We were automatic best friends. Me and Lisha did everything together. She actually flew through some milestones a little faster than normal because she was always hanging around with me and doing the same things at the same time that I was. At a year younger, she learned to ride a bike without training wheels and the elementary school volleyball coach made an exception and allowed her on the team at the same time I started because we were inseparable.
In school I guess I was always the smart one who was student of the month every year and I joined the Gifted and Talented program as soon as I was old enough. My sister received her academic awards a little less often and joined the gifted program later than I did.
For college I went to Highlands University in Las Vegas, N.M. and she went to New Mexico State University the next year in 2007. By 2008, I joined her at NMSU and graduated in 2010. She graduated in 2012. I became a journalist right out of college and she decided to go to get her masters in social work at Washington University in St. Louis. It's 1,170 miles from Las Cruces and 1,160 from our home in Crownpoint and it's a totally different place.
I know she gets homesick and it hurts me too. It was a horrible time for me to part with her at the airport and leave her in St. Louis. I had never been away from her for this long before. Even when we were at NMSU together we lived together and shared everything. My heart slowly broke that week she started packing.
She's been in St. Louis for a few months and is now in her second semester at Washington University. She hasn't gotten used to the big city yet, and says she hates it, but her grades are good and she's on track to graduating (hopefully) some time next year.
She's going farther than anyone else has in our family. We are all so proud of her and we know she can do it. I know she wants to do a lot of good things for our tribe when she's ready and I can't wait until she is.
Here's what she has to say about going to school in St. Louis:
"I matter, I belong here and I am doing this to help my tribe in the future."Alisha Murphy: There are moments of immense pride and accomplishment where I find myself extremely grateful and proud of myself, not to mention thankful for the support and love from my family. During this time I always start off thinking of all the things Mom and Dad provided for us. I think about how much they, too, have overcome and I am so grateful to have their support.
Then I start to think about how much I have learned and how much I grew up. Although our (yours and mine) experiences are completely different, it seems I'm still learning and following in your footsteps. You are still my role model.
Then I start thinking of how much I want to make my family proud.
And then I start missing home because I am physically disconnected from home. Being here in the big city is fun and there are a lot of things to do, but the feeling of unfamiliarity overwhelms the excitement of being out and about in St. Louis. This overwhelming feeling happens more often than not.
For as long as I've been here (since August 2013), I've come to realize that being a grad student is easy because learning is fun. But being away from home is the hard part. At times I was afraid that this fear would prevent and interfere with my performance and participation in school, but it hasn't.
Since we started school, when we were little, no matter what was going on, our parents made sure school was the most important thing. I can be homesick and tired and losing my mind but school and my school work get done no matter what.
As for being one of the few Navajo/Native students here at Washington University in St. Louis, every day is different. For example today, I was the only person to answer questions about tribes.
Coming here I did not realize I would be one of the sole representatives of the Navajo people and Native Americans, especially when discussing certain topics and social issues. I did not know I would be put in that position, but I am. So another important lesson I've learned and have accepted is that just as much as I am a student, I am also educating others, a responsibility that I am happy to do. It's sometimes frustrating but I do it. I have to tell myself every day that I matter, I belong here and I am doing this to help my tribe in the future.