Where Have I Been?

It seems like I started a website about writing stories, indulging in poetry, and sharing my thoughts…and then I disappeared.

That’s exactly what happened.

It was not intentional, I promise, but I am truly starting to appreciate the phrase, “life happens.”

In my case, I have two autoimmune diseases that refuse to go into remission, and they decide, instead, to frequently flare up, and I have been working multiple jobs to provide for my wonderful little family. I have also been focusing more on screenwriting than poetry as of late. I am hoping that with time, and my new life challenges, I will be able to approach a better sense of balance. Until then, be on the lookout for my slow rise from the ashes.

Wishing you the best always.

-Rose

Chasing a Dream or Following the Breadcrumbs

I think everyone wonders at some point if they are in the right place. Have I made the right decision(s)? Am I doing as much as I could? Am I doing what I’ve always wanted to do? Am I doing what I should with the life I have been given?

I ask these questions to myself all the time. To me, we all stand on the line of destiny and the free will to choose our fate and, from time to time, we attribute things to one or the other as they exist in the realm of mutual exclusivity.

What if, the truth is, we can do anything we set our minds to, but it will ultimately lead to where we were always meant to be.

So, one day, we decide to be brave and chase that dream. Of course, I will use myself as an example.

When I decided to go back to school to earn a master’s degree in English and creative writing, I was unsure at first if it was the right decision. I knew a part of me always thrived on creativity, and though I love drawing, sketching, music, etc. I chose writing.

A year later, I took time off of school because I got pregnant, and pregnancy offered some great quiet time for introspection. During this process, I thought about myself growing up, falling in love with the arts–particularly theater–and eventually becoming serious in my undergraduate studies and picking a major that I thought would be the “realistic” way of making money. I always wondered what would have been if I stuck to my guns and decided to major in dramatic arts.

Then it hit me — not all at once, but rather a series of quiet revelations. I have always liked telling stories. In school, they would ask us to re-interpret classics as modern day dramatic pieces, and I would be most excited to write the script (my contemporary interpretation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight got a standing ovation from my 11th grade English class). Picture prompts for standardized tests were my creative playground. I wrote stories in my personal time. A year after starting my Master’s Degree, it dawned on me that I made a choice that began many years ago and probably remained buried in some secret part of me that got lost among the “I want to be a doctor someday,” talk.

Fast forward to the decision that I made to start publicizing my poetry. Not a new thing, others have been doing it on social media for a long time. I just decided to do it one day. I went to the store and bought two journals and colored markers and wrote and took pictures and posted it. It seemed impulsive, but I wanted to get better with people reading my work and getting feedback about it.

Cue another moment of reflection.

This morning, while working on the illustrations for a work in progress, I started grappling with those questions again. One of the drawings involves a burn book page from when I was in middle school (because yes, there was a burn book in my middle school, and I was one of its many victims). I still have this page, and, as I went to my “nostalgia box” with my old journals to retrieve it, I found my breadcrumbs: poems.

Written on ripped out notebook pages were an array of poems of a young girl who always wanted to write them.

I completely forgot I even shoved those wayward pages into that box. They appeared to me just as I questioned whether or not I should keep writing poems. For thirty minutes I scanned over pages of words of a girl who hardly understood the world, but attempted to through poetry.

I started chasing this dream of wanting to publish a poetry collection, only to realize I was following a path I marked out for myself a long time ago with ripped pages, pencil, and bubble letters as my stale bread.

I feel like two times now I have realized that I chased something that was already mapped out for me. Whether lost to time, or buried beneath my sense of what being successful means, along the way I lost the roadmap, but still walked the right avenues to get to the destination. Call it the scenic route.

I don’t have any accolades. Not a whole lot of people know who I am. Only a few people may ever read this. Hardly any of that matters though, because I am settling into the unfamiliar peace that comes from learning that I have been chasing myself all along.

I bet if you take the time to think about it, you’ll find that, in some small way, you’ve been chasing you too.

The Creativity Paradox

I consider myself to be a creative person and an artist. Those considerations are otherwise subjective to those who view my works. I try to create multiple times a day. I have several projects working at once so when I get stuck working towards one, I can return to another and approach it with any fresh inspiration.

I have found, though, knowing that the truth will be viewed by others, there comes that inevitable nagging to make the work appealing. The questions start: “Will people like the use of that word?” “Will people stop reading if I admit this about myself?” “Will this stop me from gaining new readers?”

I promised myself I would not get that way. I would share me no matter how people would take it. Then the questions fill my brain which leads to me sitting in front of a completed piece, and picking it apart until it is a mere shadow of what it was. It becomes a crowd pleaser. It becomes lies.

I struggle with this every time I write something new. I struggle with it during editing. I struggle with it even after I have posted things. I constantly have to fight back against the desire to make myself “marketable” and remain true to what I want to say. The beauty of, to me, has always been that it evokes things in us from the artist’s place of truth. But that’s the paradox right? I need to create to survive but I also need to survive to create. If I want money, if this is to be a source of income then people have to like me. Thus, I must make things that people like. If I don’t make things that people like and they don’t like what I usually make, does this make me generally unlikeable?

These are the moments that the pen doesn’t move, the fingers don’t type, and the creativity shuts down in favor of decision making.

Do I create for me or should I create for them? Should I create at all?

The answer seemed simple until I was no longer satisfied with one or two people reacting to my work. That simple burst of positive reinforcement opened the floodgates for the desire to be liked. To watch the numbers go up.

So, I fell for it. I caved to the desire to be liked. I changed my aesthetic, I tried many different tricks, I used different words.

Cue the disappointment.

I was working twice as hard, surrendering my truth, and still coming up with not much at the end of it all. I left the experience exhausted, and pent-up. The experience did lead to some genuine inspiration and ideas, but the rest felt like just fluff. The like-counter increased a little, but I felt nothing for it. I understand the difference between authentic interest in what I do versus those that have an agenda of their own. Not knocking it! Just stating the facts. I found that I much prefer genuine interest. I found that I would rather give honestly of myself and have the two people who actually like it than sacrifice those parts of me to a like-count.

Square one.

I will encounter this paradox every day for the rest of my life if I continue with the intent to create. I imagine that others have experienced it as well. Perhaps I will bend a little in the future too, hoping it will bring about different results, only to loop back to square one all over again.

Happen to Be

**Please see the passage after the poem for more information.

Title: Happen to Be

I happen to be from the school that’s been on the news

if many come to mind, you pick, you choose.

A school with its misfits, scholars, a gym, maybe a pool,

with girls who giggle, and boys who want to look cool.

It started out like any other day

I got dressed, grabbed my bag, then off and away.

I wondered what Alisha would say.

I asked her to go to the dance with me, yesterday.

 

I’m in class at the end of the hall

English happens within these four walls

then suddenly I hear it; gunshots, shouts, calls,

outside of the door, a bloody classmate falls.

The teacher huddles us behind our desks

and we hold each other, no longer worried about tests.

We hear screaming and shooting, the whole place of unrest.

I clutch at myself to feel my heart beating in my chest.

Someone sees, out of the window, the SWAT team is here

but that does little to quell our fears

because bullets flying is all we can hear,

and all around me, I watch silent tears.

Someone tries the classroom door

and we all pray, quietly crouched to the floor

the voice on the other side says, “It’s the police, we’re opening the door;”

that’s when our relieved hearts soar.

They escort us out amongst the gore,

our hands in the air and different from before.

That’s when I see her lying there.

Alisha with blood from her head trailed into her hair,

her green eyes, wide open, with nothing there.

All I can do is stop and stare,

thinking of the dance we could have shared.

 

My life will never be the same

and the left and the right will find someone to blame

and the shooter will be arrested or put a bullet in his own brain

and history continues, eerily the same.

If we do nothing, we should be ashamed.

I hope, by the time I have kids, things will have changed.

 

First, I should make clear that I was not present at this recent school shooting in Florida. I wrote this from the perspective of a child that could have been. A child. A student. A person. A beating heart. I have a child, and the thought that I could send him to school one day and not get him back is one that has me weeping for the parents whose children are now gone or seriously hurt.

Our knee-jerk reaction is to blame. Blame policy, blame guns, blame people, blame parents, blame God. All that blame leads to a lot of people shouting angrily, in offense or defense, with little of them willing to listen. So we scream, and we ignore until it’s out of our systems.

And then we forget.

We proceed as usual and look on at the memory of body counts and incidences rising higher and higher as just a sad memory. We leave those personally affected to continue to fight for a change, and the rest of us move on.

We need to take a serious look at what our future holds and what we want it to look like.

We are the most prominent threat to our extinction.

Today, as with any day, please proceed with love.

 

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