Melissa Hernandez (23) is a radio host, talent manager, A&R Assistant and Music Programmer with diverse experience working for multiple music companies including SiriusXM, Billboard and the Grammys. She is excited to be graduating from her associate degree program In December 2022 and looking forward to a career in the music industry.
As Melissa grows, she learns things about herself that she never thought were possible. Things seems to change with each moment, and it is sometimes hard to keep up with even herself.
Describe yourself in three words.
Caring, independent and open-minded. These are more than words. These qualities represent the life experiences that have shaped my identity and have deﬁned who I am today.
How would those you love and respect you describeyou?
My friends and family describe me as a sweet, generous, independent and creative person.
What helps you feel safe and grounded?
It has been pretty difficult for me to find safety in the last few years. Until very recently, I was suicidal and felt like nobody cared. I wasn’t safe or grounded at all, and Covid made everything worse. I got to such a low point that I decided to go to rehab as a way to begin to find safety. The support I had in treatment allowed me to feel some sense of safety. I have also found music to be medicine that benefits both my mind and body and allows for some safety.
What helped you take that step to seek support when you were suicidal and in such an unsafe state?
I guess underneath all of the pain I knew there was more that I wanted to achieve in this lifetime. I wanted to go back to college and graduate. I knew deep down I didn’t deserve to lose my life at such a young age; I just knew there must be another way forward. After rehab I decided to continue studying music, which has allowed me to keep moving forward. Music continually heals my pain and offers me hope.
How do you define trauma?
Trauma is a dark and horrible place. When you’re stuck in trauma it feels like you can’t escape. The most traumatic experiences in my life were the loss of my father and grandfather. Like I know is the experience of so many others who have lost loved ones, it was incredibly difficult for me to deal with the pain and the heartbreak of death.
How has trauma contributed to your suffering?
When I was stuck in trauma I experienced flashbacks and a bunch of other horrible PTSD, Bipolar and Depression symptoms. Right after my dad died, I had a strong urge to go back in time and save him; it was really hard to accept that he was gone. My journey of trauma and grief has been like a roller coaster.
There are times when I feel more accepting of all the loss I’ve experienced now, and I can see that out of my trauma has also come tremendous growth. My suffering has allowed me an opportunity to reflect, to search for meaning and to ultimately become a better version of myself.
My dad bought me a beautiful piano right before he passed away. Playing the piano - and music in general - helps me move through my emotions; it motivates me to let out all the pain I've been through. I didn’t realize before rehab how important music is to my mental health. Music is definitely medicine for me.
Tell me more about how music has supported your healing journey.
After I got out of rehab, the first thing I did was go back to school. I studied music and immersed myself in music experiences - internships, music awards events, work as a radio host and much more. I also got to learn about the history and background of music and how to make music, which is something I’ve always wanted to do. I got a job in the field before graduating and it has been so rewarding. I just had to keep going. I like to remember and live out my dad’s words though this healing and education journey; my dad always told me, “If you love what you’re doing and you’re having fun, then keep doing it!” Just listening to music and experiencing it live has helped me through some of my greatest struggles in life. I’m also certain that music has saved my life. As I grow into the person I am becoming, my music journey grows with me. Looking back at everything now, I would never want to change a single thing.
How do you feel towards the younger version of yourself who was stuck in such huge pain and was thinking about ending her life? Is there anything you'd want to tell her?
I’d like to say,“there are going to be a lot of ups and downs in your life. People are going to criticize you. People are going to leave you. You will lose people that you love and you will experience pain, but please remember that you are brave. You are independent and you are beautiful. I want you to keep going and to never give up. You deserve happiness and love. Also, my favourite quote, “The caterpillar transforms into a butterfly. Day by day, slowly, bit by bit. Be patient. Grow. Evolve. Transform.”