So I’m currently in the process of appling for scholarships. Yay! Not……. Business people might be great at this, maybe even lawyers could convince others of their abilities. Me, I hate selling myself. I’m all too aware of my faults and like most people in the world, I have doubts about my abilities. So it’s damn right hard to put into words, how amazing you’re ‘supposed’ to be in order for someone to consider granting funds that would allow a life changing opportunity and enhanced career prospects. How do you do it?
For a start, Trusts and Foundations want to know exactly what skills you have and how granting you money will specifically benefit you and/or certain categories of people. While I agree that it is only right for you to be accountable to them, how on earth can you be certain that the skills you have will actually help someone in the future? I know exactly what my strengths are. For instance, despite being blonde (and often dumb), when I am armed with knowledge, sometimes people actually listen to me. People who know me too well probably think its coz I don’t let anyone else talk! But seriously, when I have something important to say, people actually listen to me. Some people even enjoy listening to me. And others feel so comfortable with me that I end up hearing their life stories! And this is not a complaint. Quite the contrary in fact, this is something I feel very very humbled and privileged to experience. For some reason, I get people. I figure this is a skill and I personally think it is a very powerful skill. But its not a very conventional skill is it? I mean, imagine this: “Dear scholarship people, you should give me tens of thousands of dollars so that I can study, because people like listening to me and they like sharing their stories with me”. So how exactly does anyone benefit from this? Perhaps with those skills i could work for the GCSB? You know, brain washing people and spying on them at the same time. Mwahahahaha.
There’s also the whole ‘tall poppy syndrome’ that I have to balance delicately. It’s like, “Dear Scholarship people, you should give me money because I have this amazing opportunity, oh but its not that amazing that I’m gonna be all up myself. Coz I’m not that amazeballs. But you know, if you’ve got that money lying around, it would help me out (a lot!)”.
Then there’s the whole competing against scientists complex that I have. I mean, I actually know an amazing woman who helped creat a machine to help keep premature babies alive! OMG! How on earth do you compete against that? “Dear scholarship people, I am sooo awesome and you should give me money because I can save humanity if I have the chance…….not that I’ll like ‘actually’ save them coz I’m not a doctor or anything, but you know, like keep democracy in check maybe?!”.
And of course,there are those scholarships that state: for study in New Zealand. That rules me out of sooo many scholarships. And it sucks coz I have got to be one of the proudest Kiwi’s there is! Just because I don’t live in New Zealand doesn’t mean that my successes are not going to benefit New Zealand. In fact, I want my successes to benefit New Zealand. To me, its such a limited view on what makes people who we are. New Zealand is my home, New Zealand is where I come from and where my family are. The last time I entered the airport, I even felt a little teary because I was home and nothing can explain the feeling of arriving ‘home’. I dont know how else to explain it, perhaps it is best summed up with the word turangawaewae, it is my place of standing. New Zealand is the only place in the world where I belong. Unlike lots of people who naively believe they can go to other countries and push for change, when its really not their place to do that (like those bloody French and German girls protesting for women’s rights in Tunisia), New Zealand is the only place in the world where I have the right to challenge people and push for change. And lets be honest, its too hard to learn the complete history and politics of other countries, so in that regard, New Zealand will remain my country of interest. Sure, I’ll probably grow and change by living away from home for a while but there ain’t nothing that will cut my ties to Aotearoa. So, “Dear scholarship people, I have been offered a place at a world class tertiary institution. But oh wait, I’m not going to be studying in New Zealand. Nevermind. Humble regards, Someone With Potential That Will Never Get The Chance Because You Denied Them The Funds”.
Then there’s predicting the future. “Dear scholarhip people, please give me some money because I promise to change the world through policy. Despite economic crises; Despite corruption; Despite political differences; Despite the fact that aliens might come and destroy the world; Despite the fact I am only human and there are a million reasons that I could fail to achieve my goals – I will rise above all of this and keep my promise to change the world”. One can only hope.
And those who are urban Maori might understand my other battle. Maori scholarships. I am tuturu Maori (staunch) and have got to a point in my life where I no longer feel the need to prove myself, my heritage or my knowledge of Maoritanga to anyone. Except when applying for scholarships. And it makes me feel like crap because I can’t tick half the boxes, despite being wahine toa. I don’t speak Te Reo and while I have a general knowledge of tikanga Maori and feel totally comfortable going onto marae, I’m never gonna be kaikaranga (but I did start the waiata for my university group in Japan….does that count?!). Of course not being fluent also means I don’t have any awards from the Maori speech competition, Nga Manu Korero, which any deserving Maori should have. On top of that, I don’t have a repertoire of waiata up my sleeves! And while I grew up watching my older cousins, Nan’s, Koko’s, Aunties and Uncles in our whanau kapa haka group, I was never part of it myself nor have I been part of one (does my primary school performance count?). And for the record, I have never been to Te Matatini. While I grew up watching my Koko research for our iwi and sitting beside him at plenty of hui, I didn’t do anything myself (though I did go with him when he did research at the National Archives and National Libraries and I also helped paint protest placards. Does that count?). I also grew up watching my nan in her role as Kuia at her workplace and got used to her hui hopping all over the motu. But me, I did nothing. To make it worse, even my French husband knows how to make a hangi, but not me! I haven’t a clue, aside from needing hot rocks or railroad tracks, cloth, dirt, food – including Uncle Bo’s stuffing! – and beer. And I’ve just realised that I don’t even know how to put a macron on top of vowels when using a bloody keyboard! I think the most shameful thing I can say, is that while I absoloutly love paua, I don’t know how to find them nor take out their teeth and hua. Hika ma!
I know is all a bit tongue and cheek and most of these things don’t actually bother me. But the thing is, many Maori scholarship funds actually do want to see that these boxes are checked as proof that you’re worth it. They want to know that you speak Te Reo. They want to know about your Kapa Haka experiences. They want to know what you have done for your iwi or community. But despite knowing my whakapapa and turangawaewae, despite being staunch about my heritage and trying my best to champion Maori rights, culture and customs; despite having worked as a Treaty of Waitangi educator (which in a round about way helped my iwi/community, although not specifically……does that count?!), it seems that I just don’t fit the criteria for many Maori scholarships. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t begrudge my whanaunga who can tick all the boxes and I am very proud, even envious, that our language, culture, customs and traditions are being kept alive by these very people. But I also don’t begrudge the fact that I have simply had different opportunities, nor that my whanau thought differently about what I needed to get by in this world. So despite all that I have achieved, I am judged by a cultural framework that is static rather than dynamic, fluid and modern. On that basis, I guess my applications will go a little something like this, “Tena Koutou to the scholarship people. I am humbled by the opportunity to present myself to you. I don’t speak Te Reo, I didn’t partake in kapa haka, I’ve done nothing measureable for my iwi or community and I am too whakamaa to tell you the potential I have for fear of sounding like I’m being up myself”. Nga mihi nui, Plastic Maori”.
So yeah, applying for scholarships is bloody hard work! I’m not comfortable singing my own praises, have weird and unconventional strengths, don’t meet half the criteria, am not Maori enough, am competing against scientists who can ‘actually’ save the world and I hate making promises I have no way of keeping. But by hook or by crook……….. I better just suck it up aye?!