JT JT

Jacob

     I wish it were easy to tell our stories; share our battles, our worst pains, our most precious memories. But, fortunately, it is not.
     I am one of the lucky ones. I have two parents that love me, a bed to sleep in, a life that could live itself. I was a star athlete in middle school, and I played football freshman year, but the first season would be my last. After getting my first concussion in a game, I got my second wakeboarding the following summer. The day after the crash, I created a self-portrait with my camera in that miasma of uncertainty; I made a photo that could make someone feel. I remember how I felt today because of these self-portraits: the camera can see my subconscious in those rare moments. I figured out how to tell my story; the finest art I can provide to the world is this.
     I started a promising sophomore year unaware post-concussive syndrome was leisurely overtaking my mind. By winter, even the simplest tasks had become too hard to perform. A devilish concoction of depression and anxiety left me with no motivation; why should I keep trying if nothing makes me happy? How I was feeling, rigorous school work, friends, and family that did not seem to understand; it all made me feel even worse. I fell asleep wondering if I would ever be happy again.
     Then, on the 22nd day of February of that year, I ran away from home on what would be Texas's coldest night for years. I started driving north around eight p.m.; I watched the only movie on my computer–Silver Lining's Playbook, slept in my car on the side of the highway in a snowstorm, and made coffee on a camp stove before eating eggs, sausage, and hashbrowns with a bunch of farmers the next morning. However, my millennial mindset thought it would be a good idea to bring my phone, and my mother lured me back home with unwavering threats to call the police on me.
But the real storm hit when I got home. My father, the single soul I could still find the strength to talk to, was gone. Mimi, my grandmother, had passed away and he left while I was away. My mother, as hard as she tried, could not help me then, and instead, only made things worse. That was the first night I thought about taking my life.
As time went on, there were flares of elation. Times when I thought about how things would get better. I made another self-portrait, the one that would go on to be in a museum near work by Salvador Dali, the one that would help me win "Outstanding Photographer" in 2015. But these periods of happiness were always short lived, one way or another I got back to asking myself: what is the point to all of this? Every day I struggled to get out of bed. As I rotted away under the covers every spring morning, a permanent solution to a temporary problem began to surface again in my mind.
I remember thinking quickly in that monumental fork; the nurse's question, 'have you ever had thoughts of hurting yourself or anyone else?' bounced around in my head as I tried to come up with an answer.
     After spending a week in a psychiatric hospital, my eyes opened up; I control the light that comes through my lens, and the light that comes into my life.


     I am a self-taught photographer. I have been taking photographs for the last three years; in 2013 when I got my hands on my first DSLR is when things really started up. Freshman year I had an exhibit at Art On Elm, an emerging art festival in East Waco that brings hundreds of people together every spring to raise money for local artists, celebrate the city's beautiful art culture, and help develop poor areas. Last year, I was awarded "Outstanding Photographer" by the American Scholastic Press Association for my work in my school's bi-annual literary magazine Liquid Paper, which won first place, one which I will be a large part of when it resurfaces. My junior year I was photo editor of my school's newspaper, The Vanguard Review, for which my staff and I won the highest award of excellence achievable in UIL. This summer I embarked on a trip with National Geographic Student Expeditions to Iceland on assignment for photography. I will attend NYU in the fall.