When I was in sixth grade, my teacher asked our class to write a poem. A simple poem. My heart stopped for just a minute…. I didn’t know how to write a poem! I had been writing in a diary (you know the kind that had a little lock and key), since I could hold a pencil, confessing my sorrows to the safety of the page. But I didn’t think I could ever write something that others would want to read… and would be good enough. That was what real writer’s did.
I was an overachiever. And I wasn’t a person who liked to fail at any task, especially in front of my peers when I was so busy seeking their approval.
And so I did the most natural thing to me. I turned my back on myself and asked my very intelligent friends for help. They came from those idyllic families where they had pancakes for breakfast every Sunday. In my eyes, they were perfect. And I was flawed because I was filled with so many thoughts, feelings and worries. A ten year old constantly consumed with the pain inducing fear that I wouldn’t fulfill my destiny… whatever that was supposed to be.
“Please write the poem for me,” I asked. And my friend responded, “Sure, it’s easy, here.” In no time at all she wrote out a five-line poem about a giraffe in the wilderness and handed it to me. I read it. I looked back at her…. “Oh…This is it?!” That wasn’t hard at all. It’s possible her poem meant something to her because it was her words, or she was just showing me how easy it is to write something and it not needing to be perfect, but for me I wanted it to make me feel… something.
There was a tiny voice inside me that urged, “You can do it.” I didn’t know at that time that being able to write what you feel was a gift. In fact, I didn’t know that being able to feel at all was something to celebrate. But at that point, I wasn’t willing to write non-descript stories about giraffes in the wilderness. I needed to write about stuff that mattered to me.
And so my first poem was born. It poured through me as if it was in me all along, just waiting for my permission.
I may have only been ten when I wrote it, and it may not be filled with proper iambic pentameter, but to this day I’m still proud of it, because I was able to put a voice to the words within me. I was able to honor me.
And from that day forward, that’s what writing became for me; An outlet of expression. A place where I could reveal all my hidden wounds and desires. And some days it flowed so easily as if it came from some place other than me. Like I was picking up the radio waves floating through the starry sky. I looked forward to those days when I would lay my head down on my desk, my eyes closed, the words flowing through my fingers, dancing onto the page.
But then I met my next challenger; My ninth grade English teacher. She was my greatest adversary and courageously battled me in the writer’s field. I was so protective of my words, my baby, not strong enough to take criticism for it felt as if she was criticizing me. I felt so much that I wrote and wrote, some of the best poems and stories I had and have ever written. She squeezed it out of me. I fought her at the time, but now, I thank her for her encouragement. I wish I could retake her class from a place that was willing to listen. A place that was open to hear because she was a great teacher.
As time went on, and throughout university, I continued to write poetry, but I still didn’t believe I was a writer. Writers were intellectuals who owned typewriters, had degrees in literature, were geniuses at grammar and had a vocabulary that far exceeded word of the day.
It wasn’t until my twenties that it finally dawned on me. I needed to hear it, see it, and accept it a thousand times before it really sunk in. When I felt safe to say it out loud and not worry about the backlash. “You, a writer?! Where’s your degree?”
It took hundreds of poems, boxes of full journals, handfuls of reassurances, plenty of courses, a multitude of healings, more than three mentors, and a natural evolving career until I finally realized, my life had always been guiding me this way. And it unfolded organically; I just couldn’t see it at the time. No matter what, I would get to this place.
There was a purpose for the slow discovery. It wasn’t about proving myself to anyone else. Or being what I thought other’s wanted me to be. It wasn’t about how many people were moved by my words or if they were in the right order using the correct language. The journey was always for me to uncover.
I am a writer.
And I believe in me.
This was my destiny all along.
MY FIRST POEM — LONELY
Sometimes I’m feeling lonely,
And nobody seems to care.
I’m sitting at my window,
With so many things to share.I wish I was more popular,
I mean with school and stuff,
Then if I had a problem,
Times wouldn’t be so tough.Sometimes I start to cry,
And always wonder why?Is it because I’m lonely,
Lonely for a friend?
Maybe if I had one,
My heart would start to mend.© Kirsten Hansen 1990