Life in Laguna Beach came and went with the tides. Over the course of a decade, confusion and anxiety ebbed out to sea, soon to be replaced by curiosity and zeal. The final four years showed me what I was made of deep down, but I never felt that I embodied that.

You see, I had a vision for myself. I wanted to be a positive light in the lives of others. I wanted to beam confident empathy. I wanted to be driven by my pursuit of knowledge and countless perspectives, not limited by the image I created for myself in my community. Early on, insecurities and introvert tendencies casted a shell around me, which, at the time, served as a necessary protective layer. But just as my inward ambition began to swell, the solidarity of these walls didn't budge, and pressure began to build. I felt this potential, this desire to be something better, something greater, but breaking out of that shell just wasn't going to happen.
Going into my senior year, I joined cross country. That soon became a community I knew I'd cherish for the rest of my life. As trust in these people grew, my shell began to wear thin. Cracks in my ceramic case formed, allowing tendrils of light to seep out. I must admit, the goodbyes with these friends were rough. I spent time thinking about what this ending meant to me, and I feared that it would be paralleled by the resolidifying of my shell.
But those fears were short lived. I looked at this challenging year to come, and I saw only one way through it: I needed to take charge. I needed to approach this new community with nothing short of my authentic self. I saw this as an opportunity to fulfill that vision of who I wanted to be, not who I had always been.
When I arrived at Global Launch week at Stanford, I was greeted by 147 kids who wanted to make a difference on this planet, too. Inspired by the bright, courageous, yet equally terrified fellows who surrounded me, I put my best self forward. Learning the power in vulnerability, I left my shell far behind.
For the first time in too long, I feel like I am exactly where I need to be. And, bit by bit, I'm discovering who I need to be. Throughout the coming months, I am eager to face my challenges with newfound confidence, immerse myself in my new Ecuadorian community, learn how I can address inequality with empathy, practice better self care, improve my Spanish, and develop lasting friendships with future change-makers.
I'd like to thank my family for the boundless love, support, and encouragement as I embark on this new journey; I'm only here because of them.