A lot of our people can relate to growing up on a reserve, with people you come to know very well.
A lot of us can also relate to having to leave them for school. In these days, we grow up knowing the day will come. In the past, however, it came unexpectedly, as if it were a kidnapping.
I am so fortunate to be one of those who knew the day was coming. I am a student attending Pelican Falls First Nations High School, a student attending his last semester of high school. I will soon be home again and this time I will know I can stay there for as long as I want.
I had to leave home for my first year of high school four years ago and left all the familiar faces and comfort. The day felt so long, my parents encouraging me not to get so homesick that I will want to quit, that it will not take long to finish. My older siblings telling me not to be like them, my younger siblings idolizing me.
My classmates told me they would see me there. My younger friends told me they would miss me and to wait for them there so we could finish together.
My grandma was amazed I even got as far as Grade 8 and gave me what was a lot of money back in her days: 20 dollars. It was a very emotional day; there was a lot of happiness and sadness.
Then the pilot let us know the plane was ready and a lot of hugs were given as we, the freshmen, boarded the plane. That was my first time getting on a plane without an adult I trusted. As we took off to our first year of high school, I looked out the window and saw the many vehicles parked outside the airport, the many everyday people waving to us, saying “See you soon.”
Going into a house with only a few well-known people and many strangers is very unsettling. Although, it is a blessing there was the phone, e-mail, and messenger to communicate with the kinfolk back home.
I called them constantly my first year, even as I started making new friends. I would call them for various reasons, but mostly because I missed them and I just wanted to hear them, to know that they are all still home waiting for me.
But I made a friend like the one you see in the movies; the one you could always count on, the one that is always there. And it was not easy to make new friends for someone as shy as me. I stuck to this one friend because I could be myself around this one, I did not have to pretend, as if I was freed.
It was this friend I leaned on when I felt deserted. There would be a loss back home and my friends and I would go home. Then I would go back to school and realize not all of us came back. Then, one by one, the ones who did come back either dropped out or got kicked out.
This one person was there though, making sure I forgot about the isolation and making sure I did not do the same. I also called home, of course. Those close to me, and myself, made sure I stayed in high school when I really wanted to go home.
Now, it has been four years since my first year of high school. And my parents were right, it did not take long, the days became routine and time just flew by. I also made a handful of friends that are like the ones you see in the movies.
I am a potential graduate finishing up my last semester of high school. I will be the first in my family to graduate. I get to go home in December knowing I could stay there forever. But I came to realize all the opportunities out there for me in this world.
And frankly, I want to get the most out of my life, I want live my dream, my future ambition that is to someday work for Nintendo.
For now though, I want to spend some time with my family and friends when I go home to Poplar Hill.
Well, our short summer up here in Northern Ontario is beginning to fade. Summer is so precious to all of us in the north and this year we started very late...