When I opened my laptop, I saw those faded words popup at me. I had written them on the space in front of the keyboard during my senior year of college, when I was going through a rough time. I’ve seen them since then when I’ve popped out my computer, but tonight they really resonate with me.
Maybe because it’s another rough time.
I cried on Saturday, when I saw my first class graduate. I am so incredibly proud of them and what they’ve done in the time that I have spent with them. Every single student was accepted into at least one college, and they all have plans about what they are going to do after high school. Nothing makes me happier than knowing that they are planning for their futures.
Sr. Jeanne asked us to think about three questions as we prepared to do a session of FaceTime with her this weekend. Most of the questions I had thought about, but was unsure of how to answer when we had her on the phone. Some of the questions I wasn’t even sure I wanted to answer while I was sitting there with the rest of my community. But, they are all good questions and all deserve to be answered.
What have you learned during this year that you would like to continue to incorporate into your life?
I have learned that what I do matters. The education world is much harder to navigate than I originally thought. Bu, I can do it. I am smart enough and I am strong enough. There are a lot of people out there that bash educators, and I have not been immune to those insults. People online can be incredibly harsh, but I have also realized that my self-worth is not tied up in what other people think. I learned so many things about myself this year, and one of the most important things I have learned other than my profession, is that I am important. I matter.
There have been some times this year where I haven’t felt that. There have been some people that have tried to make feel like I am not important, but I am. And, I will always take that with me no matter where I go or what I do.
What gifts has this experience and the reservation given to you?
I saw my 25 seniors graduate this weekend. I taught them, and now they are precious young adults who are going to go out and start the rest of their lives. There are many beautiful memories from this year, but having one of my kids hug the breath out of me and whisper “thank you” has forever and completely altered my view on gifts. I will always remember them as my first kids, even when they are gone and grown up.
Another gift is patience. Things do not work out in a linear fashion out here. If you are inflexible, you will have a difficult time. I have learned that sometimes you need to disregard the plans and go with the flow. Sometimes, when that happens, things work out so much better than you ever could have imagined.
What gifts do you believe you have given to the Navajo people?
I gave everything I could to the people I lived with this year. I don’t know if I would say I gave them any gifts, but I tried my hardest to be in the moment with them. I tried to learn about their culture, and respect their traditions, and I believe I did my best. I treated them with respect, and didn’t walk around with an air of superiority because I am white and educated. I made friends, who became like family to me. My gift is simply that I tried to make the most of my time out here and didn’t take for granted the experiences I had this past year.
Today marks a year since I graduated from college, and some days it still doesn’t feel like it’s real. The reality is that I am sitting in one of the few spots that has internet on the Reservation to work on one of my graduate classes. I know that I keep speaking in amazement about how far I have come in a year, but it still honestly surprises me sometimes.
When I look down at those words, “Love Conquers All”, I think about how far I’ve come and how much farther I still have to go. Although it is breaking my heart to leave the Reservation, I also know that I am ready to take the next step. I am ready to pack up and move to the East Coast again, because I know that part of me will always be on the Navajo Nation.
When I see those words, I think of the inherent good most people possess even if their actions do not show it. I see those words and remind myself to love myself because I am worth it and I will always be worth it.
Love conquers all because it doesn’t divide, it multiples, and spreads in a never ending wave.