I joined LMC as a rising sophomore in 2019. At first, I assumed it would be like any other job, tedious and boring. When I showed up to do my volunteer work I quickly realized this wasn’t the case. Sure, there are some days when we would work on the same project but even then we were always doing something different. Every day we worked together to accomplish a common goal. I started to understand that I was part of something bigger. I could see that this wasn’t just an ordinary job, this was an opportunity to grow.
Learning to trust
I have always been rather reserved, even shy. I avoid having my picture taken and I rarely assert myself in a crowd. But when the pandemic shut down school and work, I started to experience severe anxiety. I was afraid for my loved ones, for my friends, for myself. I watched my neighbors and my family get sick and struggle to recover from this awful disease. But beyond what many would consider normal anxiety about a global pandemic, I was going through something else. I was scared all the time.
I could feel myself shutting down. I lost my phone and because school was closed I was cut off from friends. When I stopped interacting with people, my anxiety really took over. I was having panic attacks almost every day, and it was so rough. I didn’t want to leave my house because it was the only place that felt safe. At my lowest point, I found myself thinking that I didn’t want to be part of this world anymore.
In the summer of 2020, the intern program was back up and running. I was happy to see my friends and to start working again, but when I would get there my anxiety would take over. I tried to handle it on my own but I just couldn’t take it.
Finally, I asked for help. And I am so glad that I did.
As it turns out, my home wasn’t the only place I could feel safe. I had another family that would protect me and help me just like my own. If it weren’t for the staff and other interns I don’t know where I would be today. Opening up to others helped me cope and feel more secure. I got the help I needed, and things are so much better now.
Turning a Corner
Looking back, if I had the opportunity to give myself some advice I would have said, “Have faith in yourself.” As cliche as it sounds, coming from a young girl who had very low self-esteem, I always felt that I was someone with no purpose. After a couple of years of realization, I knew I couldn’t waste my life thinking so little of myself. I am more than that. I deserve better. Not only do I want this improved mindset for myself, but I also want every young person and adult to know that they were put on this planet for a purpose. I want to encourage them not to let their own negative ideology pull them down, not for one second, but rather lift them up. All it takes is faith, and I finally found mine. I found it on the Mountain among my friends.
Achieving my goals
When people ask me how it feels to be the top of my graduating class, all I can seem to think is that it’s overwhelming. I think most people who know me have thought this was something I could easily accomplish. I’ve always done well in school and maintained good grades. However, during my experience in high school, there were times when I felt hopeless and wanted to give up. I felt that I wasn’t capable of being the best or being at the top. I’ve had a pattern of underestimating myself.
I think what really pushed me to finally set this goal was the fact that for a long time (and I mean the longest) I never believed in my capabilities and I was tired of seeing myself like this. I realized I am a person willing and able to do more than I ever thought, and I know that when I walk across the stage in May 2022, I will tell myself that it was all worth it.
Not only will I be accomplishing my personal goals, I will be giving something back to my family. You see, my parents didn’t have the same opportunity to pursue their education. My father graduated high school in Guatemala, despite having many problems growing up. He was actually in the top 10 of his class too. He even went to college to study accounting but eventually dropped out. My mother grew up in rough conditions in Mexico. She had to stop attending primary school to take care of my aunts and uncles when her family was struggling financially. Being able to graduate at the top of my class is very important to me because it is a way of saying “thank you” for the sacrifices and struggles they had to endure. I can never repay them, but walking across the stage at graduation will be a gift to my parents and my way of demonstrating the deep love and gratitude I have for them.
If it weren’t for the support I have received from my LMC family, I don’t think any of this would be possible. Just one year ago, I was preparing to let my anxiety take control and to give up on any future I had imagined for myself. It pains me to think back on those days and to fathom the desperation that was guiding me to give up. Today I’m hopeful and looking forward to a bright future.
I read this quote in elementary school from the famous singer, John Lennon. He said, “When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I said ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” It really changed my perspective on life. For the longest time I always wondered what made me feel happy and free. That’s when I decided that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I want to be creative and be able to pursue business endeavors that I feel passionate about. I always wanted to live in New York for its aesthetics and diversity, so I hope to move there after graduation.
After what I have experienced in the last two years I discovered that all I ever truly want from life is to enjoy every second of it. I know problems will arise and mistakes will be made, but I am a warrior. I know that now. Nothing will prevent me from pursuing my dreams. Did you know that the probability of being born is 1 in 400 trillion? That is 14 zeros! The way I see it, the odds are already in my favor so why not make your life count! Do what makes you smile. Do the things that make you want to get up each morning with a euphoric feeling of hope. Live with no regrets.
I am extremely grateful for this program and the opportunities it has gifted me. I found out what I am made of up on Lookout Mountain, and I have every intention of making the best of it.