It has been twenty-three days since the start of 2018. Since December 20, 2017, I have been in the midst of the red mesas and canyon walls familiar to my soul; surrounded by the juniper berries and slumbering yucca plants, healing and reflecting upon the completion of 2017 and my first semester of graduate school. Being home made me feel whole and complete. When I left, I felt a sense of emptiness in the depths of my stomach.
I did not want to leave.
After 5 years of living in Rhode Island, attending school, and only visiting my ancestral lands during my academic breaks, I realized that I want to be back home.
Back in the midst of my ancestral stories, histories, and voices.
Breathing in the morning and evening air and running in the steps of my ancestors was a workout that a gym could never provide. Building and chopping wood for my mother, sister, and grandparents was a warmth that I could never replicate. Hearing my language and songs everyday awakened something deep within. Eating food from the local vendors and my family fed my entire essence.
I realized that I missed home dearly and that I wanted to stay.
And yet, I still decided to board my flight and return to the lands stolen from the Narragansett. I return, not for myself, but for my family and community who have supported and believed in me since I boarded my first flight half a decade ago.
But, I am almost at my resolve. My first semester of graduate school was a lot more exhaustive and exploitive than I anticipated. I am worn out from surviving and fighting for my life every second, every minute, every hour, and every day.
I told my mother about how I felt that I was almost at my limit because of what I endured in the last few months of 2017. She told me:
“Charlie, you are a strong person. You have always been strong. I know that you can get through this. Look at what you, your sister, and I have survived. You can do this.”
All of my pain and anguished were released.
I do not envision myself as a strong person. For so long, I have only been thinking of surviving in this white-washed-colonized world. A world that has tried and continues to systematically break me down and kill me.
I was just trying to make it to my 20s, and now that I accomplished that, I am just trying to make it to my 30s because some days, it feels like the world is against me, and in many ways it is.
I have inherited generations of violence.
This year, I have contemplated and attempted suicide. Depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and I became quite acquainted. I disclosed that I was sexually assaulted. Racial slurs were thrown at me.
In spite of that, my mother reminded me that I have always been a survivor and a fighter – that is what made me a strong person.
The thought of that gives me a lot of anxiety and fear of what 2018 could bring. A fear of my own capabilities, perhaps?
Much of 2017 was accepting the very fact that I am a sacred being and that I have a responsibility to myself, my community, and my ancestors.I have a responsibility to care and love myself, to ensure that I continue thriving and that I protect and share my sacred-ness. My body may be in discomfort, and if so, I must listen and tend to that discomfort. Summing up with the fact that:
My fragile existence is what tethers me to this world. Yet in that fragility, there is a lot of strength and wisdom that I have inherited and attempt to share. I must ensure the existence of both mine and other Diné cultural integrities. For within our lineage and within our bodies lies the strength and resilience that has been within us since time immemorial. – Scott, C. (2017). Divinity and Mortality: A Diné Professional Philosophy
So, in preparation for this year, I have realized that I must continue learning from my ancestors, who care and love me in more ways than one. I must take care of myself and be vigilant in what battles I strategize for and who I am willing to share my time with because my fragility and divinity are precious.
Armed with the prayers and resilience of my family, I am both a survivor and fighter, just like my mother, and her mother, and her mother’s mother.
That is what comprises my Diné aesthetic.
P.S. I started a new Instagram exclusively of my digital photography titled Amásání (Grandmother’s) Gallery. There will be a blog post about the origins, reasonings, and my intentions behind this new project. Please be on the lookout for that.