How Poetry Helped Me Find My Voice, My Worth, And Myself

Sandrachile./ Unsplash

It has taken me twenty-seven years to realize the following sobering fact: the greatest challenge I’ve ever faced and overcome is myself. Always my parents’ darling, I grew up smiling when they said I should and joining the extracurricular activities they’d assured me I’d enjoy. Without batting an eyelash, I always did as I was told and walked the track along stones they’d set off for me like breadcrumbs. This mentality guided me through high school and college. As my peers focused on their personal aspirations and dreamings, I focused on the ones that my parents had designated for me.

Fortunately, even as I suppressed myself, I found an outlet in verse classes.

My small voice began to grow with each workshop and criticism. I felt so strong and brave reciting the pieces I’d written. Eventually, for once, I felt like myself. I lived for the delicious thrill of hearing my words settle and find a home in the supposes of other people. If only for a second, I could be alive in the words I was speaking. I could live the life I always dreamed of through rhythm and imagery. I craved the feeling of a pen in my hand as the words flowed through me. I speedily filled many Moleskine notebooks with my pain, my prose, my love, and the voices in my head imploring me to be anything other than what I was- a girl scared to live a life that was truly her own.

Unfortunately, even though I continued to thrive in all of my write classes, I bent to the expectations my parents placed on me. When they told me I could never make a career out of writing, I believed them. When “theyre saying” I should apply to statute school, I did. For the first time in my academic life, I struggled. I felt totally adrift in statute school- like any day, one of my legal profs would recognize me for the fraud I was: a poet parading myself as some sort of future politician. Through it all, I took consolation in my write. Whenever I was stressed or overwhelmed, I determined myself kneeling at the feet of the greats: Nikki Giovanni, Rumi, Leonard Cohen, and Frank O’Hara. The writing of these poets nourished and kept me whole. They also inspired my own run. At that time, more than ever before, I discovered verse flowing out of me like mystical water. Late nights in the law library was transformed into miniature verse readings as I enthralled my fellow classmates with pieces I’d written.

I felt alive surrounded by terms- ultimately, free in an environment that sought to creatively stifle me at every turn. I wanted to quit; but by the time I’d built up the nerve to do so, I was faced with devastating news: my older brother Carlos committed suicide. In an instant, their own families was shattered. Abruptly, I felt obligated to complete my legal analyses in order to bring some sense of pleasure to my mothers. I thought that perhaps my victories could drown out the loss we’d all suffered. So onward I trekked, through oral debates, appellate briefs, and judicial internships. I was determined to do anything I could to attain my mothers feel like they hadn’t entirely failed. As a outcome, the working day I ultimately graduated from statute school was a source of pride for my mothers but an empty one for me. Everyone maintained telling me that I’d accomplished so much- but I felt so small; numbed by this hollowness that seemed to be enveloping me more and more each day. I searched for myself in each mirror but I didn’t recognise the person or persons staring back at me from the glass.

Eventually, the weight of my brother’s demise and the stress of my legal studies took their toll. The summer that I should have expended reveling in my accomplishments was spent weeping every single day. That autumn, despite the protests of everyone around me, I absconded to California. There, hundreds of thousands of miles away from my family and their expectations, I began to rediscover and rebuild myself. For the first time ever, I lived. I thrived. I traveled. I loved. I discovered new words in new places. Most importantly, I find myself along the sandy beaches of Malibu and the cracking desert of Joshua Tree. I slept beneath the stars. I heard my own voice in that of the coyotes wailing around me in the wilderness and in the popping of campfires burning at my bare feet. All the while, I wrote and filled myself whole so I could pour myself out again.

In that strange darkness, I discovered a new illumination. One that illuminated each of my sides: the doting daughter, the haunted poet, the devoting fan. I occupied each extreme and it felt liberating. It felt right. My journey disclosed my purpose: to write and to share words with others.

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