Thursday, March 3, 2011

Given Chance

My life has been a blessing of many blessings. I don't believe in chance, only the opportunities God gives us to make the most with until the next one (every moment!).

The essay below was submitted, with one edit, in my transfer application to the University of Texas at Austin, the only school I applied. The university is the only real choice for me, as no other school in Texas offers a communications degree in visual journalism. I just hope they choose me.

Given Chance

Hands cuffed, swelled in pain under the weight of my mistakes. Eyes exhausted, fought tears of regret but could not hold back my joy, finally realized. After abusing drugs to the point of feeling nothing, the life I lost for years was given back with a flash of light in the mirror, a confession of what kept me from pulling over sooner from the cycle I was caught in. I was given a second chance at life; a "blessing in disguise." There was a time I didn't believe in God, and a lot changed before then to bring me to where I am now –– forever grateful.

What I naively deemed "just a phase" of using drugs, didn't end until the night I pulled out of a parking lot without my car headlights turned on. During the years before I turned 17, what began as pure exercise turned into pure experimentation that trapped me. Skateboarding has always been a form of self-expression for me, yet the gravitational force between my body and the ground moving beneath me also led to following friends down ditches to a place that, in our fragile adolescence, we unknowingly depended on for each other.

Every moment in my life has felt somewhat like a dream since then, moving so fast as if all the choices have been unconsciously made for me. Getting arrested was the catalyst in a series of events that changed the course of my life indefinitely. My parents mercifully bought detox necessary so I could work as a drummer in "The Jammin' Janitors" at Sea World. This "dream job," that was my first, ended bitter-sweetly when the show was cut, leaving me to apply as a photographer that next summer. Observing guests treasure their photos influenced me to study the craft for my senior mentorship project. I wouldn’t have received a head start in my career of choice if the one in 135 lottery balls hadn’t rolled out so I could attend Communications Arts High School. In a similar fate-like fashion that preceded every event until then, my teacher chose for me to study photojournalism, my practice of three years at San Antonio College that is now my passion and lifestyle.

I am convinced I’ll never have to "work" a day in my life. I've always loved my jobs, and always will if I'm helping people. I owe everything to my parents, and everyone that ever helped them. No matter how hard I work to achieve my goals, I know it's because they instilled character and belief in me from the beginning. My father is a home health nurse, his compassion and strong work ethic lending to my own. Two older sisters shared their gentleness, my privilege of a humble heart.There were many others, too, that offered everything they could along the way. Dusty vinyl records of The Alamo City Jazz Band and artistic photographs, objects of a life's musical talents and creative eye that I have experienced in my own, were passed down from my mom's dad, who I never had the chance to meet after a drunk driver took his life during her pregnancy. Surely, I would not be alive if my mom, the most resilient person I know, did not survive her own birth after a rare abdominal surgery that doctors told reporters the fourth morning, "was hopeless. God had a hand in its success."

It was in that moment of reflection in the backseat police car window, of finally seeing myself for who I really am, that reminded me of who I never wanted to be. Every event that followed has reinforced my belief that while changes in life occur unexpectedly, it's up to me to make the most of my future by embracing the significance of every person, place and opportunity that came before. My life as a photojournalist is just beginning. Looking back at where I came from keeps me focused on each new day, when I can be so much more.