By Kentaro Herder
I came from the top of my cohort at Monument Valley High School, on my reservation, graduating with a class of about 147 students, mostly all Navajo. Two months after, I am enrolled at the University of Arizona with 42,236 students. Let me narrow it down further, for those 42,236 students, only about 337 are Native American. Who knows how many members of my Navajo tribe there are exactly since we are lower than the one percent range categorized by an asterisk demonstrating how our minority population is far below the one percentile on financial aid pamphlets. Anyways, my point is I am small. I am not the twinkling star in the Milky Way I once thought was it. I am a fading star in this vast universe of diversity, facing real world corruptions that lie far beyond reservation lines.
Now, I could go into another subject of how the boundaries of my reservation limited my realization and the intensity of other issues in society, but I will not. My purpose is to simply explain that I am no longer that shining twinkling star in my small community who was able to excel in academia and extra-curricular activities. I now realize I am a star in a much more vast universe, and my light does not travel far. I am little. I could not keep the marriage of good grades and a successful extra-curricular career together like the other thousand students who made it seem easy. Taking on excessive hours of coursework and officer positions my first semester really beat the crap out of me. Now, before you think this essay is depressing or crappy, let me finish.
As Native Americans, we should not expect our first year to be easy. We should prepare for failure and embrace it. I failed countlessly. From getting a “D” on my first philosophy paper to not attending a meeting because I slept in studying for an exam the whole night before, somewhere inbetween, I just could not make it work. All the negative outcomes started creeping into my head and making me feel like nothing. Like I could not accomplish anything. The stereotypes and statistics of Native Americans dropping out of college started to affect me.
I needed to remember where I was and what I faced to get here. I embraced my successes and took another look at the failures. I realized I needed to take a step back, breathe, and listen to my spirit. I had to recognize to what I could handle, but still get the job done. I finally was able to fathom that it is only my first year in college and failure is inevitable. Not because the color of my skin, but because it is a lesson every human experiences just by from going to one world to another. So when it is time to learn your lesson, you will react. And when you react, remember your successes and failures, embrace them, and react positively.
Prepare for failure. Embrace Success. In this spirit, my heartbeat twinkles. My lungs breathe in the light and I know one thing is for sure. I am still alive. I still have goals. Goals. Not just dreams, goals. Goals, those are possible. Goals I am working toward. Goals that consist of me in the operating room as a proud, brown Navajo surgeon with a degree in medicine from Stanford, Dartmouth, or wherever the future decides to unveil itself.
So, do not just be a star that disappears. Twinkle, fade, and explode.