My answer to becoming a poet during college is simple: because I have always been a poet.
I began writing poetry in middle school. Endless streams of poetry filled the pages of a pink journal, scribbled with hippie propaganda and butterfly stickers. Poetry was my best-kept secret. No one knew of my love for words- not my friends, my teachers, or my family. I did, however, get my first poem published in seventh grade through a state catalog. If I didn’t know any better at the time, I would say it was a foreshadow of the events to come ten years later.
Fast forward to high school, and there I sit, amongst prodigal students who would later join the Peace Corps and become Biomedical Engineers. I was lucky to befriend such intelligent students, whose friendship I still cherish today. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t know what it meant to strive in my own craft.
It was during this time, my love for words became suppressed, masked by medical terminology and anatomy textbooks. As a teenager who was easily influenced (in all the right ways), I knew I wanted to be like my friends, I wanted to be a doctor, too. Actually, I knew I wanted to be a doctor. Egotistically, it made sense… didn’t it? I already spent my time with people who were going into difficult studies, and I also made good grades in my science courses, so why shouldn’t I be a doctor? I had the passion and drive for it. My family thought the shoe fit, so I wore it.
The first few years of college were steady, as I was engulfed in everything Pre-Med. During my sophomore year, I was accepted into a prestigious research lab where we (among other labs in the country) found a potential cure for cancer. Again, I was surrounded by intellects who read scientific articles in their free time. I remained in this environment for two years, until I realized, I wasn’t feeling well- I hadn’t been feeling well- for a very long time.
Simply put, restriction and I don’t get along.
The suppression of my true passion, writing, began to soften, allowing my voice to re-emerge. I would study chemistry text all day and begin writing at night. I wrote like mad through my heartbreak, regrets, dreams, struggling to find my voice again. Each day, I was stuck between four white walls that surrounded me like silence. I couldn’t express myself, and I was suffering because of it. I experienced intense pain over relationships and choices because I refused to use my creative outlet for so long.
I used to say science made me sick. Now I understand it wasn’t science. It was the path I was on, that was not made for me, that made me sick. It was a path for my friends, one I was only supposed to admire, that caused me to break in the heaviest of ways. My junior year was a blur, and so, my family and I decided it was best to take a year off from school.
As soon as I went back home in March 2018, I began writing. I also began healing. Poetry was pouring out of me, splattering across the pages so intensely I thought I would go mad with my writing, too. Regardless, the poetry flowed, and bled, and cried, and laughed with me. It organized itself onto paper as a subconscious message- I was born to create. I was becoming myself again. This was the beginning of healing
Eight months into being home, and it is November. During this time, I have already suffered a panic disorder, two infections, anemia, and adrenal fatigue. I was not well. Now I know I have healed, because it doesn’t hurt me to type these words, and I know if it wasn’t for the unbearable ache of having to go back home, and leave my scientific life behind, I would not have had the time to write my first book.
A few days before Thanksgiving, I sat down at the dining room table and opened my laptop to an e-mail. I couldn’t believe what I was looking at, my first publishing contract- a surreal, ethereal mix of words, with my name on it. I was hit with a double amount of shock because I actually forgot I sent my work to a publisher. I was still in a rut during this time, but I knew well enough then, that it was a foreshadow of the good to come. I simply had to be myself and stop worrying so much.
My writing saved me. It was the light at the end of a dark and twisted tunnel. When everything failed, I still had my art. Boys came and went, career paths fell apart, friends turned against me, but my art never left. Passion is intangible, and no one can take it away from you. Realizing this, I walked into my academic advisor’s office and told her I wanted to switch my major. I told her everything I experienced during the past three years. Thankfully, she also agreed to switch my major to English, despite the fact that I had already taken 90 Biology credits- ouch.
I recently went to dinner with a friend whom I have known since elementary, and he told me something that laid an old thought to rest: Just because the shoe fits, doesn’t mean you have to wear it.
I still remember a 19-year-old girl sitting on a blue couch, writing poetry instead of studying for a physics exam, and I am so glad she chose poetry.