Out of the Dark

As iMentor seniors wrap up the final weeks of their high school careers, we wanted to showcase some of the talent in the Class of 2021. Below is a college essay by Diana Garcia Aguirre, who is graduating from Phoenix STEM Military Academy in Chicago and will be pursuing a degree in business administration at Arrupe College of Loyola University Chicago. Diana says she is looking forward to “all the freedom I will have after high school—to be my own person, become more knowledgeable, and continue with my journeys, my future, and my goals.”

“Life is a train. People come and go in your life, but you still keep on going,” my therapist explained to me while I bawled my eyes out during our first meeting. “While the train is going, you experience good and bad things, but you choose what can stay on your train. Some of the time, people leave you, but it’s okay.”

The relief I felt after that first session was like lifting a weight off my shoulders. I was amazed at how such simple words could completely reshape the way that I viewed the world around me.

Leading up to this moment in my life, I had been viewing the world through a dark lens. Often I didn’t feel strong enough to face the world around me.

Growing up with technology and social media has made it a confusing time to be a teenager. We are expected to grow up so fast. Half the time I don't know if I am a kid or an adult. And being the only one in my family who speaks fluent English, I’m expected to know everything. Because of that, I’ve been on my own for a long time. Eventually, I noticed that I was starting to change with the world and was near my breaking point.

I realized that I needed to speak up, which was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I dreaded talking to my parents. I was so embarrassed. My mom ended up taking me to see a therapist. I’ll never forget her reaction when my doctor told her I might be depressed. She was silent and gave a nervous smile.

Once we left the office and got to the car, she asked me if this was a joke. My mother and I never talk about our emotions; we just keep everything in. Growing up in a Latino household, depression is not real. Why would I be sad? I have a roof over my head, I am fine. But I wasn't. Because I was taught to hold in all my emotions, that is what made them finally explode.

I am learning a lot about myself through therapy. I have learned that it’s okay to not be okay, and that my emotions matter. I’ve learned to love myself and take care of me first. I am in control of everything: my thoughts, emotions, and actions. This is my life.

I was so stuck in the past and worried about the future at the same time, but now I’m living in the present. Because of this, I’ve been able to keep my grades up and focus on school, learn how to drive, and work at my first job.

My growth is affecting the people around me too. My mom never used to ask me how I was doing but now she’s trying. We’re growing together. In the past, I struggled in my relationships with family and friends because of my depression. I was putting in so much effort to make everyone else happy, when I wasn’t even happy.

By loving myself, I am able to love my family and friends more. I’m also able to do more for my community. I want to bring more mental health awareness to Latino communities and break this stigma. Community service—getting involved and giving back to others—is something I love doing and plan to continue doing when I go to college.

Looking back, I am so proud of the person I am now and look forward to the person I’ll become. I am kind, loving, understanding. I want to change the world and help others. I will go to college and succeed, be the first in my family to graduate, and create a life that will make my family proud.