Humans of LQHS: Dalanie Castanon finds self-acceptance amidst the pandemic


Photo courtesy of Dalanie Castanon; Design by Layla Freiberg

The Thursday morning air is chilly, clouds sit weightlessly in the blue sky. 16-year-old Dalanie Castanon ‘22 enters the gates of La Quinta High School, the sound of youth surrounding her. 

As she walks through the halls with her head down, thoughts rush through her head—the fastest ones wondering what others think of her. 

She shuffles past the 500-wing building until she finds herself next to a vending machine. 

“It’s cold,” she says, as she greets her friends, unaware that this would be the last time she’d meet them under that awning for over seven months.

Castanon is a junior and a Coachella Valley native. The future neonatal nurse has struggled with other peoples’ perceptions of her. Recently, however, she has found peace within her own mind, rather than obsessing over what’s going on in someone else’s. 

“Sometimes when you’re just pressured with a whole bunch of other people seeing you not just in school, but just in public, you tend to act differently,” she said. “So I feel like now I just don’t really care. And I’m just fine with being myself and I don’t really care to change for anyone.” 

Like most teenagers, Castanon often hyperfocused on others’ view of her: did she look approachable? Was she the butt of some friend groups’ jokes? 

It was around the middle of the pandemic, however, that the junior realized the only perceptions of her that matter are her own.

“I decided to start journaling about my emotions and all that helped me mentally, and not to keep everything in,” she said. “So I feel like during the middle of the pandemic, I really just took time to focus on myself, and focus mentally to see how I’m doing and how I can improve.” 

Although isolation has proven difficult for many people around Castanon’s age, and in general, she has learned to utilize the time she spends with herself. Through tools like journaling, she now better understands who she is, and who she wants to be. 

As the circumstances of the world change, so do we. Like Castanon had to learn firsthand, it’s important to never lose sight of oneself looking for validation through someone else’s lenses. 

Humans of La Quinta High School is an ongoing series featuring Blackhawk students and staff. Follow us on Instagram @humansoflqhs and Twitter @lqhawkview