The very first step to any endeavor is desire. Nobody begrudgingly becomes a master of any craft. There is nobody else to prod and push, to shame you or praise you. Ultimately to pursue anything you need to just do it. I know, what a cliche…but there really is no other way. When I was younger I was a talented violinist. I learned to play to fill a void brought on by a language gap. Whereas my English skills took a year to achieve any sort of fluency, my fingers were fluent on the violin in a few months. Music kept me company when the only kids who spoke to me wanted my lunch money or only said “loco cabeza” repeatedly. My nuclear family was mostly comprised of men, working folks, older folks, or Korean speaking folks and where most of those categories overlapped more isolation ensued. Sometimes we learn because we need to and not because we want to and when we harness that desire, compress it and let it completely saturate our being then nothing can stop us.
When I was in 5th grade at the tender age of 10, I learned to write poetry. It was homework and it was the first assignment in English that I can remember completing successfully. The first poem was a synonym poem. You picked a word you liked and then you made it the title and listed all the synonyms as the body of the poem.
Of course I picked the word “dog.” Mainly, because a young immigrant does not know many words and dog felt safe. A synonym for dog is the word “bitch” which I wrote in my poem in 5th grade. Needless to say, that was a bad move. I wasn’t punished, luckily, but I was instilled with a fear of acting without knowing, of what can happen when you mindlessly use words.
When I was in 7th grade I wrote poetry full-time. I would think of rhymes all day long, think of themes and think of pretty ways to describe the life of a child. I probably should have picked up rapping, that would have made me infinitely more popular in high school.
Because I loved writing, especially sentimental writing, I showed my 8th grade English teacher my work and I applied for Honors English for the following year. My English teachers have always played an important role in my development as a thinker.
In 5th grade, Ms. Engle forgave that I said “Can I go to the bathroom?” instead of “May I go to the bathroom?” Most likely due to the look of agitated confusion on my face. In 6th grade Ms. Greene taught me to love reading and gave me rides to the library during the summer when no one else could. In 7th grade, Ms. Gaffney let me read all the books I wanted in class after she caught me reading during her lecture and I recited what she had just said verbatim (but really I pulled those words out of my ass). In 8th grade, Mrs. Reed taught me that “boys are like buses, another one always comes along” when I showed her my silly poems pining after boys I was too shy to approach. In 9th grade, Mrs. Jensen stoically listened to my love poetry in my still heavily accented English as my classmates asked if I had said “son” or “sun.” A seemingly unimportant fact, but it defined my poem as one of love to another or love to one’s mother. In 10th grade I learned that there is always ways to improve from Ms. Rittel. Some of my peers refused to add to or change my work, but I could always trust Ms. Rittel to give me feedback so that I could grow. In 11th grade, Ms. Pryor taught me to think critically and question preconceived notions. And in 12th, she taught me to love Science Fiction and the way it acts as a lens to filter and understand our contemporary world.
All the greatest teachers, whether human or metaphysical, teach us to appreciate the lessons and the struggle. We are never complete, never done, and never equipped to judge anybody else on their state of development. The greatest gift to our teachers is to become vessels and messengers, to impart their gifts to others, to bless them with the sight of a new world.
[Image: “Give Me” protected by a Creative Commons license belonging to Matthias Ripp]