Love Yourself, Put Yourself First.

Hello! Hau, Mitakuyepi!

I made a promise to myself, to be single for a year.  To be honest, this isn’t me preaching to you, saying that you should do what I did.  This is more so, an understanding of why I operate the way I do and how I got here.  But I will say this to you, women, and men: Love yourself. Be internally happy.  And never give up on a dream.  Know your worth, and know what you deserve.  Don’t put up with any crap.  Be resilient.  Be confident. And smile.  As my dad would always tell me, as I left the house to go to school and still says it to this day, “be a strong, proud, Indian woman.” Being a Native woman, I was raised as traditional as my parents could raise me, while living off the reservation, for a large portion of my life.  So knowing our history, my parents teachings, I wasn’t respecting myself, and I was letting people disrespect me.

So here’s an overview.  I can never say no.  And I always go out of my way for people.  I would rather spend my money on others, to make them happy, and bring a smile, than spend it on myself.  When in relationships, I am a 50/50 type of girlfriend and friend.  To me, I like to know that I can take care of myself, it may be a pride thing, but I always want to know, that in any situation, I am confident in myself, to take care of myself.  Basically, I never want to feel like I have to rely on someone. However, I lost sight of that. So here is how this whole, “I’m going to remain single for a year” happened.

I was in a relationship for about 4 years.  It had its absolute great moments to the absolute worst moments, with everything in between. How we started, should have been strong indicators to not move forward, but I ignored family and friends, because I don’t give up.  I believed in something, and I stuck with it.  I am happy that I did.  I don’t have any regrets and most importantly, I learned from it.  As mentioned in a previous blog, on violence against women, I shared a personal story of my past.  Which in my opinion has set the standards of my relationships: trust issues, wanting to feel safe, but always is a doormat and gets taken for granted.  That isn’t going to happen again.

This relationship started a few months after college and the plan was to stay in Maine for several months, then move to DC.  That didn’t happen until two years later.  I made sacrifices to make this relationship work, to make him happy.  The start had a lot of lying and cheating, which I put up with.  We put each other through hell, which was the start, and hell is what we went through at the end.  I had been cheated on before and I’m a forgiving person. But, running was going great, jobs were going great, and the relationship finally was at a non-fighting point in Maine.  And the only way that was possible, on my part, was that I stopped being friends with a majority of my peers.  Jealousy was at the root of this relationship, but I did what I did to make the relationship work.  Luckily, I’ve reached out to those friends, and they knew what was going on from the outside, some hung in there with me, and some didn’t want to make things worse for me. So at the end of it, from family and friends, I got the “I told you so.” Which, I truly hate hearing.

Two years in, the relationship was great, and I felt comfortable enough to put me first, and decided to move to DC and go after my dream of advocating and being a voice for Indian Country. He was very supportive, but I questioned whether or not we’d make it.  A couple months into me living in DC and working, I get a phone call from him, saying that he was going to move to DC, he was ready for a change, and was ready to be with me.  The first year went great in DC.  We saw so much together, made new friends, but a majority of the friends, were his friends.  If I went to a Happy Hour with co-workers, I’d get the whole “when will you be home?” or if I was late than the time I suggested, I would get attitude.  I ignored it because I loved him. Fights started to happen, because my parents lived only 2 hours away, the first time living in the same state as them since high school!  It felt like a battle: I was supposed to choose him or my family.  This started to wear on me and the fights started to happen more frequently.

I was developing a stronger voice and a backbone.  Living in DC, you have to have one or this city and the driven people in it, can eat you alive.  So here I was, starting to snap back at him, hold my ground, and saying no.  This relationship was not a 50/50.  As I don’t want to get into every detail, some of it was traumatizing, not just for me, but for him, the main point was, is that I started to see how I was being treated.  And I didn’t deserve it. I deserved better.  Whether he could give that to me or not, I made it known what I needed.  I kept giving him chances, warning him of what the potentials were if this relationship was staying on the course it did.  Some things about the relationship were completely unhealthy.  I had completely lost myself in this, and made him the center.  The love was so intense; it was worth putting ourselves through it.  But, a person, and their heart, will reach a breaking point.

The Break Up:

Things were up and down and it was clear that this relationship was struggling.  I was mentally exhausted.  And with the latest fights happening, I suggested that we take a break, and not talk at all, since he was going home to Maine for a visit.  In my head, I thought, “well this should scare him, the thought of losing me, and us not talking, this will make him change and treat me, and value me better.”  I was doing everything.  But, I did it because I loved him.  Me being mentally exhausted was my own doing.  I didn’t establish boundaries or say “cut the crap, this is 50/50 now” and this perhaps could’ve been fixed a lot sooner.  I kept quiet, and he kept taking me for granted.  He was very supportive of my career but I wasn’t focusing on my happiness at all.  I agree with my dad when he said “before you can make anyone else happy, you have to make yourself happy first, you have to know who you are and what you want, before you open your heart to someone else.”  I did it completely backwards.  And I’m in this city, confused at what I want and need.  I realized that I hadn’t grown as much as a person, because I was putting in over 100% into someone else.  So this break, I thought would coincide with him realizing he needs to change, but allow me to pull back and to work on myself, hoping that he’d realize that I needed to be my own person while being in a relationship.

He came back from Maine, the apologies were said, the hugs and kisses were had, so I thought, maybe this will be the last time.  A week later, insane fights happened, and he broke up with me two days later.  I saw all the behavior I saw in the beginning of our relationship come back in full force, to the point that I was scared.  My parents were scared.  My friends were scared.  I made sure that this break-up, remained.  I wasn’t messing around this time.  He had to prove it, and what I was seeing, wasn’t proving it to me at all.  It made me feel like, he hadn’t changed and I questioned, if people really can.  The whole summer we remained broken up, in the same city.  It was very stressful.  We were still fighting, his jealousy was at the worst I’ve ever seen it, and we were just bringing out the worst in each other.  I had just started my new job, trying to network, trying to work my butt off and move up the work ladder, while making new friends.  I threw myself into this, because I was so stressed out.  My eating disorder came back in full force and I had lost control.  I wasn’t running as much, and I just couldn’t be or feel happy.  Finally, by September 2015, we thought it was best he move back to Maine.  Things were not getting better. As much as I loved and cared about him, this was not working.  It was toxic at this point.  He moved home, and we haven’t talked since.

The Motivation:

I put all my energy into work.  I put myself first.  I attended the White House Tribal Youth Gathering, I attended more hearings regarding Indian Affairs, attended a Native Languages Summit, and I represented my Tribe, at the White House Tribal Nations Conference.  By December, I was promoted, 6 months into this new job, and couldn’t believe it.  I was in tears.  But it assured me, that I was on the right track, and to keep striving for more, and higher.  I believed in myself.  I was living by myself and taking care of myself.  I had no one to rely on but me, and that feeling felt great. During this time, from my experiences of working on the Hill, working in a Native non-profit, and my own contract work, I realized a disconnect in flow of information between DC and in Indian Country.  So, I created Native in DC.  It’s my blog, where I write about personal issues, legislation affecting Indian Country, voting, ideas to improve current legislation’s or programs that benefit or hinder Indian Country.  It was a way for me to develop a voice and my own opinion. It was a way for me to connect with Indian Country more.  It was a way for me to be like, “Hey, I’m here, I want to help, and I’m here for all of us.” The goal of this blog was to inform, and assure Indian Country, that they have one of their own representing Indian Country, in Washington, DC.  There are many of us here.  We need more of you here, but progress is being made.

I’ve always been a runner, and it’s what I missed the most. So, I decided to get back into routine with running and training again, late fall.  I contacted my former NB coach and he was happy to work with me again.  I made sure I was visiting home more; I made sure I was getting back into beading, reading more, and spending more time, to myself.  It was hard at first, especially when I shared every day of my life for 4 years with someone, but I got comfortable with it, really quick.  Then January 2016 came, and I was asked to run for Billy Mills, Team Running Strong at the April 2016 120th Boston Marathon.  I was happy to say yes, and my coach and I, put in the work.  Unfortunately, it didn’t go as we planned, since I was diagnosed with Compartment Syndrome about 3 weeks prior in both legs, so the plan was to get to the finish line, and take in the experience.  About 2.5 months post Boston, I am running consistently, but its baby steps for right now!

marathon1

Team 1ndigenous: Post Boston Marathon!

During this year, I created Team 1ndigenous, which will eventually become a non-profit, where it will empower our youth to achieve their dreams, in all sports. To start, it’s a one person team with me, and it’ll start with running.  Eventually, hope to have a running team compete at USATF Cross Country Club Nationals, and be a sanctioned team. Applications for Team Ambassadors will be up at end of the summer/early fall, but more to come on that as further development needs to be ironed out.

 

 

Strengthening Relationships.  Building Relationships.  Strengthening Myself:

Over this year, I have spent a lot of time, with family, friends, networking events, volunteering with other Native organizations and their youth programs, and trying to be on the Hill as much as possible to stay informed.  And it has made me feel like I have done the right thing.  When that relationship ended, my life took off.  That unhealthy relationship was an anchor.  As much as I don’t want to call it that, or have him feel that way, we were both holding each other down.  Once it was over, and we weren’t around each other anymore, our lives changed and changed for the better.  Then, May 2016 came, and I had my one year anniversary with my work, which I was beyond thrilled to have, and more emotional about it than I had expected.  This job started when the relationship was failing, and it was my safety blanket that I relied on to escape the stress.  I am so blessed to be friends with my co-workers and to have good relationships with my grantees that are spread all throughout Indian Country.  This job has really pushed me, put me outside of my comfort zone, which I am making sure I do often, and has really helped in my development as a person.

The family and friends that have been there, I can’t thank enough.  They saw me at my weakest, I confided in them, and they were so helpful in reminding me, what I deserve, in all aspects.  I saw a therapist to help with some issues that I have had since that relationship in high school, for my eating disorder, and opened up to more of my friends, because what happened to me earlier on in my life made me feel like my problems are mine, and I shouldn’t talk about it with anyone.  I was taking back control of my life, and I am still doing it.  I don’t want to relapse again, and when the time is right for a relationship, I will not make the same repeated mistakes.  But there are 7 people who will get a shout out that really saw it all or that I found and instantly knew, we’d be besties for life from this past year:

My Ate: My dad, has always been there, has always played the devil’s advocate, and has always been able to see both sides of any situation I’ve been in.  So while he wasn’t a fan of this relationship, he was able to see the ex’s side on some things.  But, his hugs, our drives around the mountains to get me away and just listen to music, our wing eating contests at Buffalo Wild Wings, and our cookie dough eating, happened a lot during this year.  He was there for me if I needed to cry and he’d pick up the phone, and drop what he was doing.  He has been the best dad a girl could ask for.

ina

My beautiful, Ina!

My Ina: My mother, has always been there for me, and has always been very forward in her opinions.  Those opinions, sometimes, I didn’t like.  But she always knew, a mother always knows. When I needed her, she dropped what she was doing.  She’s been living in South Dakota to take care of my grampy for the last 18 months, so our FaceTime calls increased, texting increased, our data usage bill went over, and the tagging of us on funny pictures on Facebook happened more.  The short visits I have had with her have been wonderful, and we always laugh, watch movies, go to Powwows, and just enjoy each others company. She knew how bad I was struggling, and she helped as much as she could, but it was more so, as much as I would let her.

sheree

Sheree… the ginger, the wild one, the runner, the adventurous one, the dance party anytime one, the fun one.

Sheree and Parker: You guys saved me.  From the beginning of the ending of the relationship, you guys stuck with me, despite efforts that were supposed to sabotage our friendship.  You kept me busy, went out a lot, and created a lot of fun memories.  You were there for me when I was weak and needed to cry, vent, or just sit there with me.  You let me into your life when mine was chaotic, and I can’t thank you enough.

parker.jpg

Parker, the numbers guy, the runner, the guitar player, the appreciator of building watching.

Erik: Met through mutual friend, but established a friendship through Facebook, since you were out of the country and have been a majority of the time, the last almost 2 years I’ve known you. The few times we were able to catch up, were great! You were the best host (and your parents) in Oregon. You asked me the hard questions.  You let me vent.  You let me hear your opinion.  And you made me feel uncomfortable, when I couldn’t face or admit to the facts.  You pushed me outside my own head, to think about what I deserved.  I have valued our friendship so much, and can’t thank you enough.

Victoria aka The Original Bae:  I met this girl post break up.  But she Facebook stalked me, we live in the same city, and we just instantly became best friends.  This girl lets me vent.  We laugh so much.  She feeds me and is great at cooking.  She knows when I am hangry and sometimes, we are hangry together, which is all the more, terrifying, especially for anyone around us. But, at the end of the day, we are sisters.  She has shared her life with me, welcomed me into her family, and has really proven to always be there for me.  She’s had a rough life, she’s overcome so much, graduated from Georgetown University this year, with her master’s, and is a foster mommy to three adorable PUPPIES!!!!! Even though this year has been rough, but great, she’s made it better. This girl will be in my life forever.

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Ariel aka Bae, Bestie, twins, Snapchat Queens: I met this girl a little over two months ago.  We work in the same building, same team, and same aspirations in terms of what we want for a career trajectory.  It all started with a Facebook message with an invite to Hill Country Bar in Chinatown to meet up for a drink and watch karaoke with my friends.  The night turned into a blast and the snapchatting game has become so strong, that we are at 52 (fire emoji, heart emoji) and trying to achieve the 100. It honestly feels like we have been friends for forever.  We instantly were close, shared deep personal stories, laughed and have always been there for each other, when it comes to advice.  I know this girl has my back.  She’s the master of finding out information; her real title should be Private Investigator.  We are in about 90% of each others snapchat stories,  making everyone laugh at work and are constantly told that we are “so adorable” or “you guys are weird” by our friends and co-workers.  It was once said by our friend Kristen that “it’s so adorable that you guys are besties, it’s like you were meant to be and found each other!” Sleepovers, double dates, road trips, salsa dancing, nap buddies, snuggle buddies, and each others wing-woman, I am confident, that this girl will be a bestie for life.

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In conclusion, this last year, of being on my own, has proven to me that I can accomplish what I set out to do.  I have become confident, and I love myself. I have developed a stronger backbone that I didn’t have.  I have a stronger voice. I still have some problems to work on, but that continues with growing as a person.  The most important thing is, I believe in myself.  I am so happy I took that year to myself to grow and to learn more about me.  I’m not saying you should too, but it was one of the best decisions I have made.  Now, who knows what will happen.  I’m open to anything.  I am still driven and motivated more than ever.  I’m ready to keep moving on up and moving forward.  Wise words from Dory; “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming!”

And for my beautiful native women, know this and never forget it: Be a strong, proud, Indian woman.

I love you all! Keep it up! Go for dreams, go for your goals! And never forget who you are.

Hihanni Waste! Mitakuye Oyasin!

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