Guest Column: Class of 2016: Remember prayer, love, and yéégo perspective!
By Dr. Amanda R. Tachine (Mandy)
Special to the Times
Twenty years ago, I graduated from Ganado High School, which may seem like a long time for many students.
But 20 years from where I stand today goes by in a blink of an eye. If I could whisper advice to my 18-year-old self, there would be much I’d share. In the years that followed since 1996, life has taught me many lessons and I still know that there is more to discover. With love and appreciation, I’d like to share a little of what I have learned. These words come from my heart as a small gift to the 2016 graduates.
The most important lesson is sodizin. That simple, pray. However you were taught to pray, do it. With the degrees that I have received over the years, nothing compares to the most vital teaching: to believe and trust in Creator.
Prayer has been my saving grace through the ups and downs of life. While on the journey toward a doctorate degree, I failed, many, many times. I almost gave up in school because the weight of failure was too much to carry. I recall crying in my closet one evening. I questioned whether I was strong enough, smart enough, and even whether I had enough money to pay for college. In that moment, I prayed to Creator. I asked for strength and questioned whether I was on the right path. A quiet voice inside of me said, “Do not give up, continue with school, and do it for our people.” I listened to that voice. Now looking back, I believed Creator was guiding me and nudging me to keep moving forward.
Do not be afraid of failure. We should see failure as an opportunity to be chiseled into something greater than we can explain or see. I failed. But I got back up. Prayer and faith in Creator restored my spirit. You will fail, quite possibly many times. But the key is to go back to your teachings. Whatever your beliefs are, go back to it, and know that it will help you to get back up. Only Creator knows what is in store tomorrow, in twenty years, and into the future. Our job is to build a relationship, trust, and believe in Creator’s pathway.
The second lesson is ayooo’o’ni. Love your family, love your friends, love those who have hurt you, and love yourself. I wish I fully understood that when I was younger because I’ve learned life is just too short. We are never promised another day, so do all you can with love.
I grew up in a single parent household. My dad left our family when I was a young child. In growing up without a father, I carried bitterness. But through love, I’m learning to break through that bitterness. Love allowed my heart to heal, my spirit to strengthen, where then I was able to form a relationship with my father.
Upon graduating with a doctorate degree last year, I experienced the stress that can develop near the end of school. Graduation planning is a lot of work and can be expensive. I expressed concerns to my parents about the cost. And my dad said, “Mandy, let me buy your graduation outfit. I want to buy your Navajo dress and your jewelry. I did not buy that for you when you graduated from high school, nor when you got your bachelor’s and master’s degrees. So let me get that for you.” Instantly, I broke down in tears with immense gratitude and an awakening that love can heal and restore harmony.
I know my story is not unique. Many have been hurt and you will be hurt again and again, sometimes from people you would never expect. If I can gently tell you to love yourself by loving those who have hurt you, because healing can occur and thereby strength magnified. You are very precious. When you love, it is a reflection of your spirit. So give your love freely.
The last lesson is yéego! Yéego is a powerful Navajo word and teaching. It means go hard, put some muscle into it, don’t give up, and chase after your goals. When I hear yéego in my mind, I hear my grandmother’s voice. There is something special about a grandmother’s voice that instills within us a deep sense of perseverance.
There are many challenges that we face in our society, problems that we are trying to overcome, and stereotypes/odds that we must defy. We need you graduates.
The U.S. has roughly 318.9 million people and growing. Yet, only 1 percent of college degrees are awarded each year to American Indians. I state that to not discourage rather, through a yéego outlook, I encourage students to obtain a college degree. Pursuing a higher education opens opportunities unimaginable. Not only do you learn and grow as a person, but you also have the potential to help your family and our tribal community. And that is why we need Navajo and Native graduates to acquire a college degree.
Many will not go to college. Some aspirations may include joining the military, entering the workforce, and being a caretaker for people/animals in need. Those are all admirable pathways. Whatever you decide to do in life, proceed with a grandmother’s yéego attitude.
Next year, some students will be struggling in college, wondering whether or not you can make it another year – YÉEGO! Some of you will be looking for a job and maybe having a hard time finding one. Don’t give up – YÉEGO! When you are 25, some of you will be working full-time in a tough environment – YÉEGO! In your 30s, the bills may pile up, and you think that there is no way you can pay all of them – YÉEGO! And into the beauty of old age, YÉEGO!
Throughout the many days of your life – remember sodizin, ayoo o’o’ni, and yéego! May you all walk in beauty.
Editor’s note: Amanda R. Tachine was the guest speaker at Ganado High on May 20. She is a graduate of the class of 1996 and was born and raised in Ganado, Ariz.