When we are children, the world is presented as having a certain sense of order. We learn our multiplication tables, how to write in cursive, how to read in our non-Native language, and any other assets the dominant culture thinks practical and necessary.

At home, if we live near our Native family, we are taught in the traditional ways by our tribal elders and cultural leaders. The world seems stable. And we begin to wait for the promises that our early education implies will be ours. We form friendships, some of which are lasting. We watch those close to us as they change.

We begin to change as well, growing into the fullness of our potential, or feeling it slip away. You might ask yourself….

  • How do I know if what I’m doing is right?
  • Does this boy/girl like me?
  • What if I’m falling in love?
  • What if I failed another math test?
  • Why can’t I read as well as the other students?
  • How can I prepare for college?
  • How do I even know what college I want to go to?
  • I hope the coach finally starts me.

You might be worrying about other things that feel more pressing and serious, too. I think my cousin’s started drinking again. And Auntie is back on drugs. I guess rehab didn’t help this time. I hope they’ll be okay…

As we get older, everything changes. We feel ourselves being propelled toward a target that feels far away and illusionary. That target may be college, marriage and family, starting a new job, or maybe two or all three at once. Okay, you think to yourself, I know what other people want of me, but what is it that I want?

To truly know the answer, you will have to search within yourself.

Special Thanks: Misty Lynn Ellingburg (Shoalwater Bay) is a student at Seattle Pacific University, majoring in English (concentration Literature) and minoring in Professional Writing. She has two brothers and two sisters–Brandt, Shana, Hope, and Hunter. Her mom, Lory, is a Tribal artist, and her dad, Todd, is becoming fluent in Salish, a local Tribal language. Her favorite Native writers are Leslie Marmon Silko, Louise Erdrich, and Sherman Alexie. She even met Mr. Alexie in Seattle at a book reading where she got his autograph and a picture taken together.

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