When a poem got me in trouble

When I was 11 I wrote a poem. I loved writing poems. It was different from writing an essay. I was able to express my personal thoughts on anything I wanted to share and because it was a poem it could be as weird or expressive as I wanted it to be. And I thought this poem was pretty good, so I gave it to my teacher at the time so he could give me his feedback. I never found out if he thought it was good or not but I definitely heard about that poem later.

I wish I still had a copy of the poem, I think I tore it to pieces but essentially what I remember it was about me changing schools, being away from my friends, and saying bye to those friends. I was trying to be symbolic. It probably was overly dramatic but I definitely did not have any dark intentions. My teacher didn’t think so. He thought it was a suicide note. Called my parents, told the school, and whatever else he was required to do as a teacher to prevent suicide.

On the car ride home that afternoon, I got an earful about that poem. I was told to never write poems like that ever again, to only write about happy things, and I had to start seeing the school counselor. The counselor just reinforced what everyone else thought about me, that I was bizarre unlike the other kids.

No one asked me what was I trying to say. They all assumed they knew.

And let me give you a little perspective. The earful I got from the car ride came from my dad, and the teacher I had was a male teacher, and the counselor was a man as well.

All that fiasco did was teach me to keep my mouth shut.

I can tell you that living through that experience I feel it wasn’t handled very well. Instead of anyone trying to learn why I wanted to write, why I felt a need to express myself everyone just tried prying me open to see what was wrong with me. I felt like I was on display and everyone just wanted me and my over expressive self to go away. Specifically men wanted my emotions to go away because it made them uncomfortable.

I don’t think my experience is unique. At least not in the lesson I learned. Girls everywhere are told what they can or can’t do and who they should or shouldn’t be. And the voices that are telling them what to be seem to be shouting louder than the people shouting to be themselves. This applies not only to women, but minorities, transgender, gay, or any person made to feel a 2nd class citizen. I think it’s great to talk about following your dreams, defying norms and expressing yourself, but I think its important to not shut out the stories of individual struggles someone has had to overcome.

 

So this blog is my middle finger to that experience.

 

Photo credit: Giovanni ‘jjjohn’ Orlando via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND

 

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