Isabella welcomed me into her home in Olympia, WA where we talked about growing up and being a teenager.
"I took dance as a kid. My mom, my sister, and I. Every other weekend we cleaned the dance center so we could afford to dance, me and my sister, 'cause my mom couldn't pay for it, but she wanted to put us in those classes. My sister and I, we did the Nutcracker each year, we did spring recital, and we did this thing called school tours where we went to elementary schools and danced for them.
We started cleaning the dance center when I was 13. We did that for a number of years. I remember my mom would wake us up really early on a Sunday, or we would stay late after rehearsal on a Saturday, and we would clean up the whole entire center. It was two floors. We had to clean all the glass, mop and sweep all the floors, do the dishes, clean the play center, clean the sitting rooms, dust everything. People were so messy! They didn't care. So I would find myself picking up people's garbage during the day because I knew I was going to have to clean it later. My mom loves us so much. She would go to the ends of the world to give us things like that."
“I never really went through teenage rebellion. I was always really close to my mom. Until I turned 18, that was when I started to distance myself and not tell her things that I was doing. I was always close to her before that. I think it was because I was never really cool in school. No boys ever really liked me. It felt horrible! I never had male attention and stuff.
When I was 17 years old I got to this point where I started to feel like an adult. Of course, I knew everything. This guy took interest in me. I was on cloud nine. I was so excited. There was a lot happening. I was graduating and I was getting ready to go on this trip to Cambodia. So I was going to be this worldly girl. But I started distancing my mom because I didn't really know how to talk to her about relationships. You know, I felt like an adult. I could do this myself. Which was wrong. I couldn't do this myself.
I started getting semi-intimate with a boy. We weren't having sex or anything, but I was trying things out! I was kissing boys. I thought I was cool. That went on for awhile, like 6, 7 months. We never officially said we were dating or anything but our friends kind of knew that there was something happening. He was older than me. He was more experienced. He was 21, I was 17. Not that much older. But I was like ‘yeah, older guy takes interest in me, I’m hot!’ It was really great at first. He was really nice to me, and then it started to go really down hill, really quick."
He would call me bad names in front of our friends. I didn't really know how to deal with it. When growing up, my mom always said, ‘don’t let a guy treat you badly. Don't get in an abusive relationship’... and then I did. I got into an abusive relationship and I didn't know how to leave. I think what I thought at the time was that I was smart. You know. I can figure it out myself. If I was in that situation, I would leave immediately... And then I didn't.
I think your parents can tell you so much. Like, don't touch the burner on the stove. But you do it anyways. It’s a cycle. And all I can think about it is if I have kids, especially daughters, is that I am going to drill this in their brains. ‘Don't put up with that from men, be respected.’ But my mom did that to me growing up, always telling us these things. ‘Don't ever get in an abusive relationship' When I talk to her about it, she gets so upset because she couldn't prevent it. But it’s not her fault." -Isabella M.