Taylor Moises

My identity is very important to me. However, I don’t know what identifies me and I fight over what my identity is everyday. I’m a very self-reflective person. I’m not sure exactly when that started. I’ve always been an overthinker and in my head all the time, but throughout my time at Catalina and especially this year, I’ve been reflecting on who I am and who I want to be.

I remember first searching for my identity adamantly when I first got to Catalina. It was a new school in a new city with completely new faces. Coming from an elementary and middle school similar to Catalina’s lower school, I’d known the same people for the past 11 years. I knew where I stood with them and knew who I was. But coming to Catalina changed things. During my freshman year I completely loss touch with my middle school best friends, old classmates, and worst of all, I distanced from my cousins and their families. A lot of it was on me; Catalina takes up so much of our time. We’re here from at least 8 to 5 everyday and then homework takes up the other hours. Even though I’m not a boarder, and Monterey is only 45 minutes from Salinas, they are separate worlds and it’s hard to relate my Catalina experience to my middle school friends who stayed in salinas and I didn’t have as much free time to hang out with my cousins. And if starting high school isn’t hard enough along with losing everyone I was close to (besides my immediate family, my core), I was trying to make new friends at Catalina and create lasting relationships and make good first impressions.

From what I’ve mentioned, it probably seems like I hated my freshman year. I didn’t. I did make friends and I thought I had figured out my identity and it was nice. Though it took an adjustment period, I assimilated to Catalina culture. Freshman year I decided my identity would be where I was from– East Salinas. Sure I’ve never attended public school in my life and 85% of my time is spent in Monterey, but I live in the hood (I don’t.) “I’m not the same as these white girls from Monterey and Carmel,” I’d think. “I’m a POC, I’m different, I’m unique.” It sounds pretty bad now but when searching for self, you look for what makes you special and skin color and culture is what I first picked up on. Before Catalina, the majority of people I knew were Mexican and Filipino. It was a culture shock. Plus, it wasn’t fully one-sided. I even had a basketball coach freshman year calling Mikayla and me “Marina and Salinas.” That was my identity (or at least what I thought) for freshman/sophomore year.

Two years had passed and I thought I knew who I was. I had broken in Catalina like you do with new shoes. I had my best friends; I had my extracurriculars; I felt good about myself. But then I mark junior year as another turning point in my life, or at least in my struggle to figure out who I am. When I decided to audition for the winter play, Macbeth, instead of playing basketball, it confused my peers and muddled my “identity.” Sure switching after-school activities shouldn’t change me if I identified solely by my house’s area code, but I also identified with my extracurriculars, as we tend to do here, which, for me, had always been sports. I’d never performed on a stage before (unless you count a Christmas play when I was in 8th grade. I was just a narrator too, I didn’t even have to act). But Just like going from Salinas to Monterey shouldn’t be that drastically changing, sports and theatre are divisive and separate worlds. I spent less time with my “sports friends” because we were on different schedules, and frankly, had less in common. I became best friends with my “theater friends.” All the changes made me really rethink my identity once again.

Before, I had figured out who I wanted to be to Catalina when I was on the outskirts of the community, but now I was fully participating as an upperclassman and needed to figure out where I stood within Catalina. This identity crisis continued throughout college application season because you’re supposed to show colleges who you are, what’s your identity, with 650 words or less. How was I supposed to tell colleges who I am when I don’t even know? I started writing my essays about my identity but all I did was paint the honest picture, that I didn’t know. As I’ve said before: especially in those long, angsty times, I overthought everything.

But self reflection has been key. By continually searching actively for who I am, I’ve practiced retrospective thought. By pulling from my roots, my core, and my friends throughout this year, I’ve come to terms with not being able to pinpoint who I am. Knowing who I am, doesn’t necessarily mean identifying with labels. Labels are good for some things, but they mostly oversimplify us and put people in separate, clean-cut boxes. I, for sure, do not fit in a clean-cut box – or at least I don’t want to. I’m constantly changing, as we all are, and being here at Catalina for the past four years has forced me to recognize that and accept that. I’ve realized it’s more important to just do what I want to do and figure my whole situation out later. It also helps that I’m not the only one struggling over my identity. I cried each time I saw Moana in theaters (yes, multiple times), especially when she sings “I am Moana” ….(gets me every time, 10/10 recommend this movie). Coming of age stories, and stories of finding self, appeal to me because I’m going through that too. And while Catalina has allowed me to delve into this search, college is where I’m going to find my answers. As admission officers and deans tell us, “In high school, we learn to answer questions. College is a place to ask the questions.” And boy, do I have questions.

So all in all, my search for self may not relate to all of you but what I’ve tried to express  through this reflection is this: enjoy your time here at Catalina; take advantage of all Catalina has to offer, don’t put yourself in a box, keep moving; and it’s okay if you don’t know exactly what you want now or at the end of your senior year. College is for exploring who you are, and you/ we have so much more to experience and learn from. Keep on and fight on. 🙂

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