Photography by Janese Hockman Photography
Meet Rachel. She is Beauty Revived.
My middle name is Grace. A name given to me by my mother with hopes I would instill the trait’s true meaning throughout my life. By the time I would turn eighteen I would have faced three life altering challenges: domestic violence, a life debilitating illness, and my father’s passing. While displaying grace throughout these experiences I have turned grief into a passion for improvement which has greatly benefited myself and others.
My youth could have, should have most likely, given the circumstances, driven me to self destruction. However, instead of allowing such pain to find a foothold in my life, I decided to be my own advocate, so I founded and became the president of a high school club called Love Is Not Abuse. It was created in efforts to educate young people on the warning signs of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV). We offer resources for victims, and volunteer at the local women’s shelter. Last year, Love Is Not Abuse raised over $1000 so that we could fly in IPV survivor Summer Jessee. After planning and designating a classroom designed for no more than 100 people, we were surprised to learn that we eventually crammed in well over 200 students and staff who wanted to come listen, and learn from our speaker. We all gained valuable information and facts about the growing epidemic of IPV. We were overwhelmed by the response received through compliments and testimonials from students, staff, and members of the community with gratitude for the club and the opportunity to learn about a topic that is so often dubbed as taboo. My hope and dream is that I can continue to do my part to end the cycle of IPV and make an impact on the world through those I reach.
On March 11, 2014, I came home from school not feeling well but thought nothing of it, little did we know that I was falling victim to a life long illness. For the first nine months the idea that I could be terminally ill was more than I could imagine. However, every doctor I saw believed that I wasn’t actually sick with a disease, but just a depressed teenager who needed anti-depressants. This wasn’t normal. I had constant headaches, migraines, nausea, debilitating fatigue, and brain fog for days, weeks, and months on end. Following months of misdiagnosis and painful medical tests, Stanford Hospital finally diagnosed me with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS). I spent my entire freshman and sophomore year on Home Hospital Instruction, only finally gaining enough strength to return back to school my junior year. The outcome and likelihood of becoming bed-bound for the rest of my life forced me to dig a little deeper within myself, finding that strength I had to have in order to find peace in this next challenge of my life. Although I feel pain in every moment of every day I manage to attend school regularly, earn high grades in honors and AP classes, and work part time in a demanding environment. I’m now impassioned to become a neurologist or cardiologist to improve the treatment for this and similar illnesses especially since I can empathize on a level many cannot.
They say, we are only one phone call from our knees. Amidst battling my illness, I received that gut kicking, knee dropping phone call from the man I presumed dead to me, as we fled for our lives, leaving my mother, sister, and myself struggling to find safety, financial stability, and care. This man, our abuser, my living nightmare, also known as my biological father, called to let us know he only had moments to live. Because of government protection programs we were in, my father had no contact with us for seven years, however, he was granted permission to contact me from his deathbed. This would be the last time I would ever speak to the person who was supposed to be my “daddy”. All suppressed hopes of him returning as the father I could only hope for had been torn down and ripped away all in a single moment. We exchanged the first “I love you” in seven years, and the last “I love you” we would ever have in this lifetime during a this single conversation. He tragically passed while on that very phone call with me.
I know I’ll continue to face many challenges in my life, but I am confident in my strength and abilities to face any situation. I believe I will continue to grow with enlightenment and poise into the intelligent woman that I am meant to me. Grace is more than just a name, it is the definition of my character and my whole existence. It is who I am and who I will continue to be.
About the Photographer
Janese Hockman is a wife and mother of 3 who enjoys the outdoors, and the occasional TV series binge. She is also a portrait photographer who specializes in High School Senior Portraiture on the sunny central coast of California.