I didn’t always want to be a writer.
I wasn’t even sure I could write. I failed my high school’s freshmen English honors exam. Who I thought was my best friend at the time told someone that my writing made her want to slit her wrists. (Needless to say, we no longer speak.)
In my junior and senior years of high school, I enrolled in Advanced Placement English and passed the exam with flying colors. But sometimes, it feels like I begged, borrowed, and stole my way there. Even then, I didn’t trust my ability to succeed on my own terms. Surely I had cheated someone out of their rightful accomplishments.
Then I went to college, and discovered slam poetry. I listened to artists like Ruby Veridiano, Andrea Gibson, Kelly Tsai, and Rudy Francisco. This was real, unfiltered emotion on the stage, your veins displayed for everyone to see. The vulnerability with which poets and writers tell their stories is so raw, I feel like I should avert my eyes as I share in a heartbreak I have no right to bear witness to.
And writing made sense to me again. After years of believing I had nothing worthwhile to share, I picked my pen back up.
My first few poems were nothing to brag about. I keep them in my files only to remind myself where I started from. Then, the summer before senior year, everything changed.
In the two weeks leading up to the closing banquet for my summer fellowship, I worked on a three-page poem to reflect on what that program had meant to me. None of my friends there knew I liked to write. No one knew what to expect when I took the mic in front of my peers, professors, and sponsors. Over the course of four minutes, I used the metaphor of the five senses to encapsulate the transformative experience of spending eight weeks with a cohort of brilliant and kind people, all working for social change. I finished my piece and stepped back.
The reception was more than I could have asked for. The audience gave me a standing ovation, and I was incredibly moved by their sincere appreciation for my words. One of my professors told me, “That was so, so brave.” To them, my honesty was beautiful. And that has been all I have needed to keep writing – the hope that my truths can touch even one person.
Since then, I have started contributing to Thought Catalog and maintaining a writing blog of mostly poetry. I do not know where I am headed next, but my biggest dream is to one day publish a book. Whether that becomes a reality doesn’t matter; writing has been its own reward because it is a love, and not an obligation.
So write. Draw. Sing. Cook. Do what makes your heart happy, and you will be surprised with the results.
The world needs your talents.