A lesson I learned in 2017.
Once upon a time, a farmer’s favorite horse fell into a precipice. Instead of paying a bunch of money that he didn’t have to rescue him, he decided to mercifully bury his ol’ friend he called Bodhi right there where he fell. He dumped a load of dirt onto Bodhi. Fearing for its life, he began to kick and scream. A few seconds later, Bodhi shook the dirt off and was standing on the dirt a little closer to the top.
Surprised by this, the farmer dumped another load of dirt on the rising horse, and the horse shook the dirt off again and was yet a few more feet closer to the surface. By noon, the farmer’s best friend Bodhi had made it out of the precipice and was grazing on the fresh green pasture in the sunshine.
2017 has taught me that life itself is the precipice, the dirt, the farmer and the green pasture.
About a year ago, I had fallen into a deep dark pit as a direct result of the divisiveness of the 2016 election season. It was so divisive that my mentor of 22 years and I stopped talking, a few childhood friends that I grew up with “unfriended” me on Facebook and Instagram, and as the year flew by I watched a passive-aggressive social media war claim friendship after friendship, and even break up families without ever skipping a beat.
It wouldn’t have been so bad if all of that online battling only took place online, but it was accurately reflective of what was unfolding in our community. Kids who I mentor were getting bullied more often and specifically because of their skin color, sexual orientation, citizenship status, or for just simply being different (other than).
The community I grew to love felt unsafe. It crushed me. I got mad, then scared, then combative for a spell. I kicked and screamed for it all to be one bad dream. Whenever I would hear someone mention whom he or she voted for with such pompous pride and gusto, I would cringe and prepare for debate. I would spend hours trying to prove my opponent wrong and trying to prove that my humanity is just as valuable and as equal as theirs.
Imagine your mom not recognizing your face, so you rush to the family photo album and show her photo after photo of you that she took herself, but still, no matter how right you are she doesn’t recognize you anymore. You would feel an agonizing sense of invisibility and an indelible void in your soul, but more than that you would feel heartbroken.
And just like the fictitious scenario above with the mom, my desperate pleas to be recognized in real life also fell on deaf ears. With every loss, another load of dirt was dumped on me, on my communities. And like the farmer’s horse, kicking and screaming felt like the right thing to do, the only thing to do. And that’s when I decided to step away and shake the dirt off.
What gave me the most inspiration this year was watching so many community members and friends like Blanche Barajas, Steven R. Lee and Craig Maloney run for local city counsel seats and win. I have watched youth whom I mentor rise out of depression and speak up for what is right. I have seen arts flourish across the state and the country.
The kicking, the screaming, the indomitable will of the human soul on fire has incited a new wave of hope for me and many others.
Being away from social media gave me the opportunity to meet up with willing people who held opposing views to my own. That was a new area of growth for me personally. I even met up with a local sheriff privately to discuss our political differences, and I’m glad I did. I didn’t change his views, and he didn’t change mine, but what did change is how I view dirt, the proverbial dirt in my story. The dirt that is smothering each and every one us might be nutrient-rich in lessons. Though it feels like separating salt from sugar, if you find yourself in a hole being buried alive, it’s worth your time to step away and shake the dirt off until you rise to the surface again. No dirt, no growth.
The farmer taught me not to give up on those you love so easily, that despite how ugly and nasty people can be, maybe they’re just climbing their way out of their own precipice. It’s not easy. Have patience.
The dirt taught me that the challenges never cease in life; you just get better at overcoming them when you choose to overcome them. Choose well. There are never going to be any permanent green pastures; it’s a better bet, in life, to anticipate the changing terrains and prepare for a life of growth.
Shake the dirt off and rise up.
Metaphors be with you.