I’m a dork. For most of my high school life, I was a nobody and it saved me. See, I have no illusions about my greatness as a writer, or as a person or anything, but all my student life, I felt as if I was built slightly different from those around me. I memorized things quickly. And I regurgitated things quickly as well. Many times maybe not in the right context. I was a smartass: a good-for-nothing nitpicker. I always seemed to do well in school but it’s as if everything I did in school remained oddly one-dimensional. Nothing came alive for me. I was good at taking tests, but I was never good at being an actual person. Cue sad violin music.
This isn’t going to be a story about my sad, sad high school life, strangely enough. It’s actually about poetry. And how it saved me. I just thought you all might need an intro.
Anyway, here are ten things I know to be true:
1. The sky is blue.
2. Every story has a beginning, middle, and end, though not necessarily in that order.
3. I miss being ten years old.
4. Art need not be self-centered to be considered “genuine.”
5. I am a self-centered person.
6. We all need to read a chapter of “Oyasumi Punpun” at least once in our lifetime.
7. Truth is never abstract.
8. I have finally reached the point in my life where the number of friends I have, outnumbers my fingers.
9. My toes, are a different story.
10. Words are powerful.
I’d like to think my high school life changed when I “met” Sarah Kay. When she performed the spoken piece “B,” it’s as if everything I knew about writing, and creative self-expression, went out the window. Poetry need not rhyme. Sometimes all you need to “be yourself,” is a list of convictions. Words are
powerful. We need not be poets to write poetry. She taught me not how to write (evidently), but rather, how to look at words as a vehicle for those little bits of truth that floated around my subconscious. “I am not who this absent minded half-savant claims he is.” “I am a good person.” Somehow, her performances broke down the barriers between who I thought I was, and who I knew I was.
“I can make a difference.”
“I want her to see the world through the underside of a glass bottom boat, to look through a magnifying glass at the galaxies that exist on the pin point of a human mind.”
It was through Sarah Kay I began writing poetry, and it was through writing poetry that I became me. Writing poetry helped me remember things—who I was, and what I really stood for. It taught me to look for things that really reached me like the slouching, steady, shuffle of my grandfather. Or the awkward finger tapping of my classmates whenever my English Literature teacher would propose a question. Or the fact that on the first day of last year’s Christmas break, a full moon danced above the head of my friends as we were laughing on the sidewalk. It helped me to single out little corners of the world that were truly “mine.” It allowed me to share memories that were distinctly “ours”—not simply variations or imitations of things I saw on my TV, or read about in books. Poetry allowed me to accept that I, no matter how hypocritical or self-aggrandizing, had something.
And armed with that something, I guess I began to try and “do what I love.” I’m joining the poetry club this year. I signed up for “Stallion,” our school newspaper. I try to interact with people who share the same interest in creative writing. I’m not so much a smartass anymore, or so I hope [sic]. I’ve found people who I genuinely look forward to seeing. I’ve found a club that I genuinely look forward to participating in. I’ve found people that encourage me. I’ve encouraged them in return. I’m sorry if I can’t go into specifics because, well, some stories aren’t mine to tell.
Sometimes we forget to see how powerful something exclusively “mine” is. Having something distinctly “yours” or distinctly “mine,” can make all the difference in the world. It allows you a sliver of pride that is neither ill-gotten, or forced upon you. It makes you feel useful, and we, being social, useful beings, like feeling useful. It makes us feel valued. Poetry, for all its limitations, and for all my limitations in writing such, made me feel valued. It showed me that even I, nonchalant ignorer of worlds, had a story to tell.
*Link to “B” by Sarah Kay: https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/11377.Sarah_Kay
*Link to “Why We Tell Stories” by Sarah Kay: https://www.ted.com/talks/sarah_kay_if_i_should_have_a_daughter
Jedd Ong is a 17 year old student from Manila who constantly wonders why the hell he can’t speak Tagalog fluently. You can usually find him sitting along a corridor somewhere, trying in vain to stop speaking in disjointed phrases. Occasionally he succeeds. He likes trains and poetry. Occasionally he posts his poems here: https://www.hellopoetry.com/jedd-ong/