Social media has assured me that I speak not only for myself when I say this year has been exhausting.
It has been a decade filled with growing pains, be it through ego deaths, the outgrowing of relationships, the exposure of people’s true colors, the re-discovery of self, the feeling of helplessness in overwhelm, etcetera…
But this post isn’t my letter of self-victimization to the Universe asking for a pity party as compensation for all my troubles. No, it is a reflection on the winding roads and hidden paths I have taken, the ditches and puddles I have fallen into, and the days I rose to see the sun again.
At 13-years-old, I began the decade (a lucky number of mine nowadays). I was emerging from my first truly soul-crushing three-year-long wave of major depression; high school was around the corner, a completely new environment void of any connection to the middle school that was often the backdrop of my literal nightmares; and when I became a Sunnyslope Viking I experienced genuine friendship for the first time in my life.
But a couple of truly fateful things happened in the year 2013 that would have ripple effects throughout my life in ways not humanly possible for me to ever have guessed.
The Year Was 2013…
First and foremost (I’m a uni student with some serious college essay writing habits, gimme a break), I cannot talk about anything that happened any later in my life without paying homage to the momentous occasion that was my Quinceañera. For those unaware, a Quinceañera in Latinx cultures signifies the coming-of-age of a female when she turns fifteen, and the ceremonial event marks her transition from girlhood into womanhood (often in an obnoxiously neon, cupcake of a dress).
On my princess day, I got to ride in a limousine to my venue and prance around in a big, poofy white ballgown that prompted strangers to congratulate me like a would-be bride while my extended family doted on me all day – it was pretty great.
In all seriousness, my Abuelita Mami Vickey apparently remarked that she had never seen me smile so much and I really hadn’t felt that happy in years. And while all the stuff that made it an event was nice, my happiness had everything to do with the fact that family members chipped in to help make my day special and financially plausible, and traveled from other states to celebrate with me.
Our extended family dynamics have changed quite a lot since then, but I will always remember that day fondly. Naturally, people change but our memories don’t automatically become any less valid or true.
In August of 2013, I started a YouTube channel under the name Jacquie Navarro and in November of that same year, I created the first iteration of a blog I titled under the same name. I managed to find a couple of old relics from those times with the Wayback Machine.
There’s an ongoing theory that people who turn to making videos alone in their bedrooms have large egos… I mean my family would certainly attest to that being true but it definitely wasn’t the reason I started all of this. Long story short, bullying, fake friends, and an overall sense of loneliness pushed me to retreat further into solitude and somewhere along the way I got really comfortable with me, myself and I.
My YouTube and blog were my creative outlets but also my main source of interaction. They gave me the chance to be a teenager who loved makeup and clothes and who could make videos and write posts in a way that felt like she was at least having a relatable conversation with herself.
I stopped posting as much about a year or two into high school; I made good friends a couple of whom I still visit today; I joined journalism and wrote my own column for the newspaper; I tried several clubs but none of them ever stuck; and, most importantly, I applied to college… and was both rejected and accepted.
The Girl With the YouTube
I applied to more colleges than I can recall but I remember perfectly the denials that stung. By the time that only USC was left to give me its decision, I had already been preparing myself for another rejection and hyping myself up for ASU (an amazing public university responsible for producing much of Arizona’s workforce).
Then I got a call to go down to my high school’s front office to find a counselor speaking to a very frustrated USC official requesting some paperwork. He needed my permission before he could do so and I, of course, said yes and returned to my class thinking nothing of it.
Until I got a big envelope in the mail with a thick red folder inside…
Apparently, the counselor who was responsible for sending my transcript never sent it (I suspect his expression of doubt when I initially told him I would be applying to USC had something to do with it). But I must have done something right to have had such a competitive university hound my high school for the necessary paperwork they needed to officially accept me.
Soon after, my dad and I attended an information session held by several admissions officers for those accepted in Arizona. My parents had lots of questions and needed some extra convincing given that my status as a first-generation college student meant this entire process was new for all of us. But the very real possibility of my going out-of-state for college came as an even greater shock to them.
While we were there, we spoke to one of the admissions officers and he pointed at me and said, “You’re the girl with the YouTube channel.” That was the moment I knew I had succeeded in doing what all the college application advice videos I had watched told me to do: give them a reason to remember you.
For those curious, the image above is linked to one of the pieces of material I submitted to the School of Cinematic Arts’ Media Arts and Practice Division. It includes a montage of a lot of what I did on YouTube at the time and has a special place in my heart since it marks where my journey as a creator began.
This Is The Bad Place
Okay, that subheading is harsh… but so is university. You know that saying about diamonds being formed under pressure – that’s actually what these soon-to-be four years in college have felt like. And listen, I’m not protesting because at the end of the day I freaking adore who I am now (remember that ego thing). And I don’t think I’d still be me had anything in my life gone differently.
USC has been the wildest, most jarring, whiplash-inducing rollercoaster of my life. It broke me until I was at the lowest mental state I had been in since my preteen years BUT it pushed me to go to therapy for the first time in my life which was the best thing I have ever done for my mental health.
It also completely unmade me over and over again until I really figured out who I am rather than who I might want to project as me but which isn’t ultimately my authentic self. I got comfortable both with my virtues and talents as well as my flaws and weaknesses because they all make up me and are the tell-tale signs of my perfectly imperfect humanity.
On a more auspicious note (because I can practically hear Mama’s unwavering optimism disapproving), it brought me the most meaningful and beautiful friendships and mentor-mentee relationships I have ever had. These humans are absolute gems, gifts and blessings and my hope is that everyone can be so lucky as to have people like that in their lives.
And, my favorite thing of all, I am the closest I have ever been to my mom and dad and they, along with my sister, have been the people I fall back on when I think I can’t go any further. From hundreds of miles away they hold my hand and remind me of how far I have already come and repeat their belief in me that I can go the distance and surpass it too.
USC SCA Graduating Class of 2020
Yes, university is hard. But you know what? I cannot imagine having done anything else with these last four years of my life and will be proud to have been a Trojan, forever. This school has shown me that I am powerful beyond belief, that I can stare my monsters in the face and make them afraid of me, and that in my darkness there are lessons and truths to be learned.
We all walk very different paths and I believe each one is meant to sculpt its person into who they are meant to be at every stage of their lives. This has been my eulogy of who I was, where I have been and the decade I leave behind because the past is done and laid to rest; but today is young and tomorrow is unsung.