Finding Some Walking Ground: How Texas State Has Become My Home

As many find home in an environment where they’re surrounded by family, others may find home in a place entirely different in that aspect. As I have experienced my first semester at college, away from home, I have come to discover that I consider this newfound place more of a home than I have ever any other physical and spiritual place in my life. I was worried how I would transition to life on my own both as a college student and an adolescent coming from a broken home. Many others worries held by those in similar situations to mine weren’t an uncommon occurrence either. In a study published by online research journal Questia, 150 participants who dealt with turbulent situations at home were examined to find out if a child could still be academically successful even if coming from a potentially toxic environment. Many displayed the same concerns I did, although most also conveyed a desire to succeed and leave behind the struggles they once faced (Alika, and Ogboro Samson Edosa, Relationship between Broken Homes and Academic Achievement of Secondary School Students in Oredo Local Government Area of Edo State, Nigeria). For all of my life, my family has dealt with many negative, self-destructive habits that have ruled over my home and caused much misfortune in my life growing up. Both of my parents have struggled with alcoholism for nearly all of their lives. My father inherited the habit from his father, who passed away from complications due to the disease when my father was around ten, while my mother turned to alcohol to numb the pain she felt after experiencing tragedies throughout her early years of life. While there were some moments of sobriety throughout my childhood, many of the memories collected throughout the years were focused on the struggles I tried to handle because of my parents’ disease. Because of this, I was faced with many trials and tribulations throughout my life involving relocation, sometimes more than twice a year, many moments of possible removal from my home because of my parents’ negligence, and many nights of wondering whether I would be able to go to school the next morning if my parents were too drunk to drive me there. I don’t think I ever considered my life at home to be an actual home for me. Because of the drug abuse, emotional abuse felt by my sister, my mother, and I, and physical abuse my father brought on my mother, I never thought of that environment to ever be my true home. I found home in everything but home, practically. This is especially important for those who come from broken homes to do so to ensure their mental health growing up is not affected. In an articled published by Daily Mail, a recent study conducted by the University College London found that 6.6 percent of children living with both biological parents in a broken household are three times more likely to suffer from mental health issues than those who do not. The percentage is even higher for those with single parents and those living with stepfamilies, 15 percent for the former and 18.1 percent for the latter (Calderwood, Children from broken homes are ‘three times more likely to suffer from mental health problems’). That is why it is so vital for those who are experiencing such troublesome lives at home to be able to at least escape it with other matters, even if for just a moment in the day. This was especially true for me with the friendships I formed throughout my years before college. Many would think that this would be rather difficult considering I moved more than most throughout my life, fifteen times to be exact, when meeting new people and making new friends was actually something I didn’t have to worry about. This was because I did not feel much of a personal connection with both home and my family. I found home with the personal connections I formed with many of the friends I made throughout my life. Although this was not a worry moving away from home and coming to college, I was mostly worried about finally ridding the negativity and neglect I had to deal with for eighteen years and transition to living for myself and finding my own ground to walk on without bearing such weight on my shoulders. I was worried about the process of finding myself apart from my broken life at home. After arriving on campus and being here for nearly an entire semester, I have come to discover that holding on to this worry was absolutely useless. Although I am not from San Marcos and held no personal connection with the city before coming to college here, I have found that both San Marcos and Texas State University have become my first official home. After meeting so many other people and forming such personal and meaningful relationships with both other students and faculty alike, I have seen the love and care displayed by many that I was never able to find in my family most of the time. Not only this, but I have also been able to stand on my own two feet and discover myself and also discover how desperately I have wanted to break out of the constrictions home placed on me and rid everything that has been causing me so much pain for years up until now. I was able to see the holes in my home life and decided to leave behind every single thing I had felt up until then. I wanted to grow and experience a life I was never able to have, and to do so I had to forgive, forget, and, most importantly, let go. I was ready to do and discovered my first prolonged period of happiness shortly thereafter. Throughout this essay, I hope to display both my life before college and during college, comparing and differentiating the two, and present the transition I was forced, albeit thankfully so, to make to leave my past behind me. Some pictures are presented in black and white to convey a message of intensity and possible sorrow experienced at the time the photo was taken, while others are more vibrant and colorful to represent the happiness I was able to obtain after the many struggles I have faced. Overall, I hope the viewer understands the overall message I plan to convey through photography and depictions of both lives I want to present. While I understand not everyone will be able to relate to my circumstances, I would like to be able to allow everyone reading this piece to come to mutual understanding of what is being said in this essay.

I have decided to include a picture of me and my family during my early months of life as the opener to this photo essay. This photo was taken around late summer/early fall of 1998. Shown in the picture are my mother, sister, and I which is meant to depict how although my father was still present in my life at this time, both his mental and emotional health were quickly deteriorating due to a relapse dealing with his alcoholism which caused him to often unintentionally split our home life and our family apart.
Following on much of what was said in the first photo’s caption, my family was often torn from prolonged instances of emotional turmoil due to both of my parents’ struggle with alcoholism. I chose to include this photo in black and white to depict the intensity of the situation and just how grim all of my family’s lives had become because of addiction. This often lead to many harmful situations regarding emotional and physical abuse targeted towards my mother which was brought on by my father. Me and my sister also faced possible removal from our home many times throughout my upbringing, most often happening in the span of one to two years shortly after my father had passed away in the hands of his disease. This photo accurately depicts the brokenness my family and I often experienced due to disease (Bugalho, “Broken Beer Bottle”).
As addiction began to take its toll on my family emotionally, it also began to cause financial disputes amongst the household. As my father began to drink heavily on weeknights, he would oftentimes show up to his workplace intoxicated. Although he was not fired from his job, a decrease in pay and less hours in the office ultimately lead my family to downsize both in size and price throughout my entire upbringing. This photo depicts a “House For Rent” sign which was almost accustomed throughout my childhood. According to the census bureau, on national average, an eighteen-year-old will move an expected two times in their life (Chalabi, How Many Times Does The Average Person Move?). As I have moved fifteen times throughout my life, my most recent taking place two weeks before packing up and moving again for college, I was never able to experience what it was like to grow up in a permanent setting (
As my home life continued to be turbulent even after my father’s death, I always felt as if I was at a constant dead end. Always feeling both lost and confused on how to feel and what to think after losing my father to addiction and having to step in to become the parent as my mother struggled with her own battles as well, I did not know what was to come of my life from this point on. Emotionally, I felt drained. I felt stuck. This photo depicts that very lengthy period in my life in which I ultimately felt entirely stuck in life in every way possible. As I matured throughout both middle school and high school, I was able to find solace in both friends and teachers alike, but I truly felt I was not able to fully move on from my past until I was able to release myself from the unhealthy environment of home.
As I spent my last few years at home pondering on whether or not I should move away for college or stay home and commute to school once completing my high school education, I oftentimes would wonder which option would be best for me. After dealing with abuse in more ways than one for nearly all of my life, I wanted to bury the hatchet with the ongoing battle I had towards my home life and leave, but I worried what may or may not happen to my family if I did so. I often worried if I would come home from college and find my mother dead in the hands of her disease, much like my father’s demise. I soon realized I should not and could not restrict myself from what I wanted and restrain myself in an environment I did not want to be in. This photo depicts the crossroad I found myself facing more than once throughout my life, but especially before choosing a college to attend. Ultimately, I decided to go down the path that would eventually lead me to where I am now (
Although I was initially both scared and nervous to move away from home and come to college, I soon discovered that I was able to find home here. I decided to include a photo of my residence hall, The Tower Hall, because of my want to reside her since visiting Texas State’s campus back in April of this year. I absolutely fell in love with both the community and the hall itself and decided I wanted to live here. This photo displays what I view is home. Visiting the campus and touring my future residence hall was one of the first times in my life where I experienced the feeling of finding a home.
After moving in to my new home, I soon realized how much exactly I felt such a strong personal connection with the new environment I had allowed myself to settle in without any doubts or worries. This photo perfectly displays home to me, as the lights in the room are dimly lit as the slight natural lighting of a gloomy day beautifully creep into the room; I feel at home. Although the space may not be very big and I am (delightfully) sharing the space with another person, whose side is exactly behind this camera, I am able to call this temporary place a home in which its memory and settings will always remain permanent in my life.
I decided to include this picture in my photo essay because of the strong connection I felt when first coming across this mural. Not only did I appreciate it for the abstract beauty presented, but also because I felt I was never able to associate something even as simple as a zip code with the identity of home. As I moved so much in my life, I was never able to look back and know that I could easily represent a physical environment to call my own for longer than a few years at a time. As I will be able to stick around San Marcos for at least four years, one of the longest periods of time I’ve ever stayed in one place, I feel a personal connection to the city and everything it has to offer. This photo perfectly depicts the exact message I want to convey in this photo essay.
Another place that I was able to find home in was an area in the center of campus called the Quad. As many of my classes are held in academic buildings surround the Quad, I find myself passing through this area quite a lot throughout the day. I remember walking through the area on my way to class on my very first day of classes, wondering what the many faces that passed me were thinking of me, if they were at all; however, I remember a very slight and fleeting thought had crossed my mind. I remember feeling complete peace in a large crowd. I always thought coming from a troublesome home life filled with both emotional and domestic abuse that I would be on the more reserved side, oftentimes scared of what others may think of me because of my past, but I always knew I was wrong. I just never allowed myself to believe in that part of me, the part of me that knew I had always been wrong, because I held onto the bearing weights of my past on my shoulders for years. I didn’t realize the pressure I would be faced with when encountering these emotions in college. As I feel it was much easier to hide in high school, I didn’t want to have to face what I had been feeling since I realized the extent of my situation at home. I finally realized once putting thought into this assignment and taking this photo, I had let go of those thoughts and stopped carrying around the emotional baggage my home life had brought upon me that day and did not even realize it.
Leading up to the very top of the Quad, you have the very well-known stallion statue. This statue is often gathering place for many peaceful protests and just students being able to freely speak their mind in this safe haven. As I have entered college in such an era of open-mindedness amongst millennials, I was also able to experience my first protest on these grounds which is why I wanted to include this photo in my essay as well. For the first time in my life, apart from home, I felt I was able to freely voice my opinion and actually be heard by those around me in a setting I considered home. As my father was not accepting of me and my sexual orientation, I felt at least general understanding and acceptance amongst others that day that I never felt in what should have been considered my safe haven. With this photo, I will never forget the first time in my life where I felt accepted into society, my home, entirely so.
As I begin to discuss the people I have met here at Texas State, I wanted to include, easily, campus’ most well-known aspects and one of the first places I got to visit before even beginning life here as a student: the San Marcos River. As I attended Texas State’s pride and tradition program called Cat Camp, I was able to make so many great connections with such amazing people more than a month before moving out to San Marcos, and many of those memories started here. As many of us prospective freshman students took a plunge in the river to commemorate the time we spent at Cat Camp and to begin anew as incoming students to Texas State, I felt entirely connected with the campus and was ready to call it home. Simple memories such as late night (or rather, early morning) trips down here at this exact spot accompanied by such amazing friends, friends that I am able to consider my family now, are just one of the many reasons why I am so grateful to be attending this university; and I am immensely excited, albeit I’m sure I will also be sad, to end this journey back at this exact spot come commencement.
Another one of the great aspects of being a freshman here at Texas State are their learning communities. Not only do studies prove that students tend to perform better both academically and socially when involved in a learning community, but they are also more likely to be more involved on campus as well (Tinto, “Learning Better Together: The Impact of Learning Communities on Student Success”). I am a part of the Journalism and Mass Communication Living-Learning Community in Tower Hall, along with nearly all of the amazing people being presented in this photo. As I have discussed the many aspects of why I consider Texas State home, I have yet to display the people involved in bringing that feeling to full force. As I have met many other students through classes and simple sightings around campus, I have found comfort in knowing I have made such personal connections with those depicted in this photo and even those who are not included here. I am able to call them family.
A photo I also wanted to include was a wall of polaroid photos taken by my friend Lucero Trevino. As we have all progressed through our first semester of college freshmen, we have all had both good and bad days. One thing I know for sure is that our takeaway will be just a handful of the memories displayed here in this photo. As I look back on these photos, I know I made the right decision leaving the environment I was subjected to for eighteen years and trading it with memories too amazing for me to even explain in such a brief captioning. This photo depicts the simplistic feelings of sheer joy and love I was able to find in those I consider family now.
As I have discussed close friends and my connection to them due in part to my living-learning community, I also wanted to include a building on campus that is very near and dear to my heart: Texas State’s very own, Old Main. As the official birthplace of the university and the building where both my major and field as a whole is housed, I fell in love with both the architecture and overall meaning this building holds to me as soon as I was able to experience it. Not to mention, one of my favorite professors, with whom I have become immensely close to, also calls this building home. I decided to include this photo because not only is it one of my favorite buildings on campus, it is also a place that I will be able to call home for the next four years.
As I stated in my previous photo, Old Main is home to one of the best professors I have ever encountered who is depicted in this photo. Her name is Dr. Laurie H. Fluker. She is an expert in the world of mass communications, holding three degrees to her name, and has been an absolute influence on me from the moment I stepped foot in her class. I have been a frequent visitor to her office since the beginning of the semester and have gotten to know her very well, as she has I. As the semester is nearing its end and I am nearly a week away from completion of her course, it is bittersweet to know that I will no longer be seeing her as often, at least in a classroom setting, that is. She is a woman of grace, poise, knowledge, and above all, love and care, as she displays such towards every student she crosses paths with. I am so immensely grateful to have met her as she has offered guidance both as an individual student, regardless of major, and as a student discovering the endless possibilities to reap in my prospective field. As a definite role model, she has left an impact on me that I will continue to hold throughout my life. This photo presents the second mother I have found at a campus I am happy to call home.
As I near the end of this essay, I wanted to include one more picture of, by far, some of the best people I have been immensely lucky to encounter in my life. From left to right, they are: Olivia Chaney, Melissa Monrroy, Alexis Easley, Savannah Olson, and Lucero Trevino. As we met and now live together through the Journalism and Mass Communication Living-Learning Community and also all attend Dr. Fluker’s course together, we have all bonded as friends and formed such a strong connection that I hope never fades. Simply put, this photo conveys family in the most simplistic form: unconditional love.
I wanted to end my essay with this captivating photo I captured of Texas State’s archway at sunset. This photo holds so much meaning to me because of the connection I hold with this area of campus specifically. Not only does my residence hall lie just beneath this walkway, but this area is one of the first few I discovered before even moving in and beginning my journey here at Texas State, and it also one of the areas in which I will end my journey here in the next four years. This photo accurately depicts the journey I have chosen to embark on and will continue to do so until I have officially made my mark here and end my journey walking off this wonderful campus with my degree in hand. As I progress through my next few years in college, this photo will always be a constant reminder of what I have set out to accomplish during my time here as a student. Not only does this convey the message of how the light at the end of the tunnel beams as I leave my past behind me, this photo also displays the light at the end of the tunnel in which my life is set to begin after leaving this wonderful home behind me and setting out knowing I will always be able to come back and continue to discover the happiness I’ve experienced here each and every time.

While I am only allowed a limited amount of time here in San Marcos and at Texas State University, I am grateful to have discovered such a remarkable place to go to school where I have met so many wonderful people, many that I consider family, and make connections with those around me. Coming from a broken home life, the transition to college was not easy, but leaving behind everything that I had been carrying around for years was one of the best decisions I could have ever made when choosing this school. Discussing the many negative situations I have faced in the past and every single positive experience I have had here at Texas State through photography has allowed a creative door to open for me that I would have never known I possessed had it not been for this assignment. I was also able to let go of a lot of the weight I had been bearing for nearly eighteen years as soon as I step foot on this magnificent campus. While discussing many of the situations in this essay proved difficult for me, I enjoyed presenting impactful and meaningful moments I have experienced both here and in the past simply because what I have experienced has shaped me into the person I am today, and I hope the reader feels a personal connection to every photo presented for this reason alone. While I understand many may not be able to relate to what I have experienced entirely, I know many will understand my essay’s overall meaning and the message conveyed throughout by the personal aspect to the meaning of the word “home” and how I have found that positive environment both in San Marcos and at Texas State University.

I wanted to include a video that was made by my immensely talented friend, Lucero Trevino, to formally end this essay. As all of the shots presented in this video were taken throughout all of our first semesters here at Texas State, it accurately depicts home not only for me, but also for those who I have been extremely lucky to call family. Thank you for following me on this journey. I hope you all enjoy!