Photo By John Estanislau
“Who I Am Hates Who I’ve Been” by Relient K might be the perfect song to define how I feel at this point in my life. In case you’re not familiar, here’s a part of the chorus:
Stop right there, that’s exactly where I lost it.
See that line, well I never should have crossed it.
Stop right there, well I never should have said
That it’s the very moment that I wish that I could take back.
I’m sorry for the person I became.
I’m sorry that it took so long for me to change.
I’m ready to try and never become that way again
‘Cause who I am hates who I’ve been.
Who I am hates who I’ve been.
“It’s the very moment that I wish that I could take back” rings true for several moments throughout my time in LA. Since moving here in 2011, I’ve changed a lot. I’ve had my heart broken not just by boys but by friends, family, and the weight of my dreams. Maybe it’s the isolation that LA brings from being such a busy city, but reality has definitely hit harder living here than it did when I was living at home. At home no one understood what I was doing. Granted, in 2008 I looked like quite the freak walking around Modesto, CA talking to my camera. The selfie wasn’t a thing yet so people just thought I was crazy. Which I loved! LET THEM THINK I’M CRAZY! I’M A GIRL WITH A DREAM AND MY CAMERA IS THE ONE WAY TICKET TO GET THERE! I didn’t care that people at home didn’t understand what I was doing. I didn’t need their affirmation or support (although it would’ve been nice) to keep pursuing this crazy new career online. What I told myself daily back then was that my dreams weren’t for people to understand. My dreams were a beautiful thing that were born in my heart, and they come to life with every step forward I take. Someday they’d see my dream become a reality, and it wouldn’t be an “I told you so” moment. It would be something I could finally share with the world and know that what I saw every night when I closed my eyes, I could see now even when I blinked—it’d be real.
When I finally made it to LA none of that mattered. It was a new caliber of crazy and me talking to my camera was child’s play in comparison. Actually, I don’t even think being a YouTuber was in a category of crazy. I feel like Hollywood filed it under “Unknown/Ignore” in 2011. The digital turning point didn’t come until 2013, but at the time, I had won a Google contest called YouTube Next Up that gave 25 creators $35,000 to invest in their YouTube career. It was basically what YouTube Red is now, in terms of featuring creators and giving them money to make next level content. There’s something that changed in me when I won that money that I wish hadn’t. I started to care about all the people who didn’t understand what I was doing. I started to change everything about myself and how I created because I wanted them to get it. I wanted to be taken seriously. How could anyone ever take me seriously if I spent the majority of my time playing World of Warcraft and lip dubbing to my favorite songs on YouTube. The songs weren’t even my own that I was lip dubbing. They were songs I loved but did nothing for my brand because I didn’t own them. I didn’t want to become the girl who was famous for a moment because of an Owl City song. I wanted more. They needed more of me. I needed to show them that I was more—that I had more to offer and that I wasn’t a one hit wonder.
I lost weight, I started painting my nails, I got a haircut that cost more that $12, I stopped wearing hoodies all the time, I started wearing makeup, I started making meetings, and I started to play “The Game”—something I thought at the time was essential to making it in LA. A part of me felt like I was betraying who I was by making all these changes, but another part felt like this was growing up. I was investing in myself and taking pride in how I presented myself to the world. It was definitely a good thing for my self-esteem because, up until that point, I had never learned to put on makeup or dress girly. I always felt that when I tried, the whole world noticed, and if I didn’t fit the mold I would’ve have failed at being a girl or something. IDK! I’m crazy. My logic never makes sense lol. Spoiler alert, that was just an insane fear I had built up in my head and in no way could ever be true. I was also holding myself to impossibly unrealistic standards that every girl does.
For the most part these changes were good… but what changed that I wish hadn’t?
I wish I hadn’t stopped believing in myself.
I think I thought that maybe if I hit a certain milestone in subscribers or maintained a certain number of views, something in me would change. Maybe a certain brand deal would come in and affirm in me that I was enough—I was worth it. But no matter where I found success, it wasn’t enough because I started off trying to accomplish all these goals/dreams with the foundation being “I’m not enough.”
I’m in tears now thinking about how hard I’ve worked since I started my YouTube channel all those years ago and how far away I’ve gotten from the person I once was.
I started my YouTube channel because I was alone. I thought maybe I could find friends online who were like me—I found much more than that. I found a family I didn’t know I had. I found inspiration, creative freedom, and endless possibilities. I found hope for a future career that didn’t exist. I felt like a trailblazer in the wild west with every new milestone the YouTube community hit. I felt a sense of responsibility to be 100% myself and show love and joy to every person who visited my channel. I wanted to be a changing force in the world, and I had hoped that when people would subscribe to my channel they’d see that. They’d see me and maybe in their heart think they could be themselves too. I’m on a journey back to that. I’ll measure my success not by views or fluctuating algorithms, but by how proud I am of what I’ve made. I’m changing my mindset and letting go of who I used to be. This website is just the beginning, and what follows will be more of who I am now. Thank you for reading this. Thank you for supporting me. A million times over—thank you.