In this issue of Art Motif Magazine, we would like to introduce our new creative youth liaison and writer, Isabella Barrón. Isabella is a first-year Journalism student at the University of Arizona. She is a 2018 graduate of Nogales High School in Nogales, Arizona where she wrote for the student-run newspaper The WarCry. Isabella is also interested in creative writing, specifically personal essays and short stories. She is interested in using her journalistic and creative voice to empower young people and raise awareness about various social justice issues including gender, sexual orientation, racial and ethnic equality. Isabella will be the primary contact (firstname.lastname@example.org ) for young artists in elementary school, middle school, high school and college who are interested in showcasing their artwork in Art Motif Magazine. Following, please take a look at Isabella’s personal essay, Becoming.
a personal essay by Isabella Barrón
For most of my life, I have been known in my family as being the most confident and outspoken between my two siblings and me. My mom has always called me her “little firecracker” because, when I was younger, it was easy for me to talk to people and speak my mind, like the times I asked relatives or family acquaintances why they were gordos (overweight) or viejitos (old). Back then, I did not know it was rude or inappropriate to ask those questions. I was simply and innocently curious about their appearance and felt comfortable asking about it. My confidence levels were rocket high in those days thanks to the encouragement and reassurance I received from family and loved ones who made up the larger part of my life. Feeling comfortable expressing myself was a reflection of that confidence. At six years-old, I also remember writing in my diary how I looked “hot to trot” in my Thanksgiving Day outfit. Confidence and beauty went hand-in-hand for me in those days and simply being myself offered a good amount of both. I was sure of myself and I felt comfortable and empowered speaking my mind freely in a wonderful mix of Spanish and English.
When I started middle school, I thought things would work exactly as they had at home and in elementary school, but boy was I wrong. Sixth grade was the year when, all of a sudden, boys became important and having a boyfriend seemed to be all that my girlfriends talked about. That shift in focus also brought to the forefront many concepts I had never given much thought to including norms about physical beauty and social acceptance. For example, “boys only like girls with blonde hair”, or “boys only like girls with curly hair,” or “boys only like skinny girls.” During the first few months in middle school, I relied on the confidence I had gathered during my earlier childhood days to make it through the awkward transition. I also started making an effort to like boys, placing them at the center of my attention like all the other girls were doing. The trouble was that none of the boys were giving me the attention I was looking for in return. I remember sitting at home on my pink-and-white, princess bed sheets, the Skype app open on my laptop (although showing no activity) as I wondered what was wrong with me. Why didn’t guys like me? From that moment on, I became obsessed with the new concept of what being “beautiful” meant and it had nothing to do with the confidence I had associated with it before. My definition of beauty changed entirely and suddenly only skinny girls with curly, blonde hair seemed to fit the label. The odds were naturally against me. I was a chubby girl with dark, straight hair. Beauty also seemed to revolve around the newest fashion trends worn by the hottest celebrities. Once again, it had nothing to do with my own quirky style.
My freshman year in high school was by far one of the most difficult. During elementary and middle school, I attended a small, private school. I knew everyone in class and, although I still stressed over the idea of being the right kind of beautiful, I knew my peers saw remnants of the confident kid I had been during our earlier childhood days. High school, on the other hand, was a different story. Walking through the huge, intimidating campus terrified me. I met a lot of new people, many with whom I had very little in common so, in order to survive, I began shifting and changing until even I had trouble recognizing myself. I managed to become part of a group of people yet constantly felt like I had to be someone I was not in order to fit in. During that time, my words were no longer honest and it was no longer easy to speak my mind freely so I became extremely quiet and soft-spoken. I spoke only when spoken to and I didn’t feel comfortable being vocal about my opinions or speaking up when I knew something was wrong.
I also became incredibly self-conscious during that time having to think about every single move I made before I actually made it. During class, for example, it took an incredible amount of effort and self-convincing to simply find the courage to get up and throw something in the trash can. What will people think of me if I get up and walk past them? What if I’m stained? What if they think I’m fat? What will they think of my outfit? It was during that time that I was introduced to my first miserable companion, Overthinking. Overthinking strolled into my life and decided to take shelter in my mind, constantly nagging at me. Then, shortly after, I met its two friends Anxiety and Depression, both deciding to move into my personal space as well. To this very day, Anxiety still resides in my chest, giving me a piercing feeling every once in a while and causing my hands to sweat and shake. Depression comes and goes like a wave crashing against my heart or sometimes like a dark cloud storming endlessly on my days. It has been the presence of these two things in my life that has taught me what true pain is.
Fortunately, with my family I have always been able to be the real me. Even when I felt that I had to be someone else around others at school, I found comfort in knowing that I could go home and just be me. Although it took some time, it was in those brief moments of honesty with the most genuine people in my life that I began to realize that the people I hung out with at school were not really my friends. While everything with them seem to revolve around having the best clothes, partying, smoking, drinking, and cheating their way through classes, deep inside I knew I had so much more to offer.
During my last few years in high school, I finally came upon a group of friends with whom I genuinely connected and I also met a boy who, to this day, manages to bring sunshine to my days when I need it the most. These people celebrate who I truly am and I’ve never had to be anything other than who I am around them. They too have met the acquaintance of Overthinking, Anxiety and Depression and they have been crucial in helping me understand and overcome their presence in my life. Slowly I am finding traces of the person I was, the person I have always been, and am once again finding the courage to speak up and speak freely. The difficult moments have not disappeared entirely, they still come and go in waves, sometimes taking my voice and confidence with them, but I believe it will be a lifelong journey. My life will continue to be a cycle of losing bits of myself and then reclaiming them each time stronger, wiser, more hopeful and empowered.
I used to mourn the person I used to be when I was a kid, before the social filters and pressures kicked in, but now I think it is necessary to lose some parts of ourselves in order to make room for positive growth and progress. I am slowly learning to love and accept not only the person I have always been, but the person I am becoming too. I am grateful that, as I go through this journey, I have my family, friends and loved ones who continue to encourage me to speak up, speak my mind and share with the world exactly who I am.
To contact Isabella, email her directly at email@example.com.