Before you run away screaming at the sight of the word “poetry,” let me tell you that this post will apply to you. No matter if you’re a writer, a poet, a photographer, a blogger, an engineer, a teacher, or anything in between, this post is for you. That’s why I included all of us in the title. OK, now that I’ve calmed you down, let’s see what this maniac (me. I’m talking in third-person) has to say about… gulp… poetry.
As some of you might know, I double-majored in college. I was an english major and a multimedia journalism major. Long story short: I thought being an english major was the ticket to being a magazine editor, then I found out–about three years in–that my school offered a multimedia journalism major. I blame my advisor, but we can blame me if that makes you feel better. I can handle the heat.
See, I’m not the english major “type.” I don’t read books. (Gasp! Shame! How could you?!) Call it my self-diagnosed undiagnosed sleeping disorder, but no matter how much a book intrigues me, it’ll put me to sleep. Needless to say, I wasn’t and will never be the english major “type.” Most of my classes were literature-focused, forcing me to lug around about eight hefty novels per class, all of which, by the way, I never read. But enough about the terrible person I am, let’s get back to the reason I’m divulging these dirty secrets.
As an english major, one of my electives was a poetry class (among other mind-enriching ones like Creative Writing, Experimental Fiction, and so on). I first scoffed at the idea of writing poetry. Me? The idiot who clearly doesn’t belong in this class? Psh, no way.
Our assignments were simple. We were given a “prompt” of sorts each week and were simply instructed to write a poem about it. Then, we would print out enough copies for the whole class, they’d read it at home, mark it up, and then when you returned to class, you had to read your poem out loud in a circle. Your classmates would then either casually tear you apart or praise you for your stroke of genius.
Yeah, poetry class gave me hella anxiety.
I had an inner monologue telling me, You’re not a poet, you suck, you have no idea what you’re doing, they’re going to think you’re crazy…
But as the semester continued, I realized that poetry was not the villain. In fact, it was the complete opposite.
It was my savior.
And the things I learned in that class I still use today.
Poetry taught me…
…We’re all scared.
Even those people who had been writing poems for years before I started. Even my professor. The truth is, none of us really know what we’re doing at times, and, worse, we don’t know how things are going to turn out even if we try our hardest. Never think you’re the only one who’s scared, because the most confident person in the room is probably shaking in their boots a bit, too.
…Vulnerability is beautiful.
I’ll be the first to tell you I’m a solid wall when it comes to sharing my emotions. I become a mute if someone asks me what’s wrong. Why? Because being vulnerable is terrifying. What if the emotions you share are weird or crazy or just plain stupid? Spoiler alert: they’re not. Getting even just the slightest bit vulnerable is strikingly beautiful. My most well-received poems were the ones I was the most afraid to share. They were the ones that dug deep into my soul. They were artistic risks and not-so-happy stories. Some might even say they were dark. And you know what? My classmates’ fulfilling feedback made me realize every ounce of soul was worth it.
…Things and people aren’t always what they seem.
Remember how I scoffed at the thought of poetry? I now relish those moments I spent agonizing over a 10-line poem. I find the title “poet” to be completely rewarding. Poetry gets a bad rap for being mushy or lame, but after immersing in it, I know that it’s a written art worth celebrating. Similarly, it’s usually the people you don’t expect that make the biggest impact on you. I doubt I looked like the prime “poet,” with my Vera Bradley backpack and sorority letters across my shirt. And I didn’t expect others in my class who didn’t “look the part” to produce anything meaningful. Shame on me. Give everything and everyone a chance to prove you wrong.
…Finding meaning in life is worthwhile.
Sometimes we get caught in routines, going through the motions, that we forget there is meaning to everything. When you’re forced to be introspective and write a poem, you have to slow down a little and search for something worth writing about. You find yourself looking at everyday life through a different lens. You start to appreciate the way the trees wave to the wind, the way a friend laughs with crackling cackles, the way a little girl keeps trying even though she fails every time she tries to sprint up the slide. You don’t have to be a poet or enjoy poetry to start finding beauty, humor, and motivation in your surroundings.
…People will judge you.
Everything you do could be scrutinized. You can’t please everyone, and you shouldn’t have to try. Once you realize that happiness is internal, you’ll stop looking to others for approval. If you like doing something, do it. Who cares if it’s “lame?” If you do something just so a certain person will congratulate you, you will never be satisfied. You’ve got your own life to live. To hell with the haters, the naysayers, and the Judgy McJudgers. Tell ’em BOY, BAI (even if they’re not boys, you should still say that).
…You’re never too old to learn something new.
New experiences enrich your life. Try something you’ve never done before. You don’t have to be good at it. You don’t even have to like it. But at least you freaking tried it. Stop thinking you’re stuck in a box. That’s no way to live.