Pocahontas

December 29, 2008
By
My mother used to call me Pocahontas when I was younger. It was an appropriate and endearing title, I think; I would watch the Disney adaptation tirelessly, always discovering new meaning in every scene, always wishing that I could be brave and clever, just like this historical caricature. The story of this free-spirited Powhatan princess and libertine never ceased to amaze me as a five-year old.
Recently for one reason or another, the long-forgotten nickname emerged again, and I had a blast of nostalgia for those days when I used to live in a world of make-believe. As a child, I was curious about everything I saw; the backyard was another world that had to be explored. I searched for wonder in the most quotidian things; I wondered why the grass woke up every morning in a lustrous veil of dew, and why I couldn’t be sparkly at 6 A.M. This curiosity turned into a thirst for knowledge that could be quenched at school. I still think of education as a quest for enlightenment, which is why I have decided to apply to this university. I believe that this institution can be my guiding compass on this journey that I must take, not only as a student, but as a person going into adulthood.
Being that I am about to start that odyssey from childhood to that next part of my life, I was surprised that my mother had so nonchalantly called me that Algonquian nickname that I heard frequently as a wide-eyed little girl. When I asked her why she remembered it, she simply smiled and told me that throughout my process of applying to college, she had seen the spark of curiosity in my eyes again; the same one I had at five years old when I saw Pocahontas for the first time and like her, I had a first encounter with a diverse society. As a child immigrant, I saw my family’s abrupt relocation to this new world as an adventure. I don’t think I realized that my family left everything behind to secure a better future for me, something they could only dream of in my native land, Colombia. My naiveté blinded me from the economic and emotional hardship that they went through as ‘aliens’ those first few years. But as I grew older, I learned to appreciate everything they did. I realized that everything they did was to lift me up so I could grasp that elusive thing, the American dream. My parent’s small daily tasks were like dewdrops on the thinnest blade of grass; I learned to find wonder in my parent’s daily and admirable endurance.
I respected this perseverance and courage and each time I heard my mother call me Pocahontas, I felt as if there might be some of those qualities in me too. The sound of the nickname would instantly make me feel more important, somehow like I had a place in the world, even as a small child. I felt that maybe one day I would mature into someone like her, someone who would make a difference. Perhaps I would be remembered for doing something so bold that would simultaneously make old men who died for tradition roll over in their graves and sow the seeds of change. Perhaps I could help people in need raise their voices that are so often unheard, overwhelmed by the deafening silence of ignorance and hate. Of course these are lofty goals for a kindergartener, but in retrospect I believe that indeed a children’s animated film gave me my first lessons of the importance of diversity and the capability of creating change in the world.
I am being very frank when I say that I still feel like that ingenuous five-year old sometimes, especially now as I am about to send off a piece of myself to decide my future. But the fact that I had once again assumed my youthful pseudonym just brought me back to the past. Reminiscing seventeen years of life, I realize that Pocahontas, not the animated character or the one in a tiny vignette in a history textbook, but her spirit, has always been with me. That spirit is with me now, as I am about to explore the rest of my life, starting with this one step towards enlightenment.





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