Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Eagle Butte

Memory lane

Stage Tech 9, 10; International CLub, 9; Speech Club 9; Speech Team 10, 11, 12; Cub Reporter 11, 12; IU Journalism Workshop 12; Variety Pops 10, 12; Honeybears, 10; Sugarcubs 9; Soccer 9, 10, 11, 12; Track 9, 10, 12; Honor Roll 9, 10.

Next to my name in my senior yearbook, there is a list of the activities that I participated in during high school. Reading this list 30 years after the fact makes me go mmmmmm.

For example, Variety Pops? Did I really do that? I don’t recall doing that.

And what happened to the grade 11 track season? Where was I?

Honestly, I am constantly amazed at what I do not remember from high school, and baffled at what I do remember.

For example, I remember standing in the lobby in front of the gym with the indoor track with Michelle. She was talking about her crush on the guy I also liked. However, by this time, I knew this guy was never going to ask me or her out, and I just listened.

I remember watching the “smart kids” perform as historical figures in the small auditorium and thinking I wanted to do that, but I was involved in other activities and was not in the upper echelons of educational courses at Lawrence Central High School.

There was a part of me that hated high school. I was shy, yet intrepid. I decided in junior high that I was going to work hard and do well in school, because education was going to be my ticket out of Indiana and into the world I imagined existed somewhere else.

People are not kidding when they tell you that life is full of curveballs. While I imagined world travel as a journalist, and retirement to teaching, I lived in-country travel west as a teacher in smaller towns and schools than the ones that helped shape me into the person I am today.

Graduation for students across the country is quickly rising on the horizon.

Before we know it, students will be hugging their parents and friends and shedding tears of relief, joy, fear and sadness.

I remember my graduation ceremony, driving to Butler University and finding our seats in the outdoor arena. I do not remember the reception. I do remember the excitement I had for college.

Years would pass before I revisited the halls of my high school.

At our ten year reunion, I felt that we were all still very much divided. We dressed to prove who we had become, someone better than who we had been, but we all fell into the old cliques, met up with the people we felt comfortable with, and then left.

The twenty-year reunion was very different. No distinct groups formed. We were a mass of people weaving in and out of groups, sharing stories, making confessions and just enjoying an evening on memory lane.

The thirty-year reunion I think will be different still. I learned that 16 of the approximately 240 students that graduated with us have passed away. Some of suicide, some of murder, some of health issues and some of accidents. Sixteen is a lot, and yet not that many when I speak to some people here in Eagle Butte, where graduating class sizes are under a hundred, and half of some classes have already joined the spirit world.

Eagle Butte is a world very similar to my home town, and yet it is a world apart. I think what makes Eagle Butte’s graduating classes like my own, and like just about every senior class across the nation, is that sense students have of a new beginning on the day of graduation.

The world is waiting for us, and we have the potential to become anyone we want.

What is different is that in my high school, I was one of 240 students. I was just another face in the crowd, known to some, not known to others. I was not the top or bottom of my class. I was not extremely poor nor rich.

I was average in just about everything I did expect when I dreamed of what I could do, where I could go, and who I would become.

While my big dreams have not taken the turn I thought they would, I am very proud of the path I have traveled in my life. I have stayed true to my desire to write and teach. I strive to be the person I want my kids to become. While I make mistakes, I cannot afford to repeat them, so I try to learn from them. Sometimes I am successful, other times, I want to bury my head in the sand and hide like an ostrich.

As I look back at my experiences in high school, my mentors, my friends and acquaintances, my insecurities and accomplishments, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to be that person, in that place at that time.

I am equally grateful to be who I am now, and have the opportunities I have now, here in the small, reservation town of Eagle Butte, SD.

Remember the largest of trees start in the smallest of seeds. Schools on Cheyenne River may be small, but each person is only limited by their own imaginations. The possibilities are there. Will you take advantage of them?

My advice to people who find themselves on the edge of possibility — graduating school, in between jobs or starting a new one –life is like a river.

The river winds, rises and falls. It will keep moving — constant and not always predictable. Learn to navigate your own boat. Know how to swim. Wear a life jacket. Understand and accept that accidents happen, but repairs are possible. When in doubt, take a brief break on shore, get help, recuperate and get back on that lifeboat, because while you can branch off the main river and take tributaries upstream or down, rest on the river’s edge for awhile, you can Never. Give. Up.