Going through puberty is difficult. Going through puberty before the majority of your peers is humiliating. Growing up I was a guest in my own body, and it made simple tasks like walking through the halls daunting. I was too tall. Too heavy. Too busty. Too much of a girl to be one of the guys, but far too intimidated to be one of the girls. Those days I felt too much of everything, and not worth much of anything. So, like all insecure not-yet-teenagers, I escaped. My particular route consisted of tumbling down line after line into someone else’s life; with only my eyes I was able to evacuate the shell I was given, and give my mind wings. And swords. And a castle in England. And a home underwater. Reading allowed me to forget that I did not quite like my body.
In time, my love of reading turned into a deep appreciation for words in general, and through the encouragement of my family and the guidance of my educators, I began to write. Short stories, longer novels, poetry, brief daily blurbs. When pen connected to paper I ceased to be human, limited by age, ability, and time. There was no part of my mind I could not explore, and with a combination of 26 letters I built myself up over, and over, and over again. My 8th grade year I won a writing competition and the validation gave me more confidence than I could communicate. The next year I found spoken word poetry.
No discovery in my life has ever had the significance that moment did; finally I had found something filled with as much passion as I had inside of me. Here was a form of art that was part music (rhythmic words dancing through the air) and part storytelling. I cried more that first night of Youtube-fueled exploration than any other time in my life. To find people that could wield words as masterfully as they were able to, that could invoke out of me even slumbering emotions, it was as if I had found a way to make sense of the world. The poetry began to change the way I saw every interaction, and the way I wanted to impact the people in my life.
Soon, this interest of mine became something of a talent; it seemed I too had an affinity for weaving together sentences into stories. Writing became my way of dealing with the difficulties of growing up, and there was no death, disappointment or disaster I could not write my way through. In times when those dark feelings of youth came back, when the mirror reflected too candidly and my body felt more cage than tool, I wrote love letters to myself, refilling my bank of self confidence so that I could once again withdraw from it. I learned to love my eyes, for when I tried to describe them I was introduced to their light of laughter. Next my cheeks, my mouth, my neck. Systematically, I committed what I loved about myself onto paper until I believed my words over the mirror’s images.
This is the power of poetry, the gift of writing. So much of me is made of quotes and phrases and words, but you wouldn’t know it by just looking at me. You would see the brown hair and green eyes. You could categorize me as athletic by the balance of my feet and the muscular definition of my legs. You would know I play soccer by having one conversation with me. But you would not know me. On the contrary, if I handed you the box of my lifetime’s worth of writing and let you tumble down line after line into poems and short stories, only then would you know me as I know myself. And that, that is why I write.