Lightning Woman

lightning woman
Lightning Woman Kelly Rae Cleveland

The vast amount of tribulations and errors one is held accountable for can often cloud the desire to evolve past such moments. I, myself, am no stranger to the pressure of external and internal factors competing with my passion to express my thoughts, actions and need to tell stories.

From a young age, I often found myself at the mercy of stories, mostly fiction, shared and forced upon me, to: learn from, agree with and drink as gospel. The environment I lived in was not stable nor rich in the nutrients needed to grow as a young disenfranchised individual. Yet, I had to continue forward through the onslaught of terror and heartbreak. As I aged and saw the only constant in my life was chaos, I decided to take a chance on someone who I often ignored: myself.

The first time I invested in myself was by attending school at a local state university – a place extremely shy of the grandeur many of mentors thought I earned a right to pursue. Despite the disappointment they felt for my future, an intangible force wholly unrecognizable to me, I flourished in the excitement of scholarly rigor, tradition and strive for excellence. I was always able to blend into the walls of any room, an aesthetically pleasing decor of passive agreement and doubt. It was a professor of mine who asked for me to “allow others to pick my mind” as the words I shared on paper did not match the vessel who entered his classroom.

Was I worthy of the invitation? Naturally, I thought, “no.” From those days of awkward stumbling’s, I have become a force to reckon with in many rooms, classrooms and spaces. I have a voice that no longer shakes with anxiety and fear of failing – instead, my voice carries strong reverberations of noises calling others to action, empowering the communities I love and the families who define them.

As an individual who has gone through a festering storm of betrayal, loss and grief – my constant has been pursuing my education, coupled with a desire to grow and love with a quickening heart of agency. I often think of my four-year-old son, a large spirit confined in a small body. How does he breathe in a world where pollutants are unseen? How does he see not knowing what perfect vision is? How does he taste when he does not know the words appetite and craving? How does he hear without having heard all the tones and melodies of a world older than him? He exists, and I exist with him.

As I tread forward in my educational and professional career, I remind myself I am one of many who investigate questions as simple as the ones articulated by children, much like my child, who ask with courage because the alternative: fear; does not do justice to the evolving state of one’s spirit. Being an American Indian Graduate Center Scholar means being a warrior: a large spirit unconfined by anybody.

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