bring an umbrella.
You see, the thing is this: I did not choose to get hurt. I did, however, choose to stay in pain.
I was born in 1990 to an incredible woman and one of the best men I know. My dad worked long days and was constantly on the road, but my two sisters and half brother loved him fiercely. We looked up to him and admired our mom for being so strong while her husband was traveling for work. We were a cliché upper middle-class Lutheran family and the image of our family to the outside world was incredibly important at the time. Private Lutheran school. Baseball. Basketball. Play dates. Quiet neighborhoods where you could leave your door unlocked and not worry about a thing. By the end of 1998, after moving 6 times in 8 years, we found ourselves in small town in central Ohio. And I found myself in public school for the first time. It was around that time that I realized how little I knew about the world around me. You would be thoroughly surprised what eight-year-old kids know. I was naïve. Innocent to a certain regard. I certainly had never heard the word gay or fag. I had been a sexually curious child since I could remember when it came to women, but it was all innocent ne’er-do-welling. But apparently, the way I dressed, sounded and acted made me an easy target for bullies.
For almost my entire life I was defined as an athlete. I grew up in Ontario, Canada playing a number of competitive sports but at 14 years old pole vault stole my heart. And from then on my days revolved around track and field. Through college I became actively involved in my chemistry program and undergraduate research but varsity track and field always took precedence. In 2014, my senior year of college, I was faced with an ultimatum. I had the opportunity to put my life on hold for 2 years and train full time to try and qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics. Or go to graduate school to complete my PhD but sacrifice any hobbies due to the research time commitment. My heart wanted nothing more than to spend everyday training for the sport I loved, but deep down I knew making the Olympics was going to be a long shot. So I packed up, left my family and friends and moved to Southern California to do my doctoral research. I came down here to work under a well-known organic chemist, but part of me still feels like I moved as far away as possible so that the painful reminders of who I used to be wouldn’t be as prevalent.
For a whole year I felt like I had lost my identity, I was no longer an athlete. I had succumbed to the stereotype myself and everyone around me had labeled me as. But I started to become aware that other people in my program were in a similar situation. They were from different states and countries, with their own unique back-stories, but they were redefining themselves and owning it. This inspired me, and I realized that there are no set stereotypes; at any point in your life you can redefine yourself and be anyone you want as long as you believe in it.
One day I helped out a friend and modeled for his surf boards, afterwards I was contacted by a few photographers and I just laughed. I’m 5’4, with short bulky legs and by no means a size zero, I thought there was no way I could ever become a model. But I was determined to prove to myself that I could step outside of my comfort zone and be anyone I wanted.
By allowing myself to change and grow I have learned more about myself in the past couple years than I have my entire life and regained the confidence that I had once lost. I guess the story that I want to get across is that my past has shaped who I am today but I will no longer let it define me.
My name is Isabel and this is my story.
Growing up was like a constant battle with my faith, my family, and especially with myself I suffer from mental and physical health issues which has always made me question myself. I had one parent that hated me and another I blamed for being hated so I grew up feeling outcasted, confused, and angry. I was hurt by people I trusted young and put through things I don't wish to share or speak about ever in my life. It took me until I was 17 to realize I had no control over my situation but by then I had developed a bad case of anxiety and depression and at 19 I was raped by a person I loved and I didn't even realize what happened until much later when this person was no longer in my life, sadly from there my mind was confused and full of so much self hate I didn't even know how to go on and no one would believe me. But then one day I met a man and this is in no way saying my story is all about find your Prince Charming it isn't, but this man chanced my life completely he started to help me see that there were many things about me that I could love and adore. Suddenly it was like I could see past my mental illness and he suggested I try modeling and pushing me to follow my singing dream. Now I'm no where near cured or perfect I still struggle with my anxiety and depression every day I still carry my scars with me but I use it to really show emotion in my photos in my life and to try to show kindness to everyone in this world! And for those who have gone through or are going through the same or a similar type of situation all I can say is, if you can find even a small beautiful thing about the world each day eventually you will start to see that everything in this world is beautiful for different things even the broken pieces, so even if you feel broken you are beautiful even if you can't see it at the time!
"Even if you feel as useless as a white crayon there's always someone who prefers black paper"-unknown
Growing up, there was a lot of love in my house. I had everything that anyone could ask for, great parents who raised me to always be close to family, a nice house, lots of friends, financial stability and so much more. Unfortunately, my family and I fell on some really hard times when I was in high school because my dad’s business wasn’t doing as well as it once was. We struggled to make ends meet most months, we lost our house and there was a sadness that filled our lives for quite some time. As an only child, seeing my parents go through that, I decided that I would make it my life mission to grow up and become something great so that my parents and I would never have to struggle like that again. Seeing the disappointment on their faces when they couldn’t give me things that other kids my age were getting back then like new cars, fun trips for graduation, big parties, etc. broke my heart and it fueled a fire within me that I don’t think could ever go out. So to tell you what inspires me is easy…my family. Every single day they inspire me to be a better person, to work hard for my dreams and goals, to love harder and to trust in God always. My dad made sure that I always knew that no matter how hard life got, I always had them and God to protect me and comfort me, so my dad bought me a rosary necklace to symbolize that. Ever since he gave it to me I have never taken it off, over 10 years now it has been by my heart always. I love it more than anything I have and it means more to me than I could ever explain, it defines who I am really and how I have gotten to this point in my life. To tell you my internal battle with my story and some advice that I would give is the hard part. Growing up with all of that pressure to help my family financially and emotionally caused me to stop thinking about the present and only focus on what I needed to do to have a better future for all of us. That meant growing up faster than I had planned. With that came a loss that I didn’t even stop to think about until recently. I lost my ability to live in the moment, to live for what is happening here and now and I gained a whole lot of stress and worry that I can’t seem to shake. I want so badly to wake up one day and just be free of all of the stress and worries and just live for NOW! I want to remember what it’s like to do something just because it’s fun and not worry about what will happen after. I want to ignite the spark in me to just live…really live! That’s hard for me to admit because I feel proud of how far we have come to rebuild our lives and of the career I have built for myself at 23 years old but I’m also ashamed that I lost what makes my soul truly happy. So my advice would be to remind yourself what life is really all about. Remind yourself to live for the tiny moments that make you smile, to do whatever is necessary to never lose that part of yourself along the way. Hold tight to what truly makes you happy because we only have one shot at this life…so why let it pass you by? Just LIVE.
I enjoy films. I’d like to think that I enjoy them more than most. The only problem I have with film is that every movie promises a beginning, a middle, and an end. It’s in their nature. However nice that promise may be in storytelling, it’s practically irrelevant in the real world. Some people are fortunate enough to live out the full stories of their lives, but a strong majority of people only ever hit the middle; and sadly, some perish shortly after their story begins. We’ve grown to believe an idea that our lives wrap up into a nice little heartwarming story. The thing is, it doesn't. You can sit in front of your TV, wasting your time, pretending that you'll live forever. You might be content in that. It's a rough path getting to a point where you have a deep understanding of what it is that life owes you. You have the potential to be ignited and extinguished in the same instant. That's how the dice are rolled every now and then. As truly as I believe in my main man Jesus Christ and an awesome afterlife, I can't help but feel that the world would have more meaning if existence as a whole would eventually Fade Into absolute nothingness. Not some perceivable Blackness, but nothingness. If that was the case, wouldn't we try to live our lives with more unrelenting passion, or would we just blankly stare into glowing boxes and keep on pretending that no matter what we do, we matter? I strive to fill my life with actual meaning; something that stems from love, friendship, and empathy. I want to be able to find the value in people so that they'll be able to find it in themselves. It might be a nice thought to want to make a difference in the world, but you have to have some understanding of the world and how you feel about it to actually do something worth the while. Going deeper in that, if you want to better understand the world and how you feel about it, you ought to try to understand yourself first. The world is already dark as it is, and it's only going to get darker. I feel that it's people that make life worth living. My end goal is to get people to question and explore the circumstances of their reality and come to have a deeper understanding of who they are. Somehow, woodworking seems to be a reasonable way to get there. In order to make some great change in the world, undoubtably, steps need to be taken. The first of these steps is introspection; and from that tiny step comes something worth living for.
Coming from California you would think it was all sunny skies, entertainment and surfing.
Well. Yes. Actually. For the most part...
I was extremely fortunate to grow up with family. My family has been there for me through it all.
From birth, I lived with my mother and older sister in a small apartment in Orange County with an aunt that lived downstairs and grandmother that lived just down the street. My father worked a lot but he visited for birthdays, holidays, some weekends and weekdays when his schedule allowed it. I've also been blessed to have a best friend from preschool who is still by my side till this day!
My baby brother was born when I was 7 years old. The apartment was too small for our growing family so we all moved into my dad’s house in Pomona. A really big change for me since I only saw my dad on occasion.
Nonetheless, the house was spacious with wood floor and I danced on every inch of it! Things were going great and my parents decided to get married four years after that but unfortunately decided to separate a year later. So... I guess they weren't as great as I thought they were. Looking back now I should have seen it coming.
After living in the house for a couple of years... came intense fights, physical and emotional distance, scenes in public, cheating and lying. Not to mention the only P.D.A. I witnessed between my parents was them hugging ONCE in the kitchen.
Unfortunately, my sister and I were in the middle of the cheating....
I know explain, right?
Well I don't want to say which parent but we knew every person that was the "special friend" of that parent.
We were taken on family trips that weren't with my family. I went on dates because I couldn't be left at home or the lie would be revealed. Walked in on my parent "wrestling" with another friend. At some points I even thought I had new cousins or step siblings if this particular "special friend" lasted longer than the others did.
I was brainwashed. Brainwashed in believing the parent that had been at home was the bad parent! I was told that the home parent would discipline me if I did or said certain things. So I kept quiet and was so afraid of that home parent that I never talked or even wanted to be around them at all. I would cringe just at the thought of being in the same room, worried that anything I said could lead to me getting in trouble.
I was characterized as "the shy one". And I believed that's all I was...shy.
My parents divorced involved the court and different lawyers since us kids were in the picture. "Who do you want to live with?" Was the harassing question that I needed to provide an answer for. My sister was just about to turn 18 and legally didn't need to make the decision of which parent she wanted to live with, so it was up to me to decide for me and my younger brother of where and who we wanted to live with. At the age of 13 you can imagine why it was the hardest decision I've ever had to make.
Choosing between a parent I was friends with over a parent that I was afraid of. Hmm... but I couldn't think of myself. I needed to decide what was best for my brother. So, I tried thinking as mature as A 13-year-old could and tried to foresee my brothers future.
Do I choose to have my brother grow up in a relative’s house (which is what would happen because the parent kicked out wouldn't have a place to live other than a certain relative house) surrounded by drugs, abuse, financial struggle, a home where the cops presence was common and a home with way too many people living in it...making the sleeping situation punishing?
Do I choose to have my brother grow up in a big house with room to run, nice neighborhood, financial support, a parent with a good head on their shoulders and a room to himself.
... I hope it's obvious as to which parent I chose. It was me, my brother and the parent. The three musketeers! Life was easier and we saw the other parent when the court had ordered it.
Since that lasted throughout high school as soon as I graduated I threw my cap, packed my bags and left to live in Hawaii! Which is where my dad is from and what I was used to because we would visit often. Lived on Oahu for 3 years working for Aulani as a hula dancer.
Auditioned and got a job working as a dancer on Disney Cruise Line touring eastern and western Caribbean for the past 2 years.
Now... I live in the big apple! With 2 wonderful roommates. I've always wanted to live in New York and experience its fast-paced lifestyle and artistic culture and now I am!
Live life one day at a time and give Love