I said it before. The last grade I completed was the sixth grade. Then later in life I went on to obtain a Master’s Degree. I think a lot of it had to do with riding waves. Not in the ocean. I’ve never been daring enough to take on those types of challenges. But riding waves of opportunity. Sometimes I look back and it’s interesting to see how it all lined up and came to fruition, as though in symmetry, like musical notes being plucked from the strings of a guitar. In time and rhythm it can make a beautiful song.
So how do you go from being a severe introvert to completing programs in higher education? A lot of luck. A lot of patience.
I give most credit to one organization: Intermountain Youth Centers. They were once located throughout New Mexico and had a facility in Colorado, but now they operate out of Arizona only. They are a behavioral health organization, whose beginnings were in Native American communities. When NM state started funneling money toward certain facilities, a place like Intermountain, which specialized in helping Native American youth, started to get less and less funding. In the end, Intermountain was too narrowly focused for New Mexico, who wanted to fund the fewest and least expensive behavioral health facilities. I worked in Santa Fe.
There’s something about being placed in a position to be a mentor that can change the way you see the world. I was a very negative person. Life was hard and assumed it would always be. When Intermountain employed me to run “strength based” programming with Native youth, I started to change. I had to be a role model who showed positivity for days at a time. If I was going to help these young men, I would need to follow the “strength based” model closely. In other words, I was bought into the organization. I believed in its philosophy.
What happened? I went from being so negative that most of people reading this post right now would have never associated with me. I was not the type to draw people in. In fact, I was pretty good at pushing people away and keeping people at a distance. From that, I turned into someone who was always filled with gratitude. I was so greatly changed by Intermountain that I’m still guided by its philosophy. And I haven’t been with the organization since 2009. I mostly say good things to people. When someone is trying to draw out negativity, I tend to start saying positive things. Not that I don’t have my bad days like everyone else. But for the most part I tend to usually be in a good mood and like to focus on solutions and problem solving rather than wallowing in the muck of self pity.
I was with Intermountain for about six years and it took the majority of that time to make the complete transformation. They say every cell in your body is made new by regeneration every seven years. I’d say it was pretty close to that mark. My DNA must have been changed in that space of time. I certainly don’t feel like the person I was before Intermountain. Now that I’m back in my hometown of Tahlequah, Oklahoma it’s interesting to see how hard it is for people who knew me before to let me change. I don’t think people like to let other people change. But that’ll have to be a post for another day.
All in all: I’m lucky. I interact with people all the time, many in the latter years of their life, and they’re miserable people. Ultimately, it’s sad. I’m a firm believer in leading by example. My element of persuasion is just being myself. I’m not in the business of recruiting. Largely because it’s counterproductive. The next time missionaries knock on your door see how fast you run to the back of the house.
I see people who have good hearts allowing themselves to be swallowed by anger, frustration, and hatred. I wish I could give them my experiences at Intermountain so they’d have a chance to change for the better. We do the world service by just being positive and helping each other out. We have to trust and allow people to change on their own time.
(Works Cited: Images above were borrowed from intermountcenters.com and maxpixel.com)