I grew up in Caracas, Venezuela, a country that a corrupt dictatorship has controlled for the last two decades. Life there is a roller coaster of emotions. From above, Caracas is an outstanding city, with its beautiful greenery and immense mountains. Inside, it is a broken city, one of the most dangerous in the world. You can have a pretty decent life there, go to school, have your friends and family and do the things you love, but you can never escape a robbery, an assault, someone pointing a gun at you, people breaking into your house to steal your things, and perhaps worst of all, a kidnapping. The latter was written in my destiny when I was 16 years old.
It happened on a Sunday night, and it all happened pretty quickly: the call with my mom asking for all the money she could get, the exact spot where she had to drop it, and then my final release in the middle of nowhere. I still remember everything. How could I not? I remember the feeling of helplessness, I remember the "why me?" running through my head all the time and I remember crying for three hours straight until I was finally able to go home, something that didn't seem quite possible that night.
It's been six years since then, and I still have a hard time trying to put what I went through into words. I hate to talk about it, but I know I have to. I constantly tell myself that something good has to come out of such a traumatic experience. And without paying too much attention to it, I realized that it has.
The kidnapping dictated my life somehow. In fact, it’s the reason why I decided to pursue a journalism major. Writing became an escape when I needed to cry, felt lost and hurt, and felt that no one really understood me. I realized that I want to use my voice to tell stories about people who have been victims of injustices like mine, in countries so ruined like mine. Two years ago, I got a story published for the first time in a digital newspaper. I was thrilled. It was the first time I had ever felt what it’s like to be a journalist and share your words with the rest of the world. I don’t know why I didn’t see it that day, but a couple of weeks after my story got published, I realized the date coincided with the date my kidnapping happened, only four years apart.
My experience and life in Venezuela have taught me many things. Because I was forced to mature from one day to the next, I learned from a young age to have both feet firmly on the ground, to be brave, bold and humble. I don't know if I was meant to go through this, and although it left permanent scars on me, I know it made me stronger and more determined. Now, I understand the meaning of life and the importance of appreciating everything and everyone I have by my side.