Where I’m from, not many people can say they’ve “made it”. I’m surrounded by people as young as me dying from bullets in their chests. I’m surrounded by blatant homophobia, even within my own family. I’m surrounded by my own loved ones struggling to rid themselves of past habits and battle addiction. Most importantly, I’m surrounded by those stuck in a cycle I refuse to be in.
I will try my best to keep this organized, but then again: Nothing within my life is. Growing up, I could tell from the start my life was set out to be different. Pressure was put on me before I could even speak, this cumulative responsibility suffocating me. I was told I would be the one to make a change in the family. Yet what I didn’t expect to occur that threw my whole life off track, was being a victim of sexual abuse and being put through the pain of watching my abuser simply carry on, as if I didn’t suffer. It’s odd writing about this since I was forced to remain silent for years, out of fear that my father would kill him, leaving my brother without a father figure. My mother begged me to not discuss it because he was in my “family”. If I spoke up, my grandma would be heartbroken and left alone, with no one to care for her. I couldn’t live with myself being the reason she had no one to help her through her disabilities. I was only 9 when it happened and already felt tainted at such a young age. This carried through all of my adolescence, middle school, and even as I’m typing this right now at the age of 17 with a knot in my stomach. To make matters worse, the day this came to light was on my 16th birthday while I cried in the backseat and said it out loud to my dad for the first time. All I remember is him pulling over on the highway and jumping out of the car, slamming his phone on the pavement, and for the first time in my life: I had seen him cry. Still to this day, I am the supposed “victim” (hate this term), yet I carry underlying shame and guilt for tearing my family apart, for being the cause of no longer visiting my grandma, for being “that” niece everyone pities, for being viewed as not a human being, but as my past.
After all of this, I was even more terrified to come out than before. I was scared many would assume it was due to that sexual abuse, what would come of their attempts to erase my identity and invalidate me. Yet I never got the chance to formally announce it on my time anyways, since I was outed. It was through an Instagram post of me kissing my girlfriend at the time, which I begged her not to upload, but she did. I went to sleep that night unsuspecting of the chaos that was to erupt soon when I woke up. I was sleeping over her house when I got a call from my mother telling me, “Your sister knows…and she is not happy.” My heart dropped and I felt the wind being knocked out of me. My parents were the only ones who knew, I was uncomfortable telling my sister after years of her saying homophobic and hurtful comments unknowingly to her queer sister. She refused to talk to me for months on end, and although she did eventually crack, our bond will never be the same and there’s this tension and lack of trust that will never dissipate. I’m thankful we talk, but it’s not the same- and it never will be.
As you can see, my family structure can be considered unstable and quite toxic. Scholarships and financial aid are all I know now besides work. My mother is basically on her own raising three kids, my father never has and never will provide. My childhood is filled with memories of him, drugs, people at our door threatening to kill us for him not making payments- and each time my mom was the one who saved us, not him. He promises time and time again that he will change, go to rehab, and be the man we need in our lives. You can guess from where this headed, it never happens. He continuously steals and emotionally abuses. Users are the best actors, it’s what helps them get what they want in order to survive. I learned this the hard way. He is a part of my struggles, he’ll never understand how much contributed to ruining his children’s trust, mental health, and overall perception of people. My sister has never fully recovered, especially after he cheated on my mother and had a child. My sister and I don’t share his DNA, she has a different father and identifies as bi-racial. She always felt inferior and believed he loved her less due to her skin color and lack of family ties. He has stolen thousands of dollars from my hard-working mother and made her feel obligated to help. He has ruined my brother’s mindset and twists on his heartstrings, making him believe his facade of changing is true, the rest of us know better after years of this endless torture. This one man who was meant to show me guidance has done nothing but break me down. The funniest thing is I have to thank him for this. He has helped show me everything I don’t want to be. In some sick and twisted way, that’s a positive outcome.
To wrap things up as simply as possible, school has always been my safe haven. Things at home were never stable, whereas school always provided me with this feeling of comfort I could never find anywhere else. I joined the band, chorus, Gay Straight Alliance, Black Student Union, A Capella, every AP I could fit on my schedule, and stayed after whenever I could. Regardless of my hardships, I am graduating this year with a 4.0 GPA and many music awards and recognition. With the help of this scholarship, I could achieve my dreams of being a Music Therapist and being able to pay off my debts. I believe I have what it takes to touch the lives of many, with the support and funding these “dreams” can be my reality. I achieved what I thought was impossible: Every college in New England offering undergraduate music therapy degrees and certification accepted me. (Berklee, Lesley, Anna Maria, and University of Rhode Island). This scholarship will allow me to set an example for my younger brother, to show my mom she did the best she could and it paid off, and I want to help people. I want to help through music, that’s what makes me feel alive. This help will not only be put towards helping a girl’s education, but the lives of many she hopes to touch in the future as a Music Therapist. People need to heal and I will be there to provide in any way I can, even if it means I must struggle to pay my debts that my family is unable to. You can’t let your past define you if you ever hope to fully recover. Music has been my outlet and saved my life even when I was in the darkest of times. This scholarship is not just a scholarship, it’s a message to those who doubted me. Never assume it’s over just because it feels like it is. Everyday I’m slowly learning that there’s much more to life than dwelling, regretting, and holding on to past pain. Hopefully, I will attend college and continue to grow and witness the backgrounds and stories of many more like and unlike me. All of those cheesy and cliche lines truly do apply: It does get better and you don’t have to face life alone. With this scholarship, I could help people feel less alone- I can make more than just a ripple in a pond, but cause a wave in the ocean.