By Lorriane Andrickson

Acting, an adjective, temporarily doing the duties of another person. The media has always been fixated on Timothee Chalamet’s new love interest or what new role Scarlett Johansson is going to steal from more deserving actors. It’s rarely ever about the craft anymore. Movies depicting the same worn out plots continue to fill minds without ever really highlighting current events and issues in society. Acting as anyone in the world makes me hate myself a little less, gladly escaping my reality for a couple hours a day. In those hours, I can feel what it’s like to be someone else. I can be admired in my body, yet praised as someone outside of myself.

Being a Bisexual Latina in a Dominican traditional household is extremely difficult. Not receiving any support from my “parental figures” adds to the self-deprecation and hate. The day I came out is the day I will never forget, as it’s forever etched in my brain as the day I officially became independent. I was forced out of the closet, unprepared and mortified, I was numb. There were so many emotions coursing through my veins yet absolutely nothing came out of my mouth. My grandmother, the only mother I’ve ever really had, the one person I never wanted to disappoint or lose, ended up being the big person I lost. At the time, I was in a loving, or so I thought, relationship with someone who I believed cared for me exactly how I cared about them. I offered myself up to this person and gave them every piece of fight I had in me. Similar to how Leonardo DiCaprio had never won an Oscar, I had never truly felt valued and cared for. This past relationship provided me the strength I needed to get through the harsh realities of my home life, yet began eating me alive every chance it got. I had gotten home with my partner after a long day of school and decided to watch a movie with them, but things turned sour too quickly. Acting as a couple does, we were very close to each other. Simple intimacy was something that was somewhat foreign to us, seeing as we had to keep everything between us under wraps. Evidently, none of us had heard my grandma’s footsteps as she walked. Silence, only breathing could be heard. Getting up slowly, my partner and I felt so shameful over what had previously happened. I walked my partner to the train station, trying to brace myself for impact with every single step I took.

When I arrived back home, I was treated to nothing but a dirty look and an even dirtier tone of voice (a tone that still haunts me to this day). This voice rang throughout my body like the gong in Mulan when Mushu was waking up all of the Fa ancestors. I couldn’t properly articulate words. I began explaining to my grandma my sexuality and how I felt about my partner, only to be met with stubbornness and deceit. I had been sold the promise that my “parental figure” would always be there to pick me up whenever I fell down, but she let me fall. My room was empty that night, I physically couldn’t stay in that toxic household. I was drowning in my own emotions so I decided, “Why not become a completely different person?”

Acting has influenced my life in many different ways, but not like how it did when I came out. I became a whole different human being. This new entity never let her emotions get to her nor did she let others see her downfall. The new girl had the fakest smile, the most glossy eyes, and the seemingly perfect coping mechanisms that anyone had ever seen. I put on a mask and hid behind it for so long. That mask became my only relief, seeing as though my relationship had gone south. I ended up being all alone, seeking to pick up all of the shattered pieces left behind by all of them. When acting like someone new, I get to hide behind empty facades and false identities in order to find some sort of relief to the cold reality of coming out to a strict grandmother. I’ve had to act like not having a mom doesn’t hurt, seeing as though mental illness plays a huge role in her absence. Or how not having contact with any of my father’s side of the family doesn’t sting a little, while everyone else seems to have both parents. My estranged mother has been an absent figure in my life, not to mention my father has recently started making his way back into my life. I’ve lost my siblings over the years, constantly being faced with watching them leave one at a time. My youngest sister is in the foster care system, making it impossible to see her. I’ve been pulled in so many different directions throughout my years on this Earth. Every single pull is nothing I haven’t felt before. The escalation of pain is the only thing increasing. I guess you could say, I lost everything in order to gain more.

Overall, I’ve lost a lot. Similar to how Jordan Belfort lost everything in the movie The Wolf of Wall Street, everything I ever held dear to me left my grasp at the slight of a hand. My life is full of tragedies, yet I chose to continue hiding behind a mask. The same mask I wore when my biological mother left my life, when my grandmother shunned me out, when my older siblings practically abandoned me, and when my own inner demons decided to dance around in glee whenever I felt like exiting this world. The new character that infiltrates my body has all the chances to feel such a range of emotions, something that I myself have limited myself to feeling. Perhaps if I stopped allowing myself to fall into these pits of despair and weakness, I’ll truly be able to remove this mask.

Lorraine Andrickson is a Latina-American writer from Manhattan, New York. She enjoys sharing her experiences and giving advice in hopes of helping and supporting others. In her spare time, she enjoys theatre arts, discussing social justice, and analyzing films.

“You Are Not Alone” was published in All I Have to Say, a collection of original memoirs written by juniors at the High School of Fashion Industries. Help support the unique voices of our young authors by sharing their stories and ! To receive notices about opportunities for your child, for our youth writing opportunities newsletter.