The little girl in this picture has definitely come a long way. She grew up in a home where she had two loving parents that shaped her into a strong, smart and independent woman. They encouraged academics and marching to the beat of her own drum.
While her childhood and teenage years were happy, she faced set backs too. At the end of middle school, she developed an eating disorder that she successfully overcame; however, still battles with its demons every day. She was bullied for many reasons – being smart, being overweight, and the kicker… for her parents not being able to afford name brand items such as Nike, or even a pair of authentic Doc Martens. Lame, I know. She faced racism from peers because her grandfather was Aboriginal; on the flip side, she was called terrible names from some Aboriginal peers because she didn’t “look Aboriginal enough to identify with the culture.” Through it all, she came out on top and graduated from high school a healthy and happy young adult.
She turned 18 shortly after leaving high school and embarked on adulthood. She entered university unsure of her path – teaching, criminology, law, even med school. She eventually settled with Criminology because she was incredibly passionate about helping people. Her years in university were not easy. Some courses were tough, and she failed two of them. Her first year of university was especially tough because her father fell incredibly ill, was forced to retire because of it, and lost part of his mobility; her beloved aunt died after a long battle with cancer, and after her grandfather was diagnosed with an illness, he died before Christmas. She dealt with the loss and stress as best as she could and managed to finish the first year.
During the last decade she also became caregiver to both of her parents after her fathers illness left him with poor mobility and her mother battling her own mobility issues. Being a caregiver is extremely difficult and stressful as it truly is a full-time job; however, it was a choice that she made and made sure that while helping them, she made time to help herself.
The struggles through university continued, including a couple of one year suspensions, fighting university bureaucracy; transferring to another institution, battling more university bureaucracy, a two year suspension and deciding to change her career field so she could eventually become a teacher. Throughout this time she also shut out her friends in order to make sure academics was top priority, only realizing years later, that it wasn’t such a brilliant idea. During her last years in university, she became extremely organized and made sure that she scheduled in “me time” and time spent with her friends. She found words from RuPaul inspiring – “If you don’t love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love somebody else? Can I get an amen!” Upon returning after a two year suspension, she worked really hard to make sure she passed each course to reach her goal of graduating.
Well, that little girl is me and I did it. After a year of working my butt off to make sure I graduate this year, I did it. I passed every single course, including achieving a B as a final in math (we all know I’ve talked about my struggles in math), I will be graduating in just three short weeks.
And I’m pretty damn proud of my accomplishments.
This past Saturday I attended my aboriginal graduation ceremony, where the University and Aboriginal Student Centre recognized and celebrated the achievements of Aboriginal graduates. This ceremony was really important to me. I am extremely proud of where I come from and my Aboriginal background. I come from a long line of proud Métis people – I am the cousin of Louis Riel (we share the same grandfather – his grandfather is my 8x great-grandfather); my great-great grandparents were kicked off the reserve by the Canadian/Manitoban government in 1875 (given $160 and a land script) because they wanted to work in order to support their growing family, and my grandfather worked many jobs to support my grandmother, mother, and her siblings. My great-great grandmother was a spiritual healer, known as a Medicine Woman, helping to heal people in her community with the herbs she grew in her garden. Attending this ceremony was my way in honouring them – Creator carved my path long before I was born, and that was my thank you for being blessed with the many opportunities I have been given so far. It was an emotional ceremony where I was celebrated for my accomplishments, by my culture. My culture that I am damn proud of and always fight for. It was really special because my grade 2 teacher, and now my coworker, was in attendance (she has fought for me since being a student in her class); including my administrator. I was surrounded by the most loving people and it meant a lot.
At the end of this month I will don my cap and gown and walk across another stage to finally receive my degree. I am going to soak it all up because I worked damn hard for that piece of paper and never ever gave up. That’s the message I leave with my students today – work really hard, never give up, and in the end you will reap the rewards. Don’t let anyone tell you that you cannot do anything, because you can. Keep telling yourself that it is possible and it will be done. It may take a long time, but do not be discourage. Life happens and you just have to get through that.
I also have more good news to share. Last month I was accepted into the Faculty of Education After Degree Program and in September, I will begin a two year journey to obtain my teaching licence. It’s finally coming full circle and I am proud of myself for never giving up. In September I will jump right in into practicum and curriculum courses, where I will continue to work hard. By the end of the two years I will be a licensed high school history teacher, ready to expand the minds of students through tons of fun. I was lucky to find out about being accepted with one of my classes, a great experience that I will cherish forever. They surprised me with an ice cream cake and a boat load of hugs.
The moral of this story is the following – work hard, set goals, never give up, don’t beat yourself up, and try your best. Everyone struggles and everyone gets through it. Make it count.
“There is nothing you can’t do, if you set your mind to it. Anything is possible.” – Rick Hansen