Raquel was by far one of the most interesting interviews I’ve conducted. She is polite, generous, and extremely hilarious. On top of everything Raquel has an extremely dark past and has endured so much in her lifetime already. Despite all of the storms that she has had to walk through, she still smiles and has a positive attitude and outlook on life. This was one of the hardest interviews to write out because her story goes in all different directions which was unique, but it made it that much more inspiring. Her story was a joy to listen to, and I hope it’s a joy for you as well.
Leland: Tell me about your background, where did you grow up? Were your parents in the picture?
Raquel: My parents divorced when I was five so I lived in Lakeville Illinois for a while and then my mom kept moving around from place to place every year and we finally settled in Wisconsin for middle school. I was with my mom, but I saw my dad every other weekend. I went to high school there until my junior year, then I moved to Chicago and lived with my dad because I got accepted into a magnet program for theater at Nicholas Senn high school.
Leland: I know your parents split, but would you say your childhood was a good experience? What was your view on the world during that time? Any traumatic experiences?
Raquel: When I was little I knew for sure that my parents needed to be separated. I could understand why, but at the same time, it hurt me inside because I love both of them however my mom was a pretty big hoarder so I never really got the best grades in school while I was living with her. So I really petitioned to live with my dad for the beginning of high school until college. Overall I was a pretty happy kid, it sucked to leave everyone after year because of all the moving, but besides that, I would say that I made a lot of friends.
Leland: What would you say were the first few down points in your life?
Raquel: I had a few down points I guess you could say. The first real down point was this court case that happened between my family. So I kept trying to bring up to my mom that I wanted to go to Chicago because I would become a better student, I would get to live with my dad, I could get my grades up, and I would be able to figure out college. I really needed to be there because at the time my grades were really poor in school. My worst really came out around my mom, and I knew that she has been getting child support for a very long time, lots of money so I definitely think that’s a reason why she didn’t want me to leave her all of a sudden. I was super passionate about wanting to stay with my dad and she didn’t like that at all. We would fight alot, I even remember at one point I had called the police because her boyfriend of 7 years had pushed me and I thought “This is it! This is when I’m gonna move, this is when I’m finally going to live with my dad.” Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and the cops just watched my dreams of getting into a magnet school that I eventually ended up going to, vanish. When the court case had happened, that story was brought up but the judge had disregarded it and didn’t pay much attention to it. The whole thing was so nerve-racking because it was my mom against my dad and I was having all these mixed emotions. It was high school my hormones were wacky, and I just felt like dying my anxiety was through the roof. My grandfather had passed away at the same time. I was cutting class every day and acquired suicidal thoughts. I go into the court case and I remember having to answer the question “What if you fail in Chicago?” I replied “Well, I have to learn from my mistakes somehow” because it’s okay to fail. I remember my dad telling me that the judge nodded his head in approval and after that, I had left the room. Eventually, my dad had won the court case and I got to live with him. It was such a liberating feeling, I felt like I could start new.
Leland: Would you say that the court case was the rock bottom of your story? Did life get better from there?
Raquel: I thought it was, at that point in time. For a while, things got a lot better, and I was living in a nice apartment and my Dad and stepmother really motivated me. For a little bit my suicidal thoughts, self-harm, depression, etc. had subsided but they were still faintly there. I had auditioned for a Theater Club/Ensemble at my school and got in which was a pretty cool thing because I was this total outsider, new fish type of person. I was so nervous to make friends and didn’t really know who to trust at the time, but I ended up making a few which was really nice. My friends from my other high school had stopped talking to me completely which was kind of a bummer, but luckily I still had a boyfriend who I got to see from that school and I got to see him every other weekend which was nice.
Leland: When did you realize you were successful with taking back your life? Obviously, we all get depressed and anxious on a regular basis, but when did you reach a point where you weren’t constantly struggling with those things?
Raquel: I feel like it happened very recently, it probably happened this past summer because it got so much worse after all that I’ve told you. The classes I was taking were great, and I had great experiences, but I had dreadful downs. I was raped twice by someone in the ensemble, at the same time one of my best friends that I was talking to since elementary school had completely disappeared during that time. Honestly, it was at this point where I felt even lower than I did during the court case because everything was going downhill. I hated myself, I didn’t want anything to do with me, I didn’t want to be who I was. There were points in time where I was in my bedroom in my lovely high-rise apartment and I would pull down the window, and screen and I would look down at this huge drop to the bottom and I always thought about jumping. I also thought about chugging all these pills of Tylenol and wanting to just end up in a lot of pain and possibly dead in the hospital. Luckily I found out a few months later that it would never work and it would just give you a really bad stomach ache (laughs). A few days after I had thought about overdosing like that, my parents had some sort of idea about it and ended up hiding the pill bottles.
Leland: So really what would you say was the worst point in your story?
Raquel: I would have to say last semester. There was a bunch of boyfriend drama, and a lot of it was happening around the time that I was raped and considering suicide. After this, I was with a guy at the time who had a super manipulative personality. He was actually really smart, he was into memes, and for some reason the Soviet Union, and he was a big weed smoker. He was actually the first person I thought of being with seriously, and we were considering getting a place together, and we were going to get a dog together, etc. Eventually, we spontaneously thought that we should go on a vacation and he and I rented a cabin, looked at waterfalls, plants, etc. He was a great cook, and super funny, and he just had it all. Even though I had a great time with him, in the back of my head I still had feelings for another guy. I tried to break off my relationship with the guy I was with and he would refuse to break it off. Unfortunately, I ended up cheating on him. That semester was just a really confusing experience. I ended up seeing someone else and we formed a comedy duo, and overall it was great. This previous spring semester came around the corner and it just turned out to be trash. I wasn’t doing well in any of my classes, and really in any of the things that I loved. I just kind of lost myself overall, and I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. I had a job at the time, and unfortunately, I was taken advantage of and raped there as well which forced me to quit my job.
Leland: What do you think led up to your rape? How did they escalate?
Raquel: I was really happy with the job I had at the time, I was getting a raise, and I was doing a lot of great things for this company, but in the end, I had to quit. My manager just got really touchy, and feely. I remember I asked him out of curiosity one day “Do you want to have sex with me?” Not because I wanted to, I just wanted to know what was up. He said yes and that was an extremely terrifying moment.
Leland: If you were to talk to a girl right now who is a recent victim of rape, what would you say to them?
Raquel: I feel like it definitely wouldn’t cut it to say something like “I’m sorry.” Honestly, no matter what they should know that, that moment does not define them. For me, it really changed my view on people, and it’s just hard. I want to be there for someone and just let them know that I can relate and that I’m there for them to talk to because I know that it sucks. I would also tell them to go get medical help as well. I still have some sort of PTSD from those situations especially from the job that I was working. Also, something that I would probably tell them is to consider an emotional service pet like a cat. Cats are cute and they keep your mind off of things. Yet overall it’s all about understanding and making the most out of whats inside your heart.
Leland: If you could go back knowing all that you know now to the day before the court case and could talk to yourself, what would you say?
Raquel: I’d tell myself a bunch of relationship stuff. For some reason that was the one thing that kept me going in my lizard brain with my hormones raging. I’d just want to say “Everythings going to be cool, you’re going to do some cool stuff.” I probably wouldn’t mention that I went to Japan because I feel like I would be too excited. I definitely wouldn’t tell myself what I was going to say in court because then it wouldn’t be as sincere. No matter what, if I didn’t tell myself “Don’t make these certain mistakes” then how would I learn? Also, I’d have to tell myself “You’re way too nice to people” you cant let people take advantage of you all the time even though it’s nice to be nice to people. You have to learn to keep your boundaries, cause if not it will end up hurting you. Don’t be afraid to put your ideas into motion because there is no proper way to start. Just keep going.
Leland: Would you do anything different?
Raquel: I think there are certain boys that I wouldn’t date, also I’d try to convince myself not to take up smoking (laughs).
Leland: Why is your life worth living now?
Raquel: This web series that I am working on, I get to help peoples dreams come true. I’ve always felt great about that. I’m living by myself now and it’s so extremely liberating and awesome. Love, of course, the guy I am with currently named William is absolutely perfect I just wish he’d come to Chicago. I don’t know what I’m going to end up doing, but if I end it now then I could be missing out on a million things. Including the next doctor in doctor who, or a new flavor in soda. Even little things like that, I mean I’d be missing out on the sunset which I absolutely adore. I’d be missing out on the Beatles or at least half of them, I would just be missing out on a lot of stuff.
Leland: What is Raquel’s purpose here on earth?
Raquel: My purpose is just making the most out of the now because nobody knows what’s going to happen next. I just care a lot about people and I care about things, I definitely see that I’m optimistic about something. I just want to make other people smile because I know what it’s like to be alone. I just want to keep going because if you don’t, then you don’t know what will happen next.
The irony of this story is that Raquel is a Comedy major at Columbia College Chicago. Overall Raquel was great! Whenever I read this I can’t help but think about how much she has been through in her life, and how she has taken all that pain and used it to create something that lifts up other people. Please keep her in your thoughts, wishes, and prayers as she continues pursuing a career in comedy. Thank you once again, Raquel, for letting me listen to your story. Your story is a prime of example that hope is real, and that all storms come to a pass.
“Happiness can be found even in the darkest times if one only remembers to turn on the light.” – J.K. Rowling