CMC winning essay: Colorful Colorado becomes a new home | PostIndependent.com

CMC winning essay: Colorful Colorado becomes a new home

Dita Baranek

CMC ESSAY CONTEST

Colorado Mountain College, as part of its 50th anniversary celebration, held an essay contest in conjunction with Colorado Mountain News Media for people living within CMC’s service area. The topic was “Broadening the Conversation: How diversity shapes our lives in western Colorado.” This was one of seven winning entries, with Dita Baranek winning a $500 scholarship to CMC. She also receives an additional $500 as the collegewide winner.

It is summer, a long time ago as it seems, and I’m in a faraway place. The horses are kicking up dust and something is stirring inside me, the yearning to run free, to touch the setting sun on the western horizon, my long hair flying just like the manes of the horses. Gradually, from the prairie, we reach the mountains, and the shadow that covers us is no longer the darkness of the Iron Curtain we left behind, but the coolness of an early evening lodged between the peaks and the valleys of a never-before-seen country. Our new home.

I used to read about this place and to dream about the Wild West, the cowboys and Indians; just today we call them ranchers and Native Americans. And along came others. Not everybody ranched. Some built, some bought, some dug, some sold and some hunted. And as the time passed, suddenly, the bumper stickers arrived with a claim: “Native.”

I could question how I fit in. I’m just a first-generation immigrant, clumsy in my ways and highly visible anytime I speak. Hardly native, I admit. People tend to ask me about where I’m from, and as I cringe, not knowing the reason behind their asking, I like to say “From Miami,” just to have a laugh and to release the tension. It’s true; I’m not lying. Before I’m done explaining, I find out about where they’ve come from, to return the favor and to feed my own curiosity. The real truth is that we all came from somewhere, didn’t we?

It’s a good thing that all of us didn’t come at the same time, don’t speak the same way, don’t look the same, are not the same, and don’t do the same thing for a living. (For goodness sake, it’s already enough we drive the same route upvalley!) The layers of our lives, as the years build up, leave behind a richness of our work, a result of our own exploring and of pursuing our dreams, so different from each other, yet bound together with the same theme: a hunger for personal freedom and the ultimate right to live. This undertaking takes some courage, mainly the courage to accept our differences and to allow ourselves to be changed by what we learn.

No wonder, this place happens to have a very fitting name for all our differences. It reminds me of the summer evening long time ago, with the setting sun on the horizon painting the sky with its hues of orange, red and gold. Colorful. Colorado. And as the sun sets at the end of the day, we look behind at our accomplishments, satisfied and fulfilled with work well done. On a mountaintop or down by the river, our lives are so much richer when we allow each other into our existence, to support, to allow to grow and to celebrate the results together.

What do you know? You and I have grown. It hasn’t been always easy, but it was inevitable and it was necessary. As struggle brings strength, and as diversity brings health, we know we’re better off when we let experiences shape our lives, as much as we shape each other.


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