Recently, a combination of events culminated a leg of a particularly momentous journey. The journey began in the early days I spent behind my plastic playschool desk reading Zoobooks and scribbling childish poems in the early morning mist hanging heavy over the pond behind my house. It progressed to the countless hours writing in planes, trains and automobiles through motion sickness just to get my words out, and then to the hours writing in the freezing attic or writing outside in the blistering heat on the front stoop of my red wooden house in Clarksdale. It has been a consistent and unchanging journey: to be read, to be heard. Until a few days ago, this all happened in isolation, in private corners of my mind and in hidden notebooks. My path seemed continually roadblocked, but each of these precious moments spent writing, thinking and daydreaming were laden with hopes of someday being heard. Dripping like morphine into each listless hour spent daydreaming and writing was the possibility of being understood
It all started when I decided that instead of saying I wanted to be a writer, I was going to be a writer. I saved up all of my money. At the time I was a seriously underpaid teacher so that means I was super serious about it. I spent the money on an online writing class with Gotham Writers Workshop. I woke up at 4am every morning before school to practice my craft, taught all day, coached at night, tidied up my writing before bed and did it all again each day. The feelings of nausea associated with waking up way too early and drinking too much caffeine paired with a zombie-like emotional state did nothing to stop me. I could not, would not, be swayed from my goal. As my writing improved, I began to perform at Open Mic nights and started thinking, “Hey, I could maybe, really pull this off someday.” I was worried that my support system would question my pursuit, but everyone was surprisingly supportive, including my boyfriend who not only accepts my writing (and the money I’ve spent on books, classes, etc to better my craft) but encourages it! He kindly ignores all of the bumping around in the kitchen at all hours of the morning making coffee and typing or scratching away at a post or story.
Friday, I was honored and humbled to be Freshly Pressed which has been Life Goal 1 of infinity since I started blogging almost ten years ago on various sites. What got me most, however, was not the recognition, but that one person, one editor at WordPress had found me, read me and heard me. Knowing someone was reading my words was all I ever really wanted. I feel the same way anytime I get a comment or a like on my blog. In fact, I’ll sneak out of work at lunchtime just to check my blog to see if anyone had happened to read it. Most of the time less than five people had been reading my blog and not many commented. This was fine, because I write to write, I can’t live without it. Something about knowing that your words hit someone’s ears or eyes, though, is truly magic.
It must have started a karmic chain reaction, because I had a pretty life-changing conversation with my father over dinner the very night I found out I might be Freshly Pressed. After my parents divorced, things got a little rough there for a little while and I dealt with a personality crisis of sorts along with double depression. I always thought that my father and I never had that strong of a relationship because I was too complicated, too grey to deal with. At dinner, we discussed the issue at length and it turns out that he hadn’t been sure if I even wanted him to call because of the way the divorce happened and mistakes that he had made. After we talked things out, I didn’t feel like the little misfit gloom and doom daughter anymore (although, I still think of myself as a little grey, but that’s OK). I now understand that everyone wants to be heard, even parents need to be heard and understood. I encourage all siblings, parents and kids to consider talking things out if there’s communication missing, hear and be heard because it’s never too late and it will mean the world.
Now that I’ve been read, I can’t stop thinking about those who aren’t read or heard. For two years, I taught the most amazing students Visual Art. My students lived in a low-income area suffering from gang violence, poverty, low educational outcomes, low opportunity for employment and poor healthcare and nutrition. This of course, does not define them. Each and every student I taught was just like any middle school kid: they wanted to be heard. Many of my students had not been provided with the education they deserved and some were still at lower elementary reading and writing levels despite being promoted through to middle school. This is an injustice. They had difficulty, due to the lack of educational opportunity where they lived, expressing themselves in the formal language that the ‘majority’ in society accepts, one that doesn’t always include their unique culture. In my time there, I did everything I could to encourage my students to express themselves through Visual Art. I aided them in learning the ins and outs of art so that they would have a language, their own language (not necessarily the one of the majority) in which to speak to the world, to tell them of their stories and experiences. I wanted them to shout about the place where they lived and be proud of it, because most of the time people consider it a place that most people prefer not to think about, forget to think about or aren’t even aware that there’s a need to think about it. What really gets to me, though, is that these children, and many others aren’t being heard, but deserve to be. They sit dreaming under Mississippi Delta sunsets or scribble notes before school on the concrete benches of city streets while waiting on a bus to take them across town. Still others may come home to a house hiding the secret lives of their parents or come home to an empty house where they must silently eat dinner and take care of siblings on their own.
For so long, I desperately just wanted one person, one single person to really value what I had to say and when one person did, I found my voice got louder and more people started to listen and hear. Now I can feel my voice getting even louder by the day. If one person reading a post of mine could change so drastically how I felt about myself and my potential, imagine what you could do if you, “heard,” or read a couple of people in your life. What if the managers of the world actually listened to their employees and respected them as equals? What if parents took an hour each night to listen to their kids bubble over about their day at school and to read them a story? What if the majority started to truly hear the minority? What if school leaders started hearing the parents, students and community a little better?
The more I think about it, the more I see the value of being read and heard. I hope to read all of you in the days to come. I’ve been working to reply to comments, to follow your blog and to really read you. If you, like me, check your blog and see little to no views each day, fear not, you will someday be heard and I hope it will make all the difference.
Playlist for Being Heard:
John Legend, Wake up
Marvin Gaye, What’s Going On
Bob Dylan, The Times They Are A Changin
Wilco, What Light
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