Student Perspective: Hayley Domingo

I’m from Mother Earth.

Home of every race, culture and individual person who can be anybody they want to be.

The Navajo reservation is where I call home. Born and raised. Everyone knowing everyone. Each person related to one another through clans. Elders trying their best to teach young ones secrets of the past. But a lot of them reluctant to learn because their mothers and fathers never teach them to respect our heritage.

I am me . . . .

Because of the music from the 90’s. When the music made more sense. A CD album and the lyrics of a song told a story of what the artist went through. It would either be a heartache or a discovery of a new love. Nowadays the music is just a few words and a beat thrown together with hardly a message.

Because of the commodity food. It was what kept me fed and for the most part nourished. My favorite was the block of cheese, a slice melted into a homemade tortilla was the bomb. A bowl of Farina for breakfast was what gave me energy to go play outside when I lived with my mom and dad.

And mmm, the fry bread. The sound of the bubbling, sizzling and popping lard in a deep dish pan as the circular shape of dough floats inside it. Turning it with a fork as it mutates into a crispy, brown fry bread. Avidly keeping watch so my fry bread doesn’t overcook as the smoke permeates my apron, the kitchen, and my hair.

All worth it in the end.

What made me . . . .

Sitting up late nights with my brothers, drinking pots of coffee and drawing or writing songs about our lives and listening to the radio. Just being with each other having no aunt or uncle jumping down our throats demanding us to do this and that.

I used to love when we got left home alone, we all would go to a ditch and go swimming in mud water that was created after a heavy rainfall. It was so much fun! But we knew the consequences when we get home, no supper, and being whooped because we got our clothes dirty. All thoughts were put aside for now, because we were living the moment.

Living with my aunt and uncle minimized me to having a regular childhood. Starting at a young age I had to learn how to take care of my siblings. I had no problem with that but the constant labor- cooking, cleaning, handwashing clothes, chopping woods, etc- was what killed my youthful spirit.

My aunt and uncle were the cruelest people I have ever lived with. Thus was the reason why I decided to run away from home. On a mission to search for my wandering mother who I came to find out was a child herself due to the way she was raised too. She wasn’t really ready to take full responsibility of a child. So I set out to do my own thing.

My dad was on a different level. Guess being in love with someone who don’t love you back will mess up your head. He was always drunk and didn’t care about himself. He loved my mom so much. When they broke up he didn’t know what to do with himself but constantly drank and drank . . . maybe to find happiness in a bottle. A happiness he never could find again.

Yet my mind filled with wisdom from my father who was very religious. How much I used to love him reading us stories at nights from the Bible. Telling us to be kind and love more like the way Jesus did. My mother I love just the same. She has taught me to be strong emotionally and to have a blunt mouth, which at times, I will admit, gets me in trouble. How much I miss the late nights we sat at a table doing puzzles with the light of a kerosene lamp flickering on us.

After my mom and dad left I ended up staying with my aunt and uncle.

Going to school at a boarding school called Pueblo Pintado Boarding School. Not being home for most of the week was the good part of this school. Interacting with my friends and the coolest teachers was always what I wanted. Being in the spotlight. Being the smartest. Being praised for being good at what I do was what I craved.

But with the sweets came the sours . . .

Behind closed doors being defiled by men and boys who stayed with me at the boarding school was what I had to endure, most of the time, till I graduated. Once the staff leaves us to sleep supposedly comfortable in our beds, the debauchery would begin. I told the adults but nothing happened. So I learned to escape in my mind when my demons came to play.

After I ran away, my life was in a rut but I was happy. So much turmoil I held on to was relinquished. I was free to do as I please… free to go and stay whenever I wanted… free to eat whatever and whenever I wanted. Especially free to be whom I wanted to be.

Albuquerque was where I ran away to, hoping to find a better environment for myself. I started from the streets. Sleeping in abandoned buildings and on the side of buildings having enough blankets to keep me warm. Having to eat at shelters like Noon Day and Rescue Mission. Staying up late nights, scared to sleep alone because of random people coming up to where I tried to get some shut-eye.

While I tried my best to be productive at a young age, I always had obstacles in my way. Either I’m too young or I had to have parents present to sign me off to get where I wanted to be. Like school or in a shelter. Everything seemed so difficult so I ended up turning to alcohol and determined to find just a little bliss at the end of the bottle of vodka.

But drinking excessively came with getting in trouble with the law. Most of growing up, I always found myself incarcerated in Metropolitan Detention Center, a place I called my second home. Washing thermals and shirts for my next soup or shot of coffee. For just that small part, I was thankful for the way I grew up. Washing clothes was my only hustle. Having food three times a day and a roof over my head seemed a good thing for me. So I made it a habit to get locked up. Little did I know I was messing up my future and creating an extensive criminal record.

That was then . . . .

Now I’m in a new place in my life. A life I am very thankful for. About to get my diploma and soon off to college. I’m thankful for having a man that loves me for me and he will do anything to keep me from harm. A family that is proud of me because they see me from crawling on my belly to flying high in the sky . . . just like a butterfly.

. . . .

From the author: My reflection of the 'Spirit Book' project

I had a really fun time doing this project. Having to make something beautiful out of Mother Nature’s earthly possessions like leaves, twigs, and branches and bark paper was the coolest. Writing a story of what made me who I am today was kind of hard at first. But it gave me the idea that making something unique and beautiful out of something that was awful from my past helped me, mentally and emotionally, it gave me a little strength to forget about my past and to move on. Making my book stand out of a tumbleweed was what my heart and mind wanted me to do. I don’t know how to elaborate on how I chose to make my project out the stuff that I have used. All I can say is that my heart and mind wanted me to make it the way it stands and therefore I did.

My theme for the project was ‘metamorphosis’. I picked that theme because I wanted to remind myself, and to let others know, that choosing to hold on to your past will not help you or me mentally let go and free yourself from the bonds of your demons. The butterfly in the tumbleweed was just to let myself know that there is beauty in everything, especially a ratchet tumbleweed. -- Hayley Domingo