Personal Essay: Angelica Diaz ’19

Writing Prompt: Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.​

My mother was 15 years old when I was born.

My father has been in prison since my first birthday. He is not coming home.

When I was younger, I would go on the long drive with my father’s family to visit him. At first, I enjoyed the two hour long rides; they were adventures. Soon enough, however, those two hours began to feel like two years—I did not want to see him anymore. I did not want to deal with the awkwardness of pretending to be a family and ignoring the fact that he had killed another human being. He was the hero in their stories, but from my mother’s tears, I knew soon enough he was much less than the courageous hero they made him out to be.

My father’s family could not accept that I wanted to be as far away from their world of ignorance and verbal abuse as possible. I put up walls to keep them out. It seemed everyone did what they thought was best for me, but never once did they ask how I felt. Eventually, I decided I did not want to exhaust myself trying to care for my identity against their expectations. I closed myself off from the world in order to save myself from drowning in the confusion, manipulation, and emotional drama I battled every day.

Over time, this became too difficult. The mental torture of feeling lost in my own mind was worse than what awaited outside of the walls. This past September, I faced one of the tallest and widest walls: my name. For nearly 17 years, I lived with my father’s name—“Reyes.” I was Angellica Reyes. I am now Angellica Diaz. More aware of my past and the realities of my life, I chose to sever off the only connection to my father I had left, his name. I was now the “villain” of his family’s stories. Yet, I believed this action would finally release me from my walls because it would erase my past. I wanted to forget that I had wasted 17 years shutting myself away. All my life I had believed I found strength in silence and reservation. Now, I am deeply ashamed that it took me 17 years to realize vulnerability is the truest measure of our strength and character.

I regret my silence.

I understand now that a name can not fix the void I have created for myself. I know these walls will hold me for years to come, but today I acknowledge that I will always be a product of the past. What matters is I am still searching for that place that exists free from the walls. Today, I do not allow spite or hate to faze me or my visions for the world. I am grounded and balanced. From living in the shadow of ignorance I am now driven to change the lives of others, to inspire with peace and compassion. I am fighting hunger and food waste in my community, I will soon start teaching yoga classes to underprivileged children, and I hope to start a healthy lifestyle education program at my local youth center.

My confidence stems from the understanding that as an active agent, the world I envision is the world that will be. I am still breaking through a world blocked behind walls but no longer do I wait for the world to change. Every day I challenge my family’s categorization of my place in the world.

Today, I will not wait for anyone’s approval. I am not coming home.