Gyasi Ross: A fear of leaving the reservation

"I think there’s a human tendency to be more scared of success than failure.

After my “freshman year in college” catastrophe, I returned home to the rez with my tail between my legs. School was tough and I really didn’t want to work that hard; my grades sucked, the weather was sticky and humid, and basketball wasn’t as easy (or as fun) as it had been in high school. I got homesick and craved “home” – good food, a comfortable bed, my girlfriend, sunny weather. So in May when school ended, I eagerly escaped thinking home was the answer to my problems.

Yet, when I actually got home, it was different than what I pictured while I was away. Yes, there was good food, but my family was still broke and we had a badly insulated HUD house which made it hard to sleep in the summer. Plus, my girlfriend and I argued all the time, my car broke down and western Washington’s weather was rarely sunny. And while I loved getting back to my close friends, family and familiarity of the Rez, I realized that I hated coming back to all of the “Rez drama” – the same dysfunction and apathy as before.

Home hadn’t changed a bit – and that wasn’t always a great thing. Heck, sometimes it wasn’t even “good.”

Still, after my freshman year debacle, I sometimes honestly didn’t even require “good.” My expectations were low – all I needed was to not feel like a miserable failure (e.g., the way I felt at college). The outside world was too unforgiving and my mom certainly didn’t want me to leave – she would have liked me to stay home forever. I told myself that I was “taking care of my family” to make myself feel better about settling for mediocrity. Understand that where I’m from adult children who live with their parents – assisting their elderly parents and grandparents – are not considered scrubs. It is honorable to take care of your family.

But I wasn’t being honorable. My reasons for staying, of course, were not to take care of my mom or my step-father or my little brother. Strong and stubborn to a fault, they were perfectly able to take care of themselves. In fact, they ended up taking care of me most of the time while I stayed with them."

Get the Story:
Gyasi Ross: Resolution: Fear of flying (Indian Country Today 10/12)'

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