Just Around the River Bend

JUST AROUND THE RIVER BENDYou’ve heard it before, I’m sure, change is hard. As parents we’re pressured to give children a routine—because change is hard. By giving children a routine, parents instill a foundational sense of security. What I know of my tribal heritage is that change was a constant. Perhaps that’s why our people are resilient. Change is hard. It is vital now to me finishing school, more than ever in my life.

I have always been a traveler. My mother brought me all around the country as a young child, meeting new people and visiting our huge family. My kids are used to being on the go as well. Most weekends we have a trip planned, even if it’s only to the Costco an hour away from our rez town. Other times, we head to the hills for adventure—an abandoned Montana ghost town or paddle boarding at Glacier National Park on McDonald Lake. One time we couldn’t find the right dog at our local shelter so we spontaneously drove from Montana to Washington to pick up a pup from the rez where I grew up. That dog ended up being hit by a car on a different trip only three months after we got him. For me, experiences like these add color to life.

Other times, I travel alone and especially in the school year it can be difficult to stay motivated to do homework. In all honesty though, I feel confident in saying I work better under that kind of pressure. This school year, I compromised with my partner to not miss school to travel—even if the trip was academic. This has been difficult for me. Buckling down and staying in one place to only focus on one task (homework) hasn’t ever been one of my strengths because of how I was raised. To that end, I would also say if my grades have ever suffered while travelling, then it’s not because I am not learning but probably that I just never turned in the homework, or maybe just not on time.

So this year, when I really felt like travelling, I would stall my studies just to wallow—and life has thrown some tough curve balls. Admittedly procrastinating, it’s quite easy to find that this hole of depression and self-sabotage becomes a bottomless pit. I had to drop a class because of these bad habits. But at the end of six weeks my professor was still successful in teaching me much more than statistical methodologies and applications. It’s like this—it’s easy to keep up with activities that you like or are good at. But to be impactful as individuals we have to learn to pursue the subjects that we don’t enjoy so much and work perhaps even more at those things. It takes grit and admitting that you might need help.

My only shame is that I’ve had to have this sink in so late in my youth. Throughout my college experience, life has altered dramatically many times—again, change is constant. I have had to face these challenges head on and I’ve learned to humble myself and not be so ashamed of telling the truth to my professors—it keeps me human. I figure for as much patience as I try to practice with my kids, I hope my teachers see my willingness and my growth, even if I end up having to retake a course.

Nothing beats the way my girl’s face lights up when she can get her shoes on by herself and not get frustrated with a little struggle—especially to not need me as she runs off to play. I’ve got one more year to buckle down and off I’ll go. Just one more year, and when you’re raising twins, that’s no time at all.

Celina Gray (Blackfeet and Little Shell Chippewa) is a student at Salish Kootenai College and the mother of twins.

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