I know why the caged bird sings


Recently posed with a question about what ambition meant to me, I had to think about this longer than I anticipated, especially once I realized I was a bit unnerved about it.

First things first and let me get this out of my system… It’s been a while since I’ve blogged anything! Yeah, life has happened in the last two months and I simply didn’t create any time for my Blog Thoughts Out Loud. I won’t make any promises just yet, as it is, I started the fourth year of my doctoral program and enrolled in a Stats class that makes me wanna back slide all up in this joint. The Pre-Req I took over the summer was an intro doozer that had me working on the least of 5 hours a day! The joke was on me when I thought it was gonna be class time with an hour of study time… Wow. In any event, the Stats class consumes my time, but so do my beautiful children. I can’t say enough how these little people have influenced my life and make me wanna keep getting back up after a grueling time with Stats. Which leads me to my latest inspiration to blog.

Why do we do the “things” that we do? In life, surely I believe we are all wired differently. After all, we have each been blessed with a talent and gift that our Creator, the maker of all things on Mother Earth and within this universe has intended. Our job is to discover how we are wired and to share that gift and talent.

As an Indigenous woman, I have a love for reading. Sometimes I find a book and immediately read the inset or back cover to see if it might be remotely interesting, other books are recommended reading, most (especially in the late) are required and of all the reading, the most interesting are the ones I re-read. I am aware that some books (and authors/publishing companies) can be deceiving with the cover photo and they have seduced me with a book cover image that draws me like a moth to a flame.

But its been those scholarly ones that I’ve had to re-read that get me. I find books woven with applicable knowledge and research, but also that practical stuff that is substantive to be absolutely positively, amazing. Yes, in fact, I do geek out. More importantly, I find inspiration. I am inspired when I read about Indigenous people and other minority communities who are speaking up about the social injustices that have occurred, are occurring, and fighting that good fight. The truth is, in graduate school of Life University, we are applying knowledge everyday and research when founded on Indigenous truth. When I re-read a scholarly work, I get excited and feel hopeful that change is still very much a possibility.

Despite the odds, especially when working in the field of Indian education, we hear a lot about issues of Native student achievement gap working from a deficit model. When I re-read a book such as Power and Place Indian Education in America or Research is Ceremony Indigenous Research Methods, I am inspired and know I can make a difference.

I’ve stated this before and declaring again, I shouldn’t be here according to the deficit model. In fact, as an adult, I’m a divorced, single mother by choice, and refused to settle because I did not believe in staying with someone for the sake of the kids. Call me selfish for the choices I’ve made, but intuition told me it was gonna be healthier for my children to see me struggle and work towards a lofty goal than stay in an emotionally abusive relationship. Somehow I believed just beyond my reach there was something more for me and my kids and I have kept trekking knowing I am more than what anyone who has ever doubted me may believe.

Feeling judgement from people about divorce, graduate school, family life, personal choices, finances, employment, moving, etc… I’ve heard it all, even the criticisms. Over the years as I look back and hearing the thoughts of others on how “divorce wasn’t an option” or “do it for the kids” despite any doubts, I learned and knew in my heart that my kids are THEE reason why I do what I do.

Today, I know for a fact that my children inspire me to wake up everyday even when I want to curl up in a ball and just blow the world away. I look at them and see a future about to unfold and I can not wait to see how they will become citizens in this world. Not only as global citizens, more importantly as Indigenous members of the community. In the late, my goal to immerse them in our language has put me in a place of learning that challenges me and I welcome it knowing my children will benefit from it.

During this challenging time of question I asked myself what drives me to do what I do and why am I “so ambitious”? I would like to say it’s for financial reasons, seriously, think about that, I’m in education so there is no financial gain or status. Besides that, I denied Education as a major for a few years before I actually embraced it, so it wasn’t something I preconceived or had on my list of goals to carry out (that’s another Blog Thoughts Out Loud story) I had to ask myself why am I here and why do I do what I do?

The questions also had me revisiting Maya Angelo’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings and about what it means to come from where I’ve come from. My story is not unique, nor is it more special than anybody else. My formative years were not spent with either of my biological parents, substance abuse was present, and yet I’ve been blessed with the fortune of having a loving adoptive family. I’ve been through a lot emotionally and find that I’d rather be a victor and not a victim. Rather than complaining or resenting my upbringing and blaming society for any upsets or disappointments, I choose life and happiness.

Coming from where I’ve come from, I’ve learned there is no room for ignorance. Granted ignorant behavior continues to thrive in extenuating circumstances, I choose to live outside the cage and learned freedom means breaking the cyclical chains to victimization. Today when I hear victimization, it doesn’t sit well with me because I know as a human being, let alone a mother AND Indigenous woman, I have a job to do and that’s to raise my kids to be healthy, kind, and compassionate Indigenous people in a world that does not recognize our culture. As I think about victimization and the times I have endured hardships and heartache, and I may or may not share my story with people, more importantly, I am conscious and self-aware that I refuse to be a victim when and if I do share my story. I am a victor because of my kids and they are thee most important reason why I do what I do.

I see myself as a champion to my kids who look to me. Granted, I’m not 100% perfect, I do my best and find they give meaning to my life. I am a significant woman in this world because of them and I know someday we will be able to look back at this time and find we probably would’ve watched a few more other movies over and over just to make sure we caught every line and nuance, but most of all, just so we could all pile up on the sofa after a long day at school.

Today, I have surrounded myself with loving, supportive, and encouraging people who uplift my spirits just by their sheer presence in this world. I’ve been influenced by so many people, it’s amazing and a beautiful sight. I know that I’ve become the woman I am because they are in my life. Some people may see my mushy mush expressions from my heart peculiar, for those who know me, they know I’m one sappy country song on certain days and others a Chopin and most days a boogie oogie. Over the years I learned, for the few people in my life, I mistrust the majority and only time opens my heart. I recognize that is something I can work on and I may have been conditioned to that yet also I have created it so that I have a small circle of friends for that reason. Life University has taught me, through all it’s worth, time is the best teacher and the choices we make will always work themselves out.

I’ll close off with this poem that I’ve often found myself re-reading when I just need to get my mind off of the daily tasks. Thankful and grateful for my life.

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

The free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and is tune is heard
on the distant hillfor the caged bird
sings of freedom

The free bird thinks of another breeze
an the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

-Maya Angelou

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