Our Stories Matter


“Perhaps this is the moment for which you have been created?” Esther 4:14ish

In the last few weeks, this story kept reappearing! That verse stuck in my head, “you were created for this moment.” Ask anyone who knows me, I am constantly trying to figure out my next step. Asking, Why am I still in Rochester? This chapter of my life was supposed to be over 2 years ago, but I’m still here. Why?

To begin, let me tell you why I am in Rochester in the first place.

You might be familiar with the story of Esther. Esther was a Jew who married a king who later signed a decree that called for the death of her people. However, the king was not aware that his wife was a Jew. Uh, they didn’t cover that on their first date? Anyways, Esther’s uncle goes to her and says to her, “Perhaps this is the moment for which you have been created?” You are where you are supposed to be, placed in the palace so that one day you could help your people.

As children we dream of who we want to be when we grow up. For a long time, I wanted to be a librarian. I wanted to wear those glasses, file through those index cards, help the reader find their book, and then STAMP that book! I also wanted to be a lawyer, for a minute, maybe a scientist, and then I dreamed of being a designer.

Throughout my childhood, I think I surprised my mother with all the things I wanted to be and do. I read a lot and I would share with her the things I read, about the places I wanted to see and the stories of people I admired. I shared with her the dreams I had. She never discouraged them, rather she encouraged them. My mother is amazing. She is a smart woman, a human calculator. She is a great writer, someone who has her own incredible story to share.

img_3712.jpgOur story began when she was a teenager. For her, our story started out tough. While I was shielded from a lot of it. Even today, there will be moments of revelation, and I stop and think, “wow, she got through that?” She is the epitome of strength and beauty. I like to say, “I know my strength, because I have seen hers.” But not everyone is blessed with an encouraging and supportive mother, or a father, such as mine. I witnessed it.

I witnessed children being parents, instead of being parented. Children of young mothers abandoned and left with masani (grandma) and cheii (grandpa). I saw young men walking alongside the roads of the reservation, LOST, trying to get to their destination. I saw families hurting from domestic violence. I saw alcoholic fathers on the streets. I even saw my own biological father a couple times. I wanted to help. I wanted the cycle to end. At a young age, I knew my story was going to be different. I was determined. I knew my education was important.

From elementary to high school, I excelled in school. I accumulated many certificates, medals, trophies, and plaques. Even if I didn’t like a subject, I made sure I did well in it. In any high school being smart is not cool. At my high school, or any high school on the reservation, being smart AND non-athletic not only makes you uncool, it makes you NERDY!

And I was SO NERDY. However, I didn’t mind. I liked being smart. Like I said, I knew my education was my ticket.

Side note: I managed to make my nerdy, cool. For example, I made my way onto the basketball team, without having to play. You see, my friends were the athletes, and they enjoyed my company. They enjoyed it so much that we convinced the coaches to allow me to be their tutor/manager. Meaning, I was part of the team. I was given the privilege of being part of the team. The best part? I didn’t have to run suicides. That’s nerdy cool.

Eventually, my grades took me to college. My four years were filled with ups and downs. I did very well. I graduated. I was the FIRST in my family with a four-year degree. I broke the cycle.

After graduating college, I had the desire to return home and give back to my community. I spent two year in undergraduate admissions, traveling to schools in Northern Arizona and helping native high school students with the college application process. But after two years, I knew my time was up. I was exhausted. I traveled A LOT in those two years. I wanted to have more meaningful interactions with students. I wanted to help them through their four years and not just a few times a year. My obstacle, well opportunities are limited in higher education, especially in the field of Native American Student Affairs. So when this opportunity arose, I knew I had to take it. My mother knew it too. If she asked me to stay, I would’ve stayed, but she said “Nic, you have to do it.

I am positive it was not easy for my mom, nor has it been easy, but she continues to encourage me. She is amazing and I am blessed.

IMG_3713Now, back to Esther. I’m sure there were days Esther, living in her palace, sought to identify her purpose. Wondering, how is my story going to matter?

I wonder too. I’m not living in a palace, but my life in Rochester is not difficult, compared to that of my family and my people in Arizona. Imagine having to pump water to wash dishes. Chop wood for the fire—for heat, and not for comfort. This is still the life of many on the reservation. As stated above, there is a history of hurt and trauma that my community is still trying to heal from. I know all this. And I can’t help but feel guilty thinking what little difference I am making back home by being here in Rochester.

Believe me, I have tried going back home. But at this moment, Rochester is where I am meant to be.

I believe these stories matter. The stories I read as a young child mattered to me. They planted the seeds. While it may not seem like it, I believe that my story matters. I believe like Esther, in some way my story is going to help my people. I believe that some Native student, who too has big dreams, will read this. I hope this encourages you to break your cycle and live your dreams. I believe when we do, we are helping our people.