I was a junior in high school when Boston first popped up on my radar. I began googling and swooning over Boston apartments I couldn't afford in my spare time. Before I knew it, I was scribbling admission application dates in my school planner while the Texas heat sizzled outside my bedroom window. I couldn't stop thinking about graduating and having the opportunity to move somewhere exciting.
I had dreamed about this day for months. It had become a new daily routine of mine to check the mail for one thin envelope to arrive. I could picture it so clearly. I imagined spotting the university crest logo amongst a stack of catalogs and junk mail. I knew I would then run back inside with shaky hands and a dry mouth as my heart pulsed with the fear of rejection. I would carefully break open the letter's seal and reveal the first few words at the top of the page. "We are writing to inform you...". Before reading anymore, I would imagine my friends and family throwing a congratulations party decorated with confetti and a huge sign that jokingly read "Welcome To Hah-vard!"
Except for the Harvard admissions letter and the congratulatory party wasn't for me, it was for my high school boyfriend. Not that I hadn't applied to a Boston school, because I did, it just wasn't as well known, prestigious, or commendable. However, in hindsight, the daydreams didn't even matter. He didn't get into Harvard or any Boston school. So being someone who relied on others for happiness, there went that dream. Too bad Lizzo hadn't dropped "Truth Hurts" yet. At the time, I had a completely different view of what my future should be, and I wasn't able to see how talented I was on my own. Instead of moving to Boston, I spent my first year out of high school in Austin. My days became filled with answering phone lines and organizing paperwork for a wholesale sink distributor as a receptionist.
College wasn't a bandwagon that I was ready to jump on. I honestly didn't know what I wanted to do beyond high school. I'm a romantic, and I've always just wanted to be a mom and wife... and to this day that's still a life goal that makes my heart happy dance. Outside of that, I didn't have a set job position in my mind. I also found the idea of attending school for the sole purpose of working towards some unclear goal incredibly wasteful- and boring. My job at the sink store was monotonous, but I still felt it was more practical than enrolling in random classes.
While my view on college might not have been the highest, my peers certainly felt otherwise. I was surrounded by friends and family members who praised the idea of higher institution education. Not only did they believe attending one meant the key to success, but it also apparently was the key to an active social life. Every weekend consisted of tailgates and football games. Living in central Texas meant being surrounded by burnt orange colors and hearing "hook 'em" at just about every store, restaurant, and establishment within a 100-mile radius. I might not have been registered in college but I pretty much resided in one. The only thing missing was student loans and blackboard.
After residing in Austin for a year, I did apply and got accepted to Texas State. My family was ecstatic, and I guess I was too. I've always been the type to want to fit in. However, my days as a bobcat were numbered as I traded my South Austin 3-story condo for a 300-square-foot "apartment" in NYC's East Village.
Moving to New York was one of the scariest and most exciting adventures I've ever experienced. I was simultaneously surrounded by poverty and the world's elite, the outspoken and the meek, the wise and the foolish. Every inch of Manhattan was filled with new people, places, cultures, and possibilities. I was more or less forced to open my mind to new ideas to adapt to the New Yorker lifestyle. It is difficult to pinpoint what decisions in your life have changed you the most, but I can, without a doubt, say that moving to New York has been one of mine.
I lived in NYC for a year while working on a photography certification program at NYU. Since high school, photography has been the one steadfast component of my life. It's been a way for me to express and analyze myself. I've been able to document so many areas of my life through the lens of my camera.
Aside from photography, I worked multiple internships and jobs in New York. All of which were exciting and filled with interesting people. Many of these people could think outside the box and offered me new ways of thinking that I otherwise would not have developed. NYC is incredibly competitive but it's also incredibly eye-opening and resourceful.
After New York, times got tough for me. & what I mean by that is I spent many nights crying myself to sleep. I felt like I had done everything wrong. While my peers were graduating with degrees, I was living back at my grandparents with no career path or direction. On top of that, my best friend committed suicide, and I learned a lot about individual family members that caused me to question certain events. Bars became my safe space. I developed deep trust issues and had a hard time getting too close to people for fear that they would either leave me, judge my actions, or - as horrible as this sounds - commit suicide.
Despite some of the hardships I was facing, I moved to Chicago. I started a wedding photography business. I broke out of my reserved shell and started hosting Meet-up groups. I traveled around the world. There were a lot of good times. Unfortunately, there were also a lot of bad times. & in those times I struggled to find purpose and a desire to be motivated towards anything.
Looking back, I think the issue with so many of my struggles spawned from a deep-rooted feeling of not being enough. Despite being an only child, I never felt like the world revolved around me. Maybe it was because my parents were divorced or because my stepfather at the time was incredibly strict. Perhaps it was because I was always the tiniest in my class and found it nearly impossible to be seen or heard. Whatever the cause, I tried to avoid the spotlight growing up, although I was always fascinated by it.
I attended a religious, private high school that was filled with well-off students. Almost all of them gave off an aura of eliteness - it's debatable on if they were or not. Many of them were outspoken and attention seeking whose parents awed over every sentence their mouths sputtered. Some of them were "religious" and in doing so judged almost everybody around them. The majority of them knew each other since before they could write correct sentences, making it very difficult to fit in as a new student. But I somehow managed, because if there's anything I'm good at, it's fitting in.
While I might have excelled at being part of the pack, I never felt like I could break out of it. The few times in high school where I gave my all usually went unnoticed. One weekend I spent 48 hours creating this fantastic 1920's magazine spread for my US History project to be out beat by another student who's mom paid $100+ to have theirs professionally printed. It was this moment that I learned money would get you anywhere.
Since I felt my talents went unnoticed, I got incredibly good at the status quo. I straightened my hair each morning and always wore cute shoes with my school uniform; however, I still opted out of makeup so it wouldn't seem like I was trying too hard. I kept decent grades. I was talkative enough not to get bullied but quiet enough that my friend count was relatively low, and teachers hardly knew I existed. Or at least I thought so. That is until I was crowned Prom Queen and it occurred to me that maybe I wasn't so unnoticed after all. I've since considered that the view I had on my high school self was all wrong. Maybe I didn't fly under the radar as much and the unique parts of my personality + my desire to include everyone did stand out.
After high school, I slowly began to let myself grow into the person I wanted to be. I didn't want to spend my life competing with people over the spotlight; I wanted to be the spotlight. I realized that I wanted to be a creative person. I wanted to be someone that had a lot of friends, and that brought people together. I wanted to be someone that was always well dressed and whose life imitated the art they collected. I wanted to fall in love with someone who loved me back equally and never settle on the romance and adventure between us. It took a few years, and there were some growing pains, but I can now finally say that I've become the woman I always dreamed of being - okay sure with a little more anxiety, but I'll take what I can get! 😉
I've built a life that's funded by my camera lens and writing. I've curated a home of art and a closet of clothes that empower me and voices my personality. I've assembled a small friend group from Meet-up events I've hosted. I've been so blessed to meet my soon-to-be husband and to be loved unconditionally. I've learned that the majority of people don't take opportunities or go the extra mile, meaning there's a lot to be earned by anyone who does.
I don't say all of this to brag - or act like I have come such a long way. I'm well aware that overall, I've been incredibly privileged and received opportunities that usually only exist when your family is financially successful. However, I do think many experiences I've had in recent years are some that few my age go through in their twenties. My mental health has been compromised at times, and I've always wanted to be transparent about my struggles in a world where so many hide theirs.
Now that I know who I am and what I want to do, I know that I'm finally ready to go back to school. & not just any school. A school that I had been dreaming about since I learned to drive. A school that everyone in the world knows about. A school that will open new doors for my career. Harvard.
& I got in! So now my scholastic adventure begins. But not before I buy a few new outfits and colorful highlighters 😉
I'm embarking on a new journey, and I would be lying if I didn't admit I am a bit scared. I know it's going to be difficult and tedious. I also will be juggling school, wedding planning (Yay!), and continuing to run my photography business. I will be spending a lot of time in Boston and having to navigate my work schedule around studying and assignments. This feeling reminds me of when I moved to NYC. It's a feeling of something beautiful yet laborious that I see as being another moment that I will pinpoint and look back on to say "that decision changed my life."
My story might not be precisely a rag to riches tale, but it's a relatable one. I'm just a girl from Sugar Land, Texas who decided to turn down anything that would mean settling on how I make money, who I love, and what I experience from this world. Maybe that's why I'm excited to share this experience with others. If you put your mind to something and really try, I think the possibilities for our lives are endless.
I can't thank my friends, family, & fiancé enough for supporting my creativity and endeavors (as wild as many of them have been!) over the years. If you would like to follow my adventures of studying at Harvard, capturing the world, and being the best dressed in the room, please join my email list and feel free to share any posts. ✨