Sometimes, school can be a prison. As Peter Gray writes in Psychology Today: “Children hate school because in school they are not free. Joyful learning requires freedom.” Perhaps I am not the only “burnt-out teen” who has felt the oppressive presence of high school. Isabella Bruyere—my muse for this article—chronicles her frustration with high school in Why School Sucks (hint: it’s not because it’s “boring”) and points out how “school stopped being about learning.”
At the time Bruyere wrote the article, she was a high school sophomore. As a current high school sophomore, I relate whole-heartedly to her words (she is the silver-tongued version of my diary). The realization that “I’ve fallen into a hole” has often cornered me into a dark room—a room so dark that my own limbs become invisible and make me feel lost. I mean, am I surprised? Like Bruyere, I have felt “the only things I do are homework and studying… I am only in 10th grade, and I feel like I’m barely clinging on.” I have a clear vision for myself, but have been forced to bury my own needs and desires under never-ending assignments, lectures, and tests.
According to a Forbes article, 8 Reasons Why People Feel Lost in Their Lives, one of the reasons for feeling lost is being “too busy for passion.” In the article, David Disalvo says, “if we always think we’re too busy with our jobs and other parts of our daily routines to pursue anything we’re passionate about, then feeling incredibly bland, if not lost, is inevitable.” If you have not already figured it out, I want to be a writer. I want to be a great writer. The kind of writer that will one day land on publications like The New Yorker and Poetry Magazine. Whew. Writing my goals here is daunting. But the point is, when I stopped pursuing my passions to sustain my school life, I began to drop everything that mattered to me. I spiraled into momentary helplessness, feeling much like Sylvia Plath and her figs in The Bell Jar: “I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”
During my low point, I became disoriented. My writing began to crumble apart—I could not write one sentence without feeling like a failure—and ironically, even my grades began to falter. In an effort to crawl out of my gloom, I tried to become the next best thing: a reader. If I could not write, the least I could do was read. Over the next month, I found a deliciously comforting collection of poetry.
I suppose that you, my reader, may also be a “disheartened teen” searching for a glimmer of light amongst your angst and hopelessness. Well, here is my answer:
- Lady Lazarus by Sylvia Plath
- Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note by Amiri Baraka
- A Center by Ha Jin
- “Hope” is the thing with feathers – (314) by Emily Dickinson
- Dreams by Langston Hughes
- A Litany for Survival by Audre Lorde
- Still I Rise by Maya Angelou
Follow the order with Sylvia Plath to acknowledge your darkest thoughts, slowly heal with Amiri Baraka, Ha Jin, and Emily Dickinson, and end with fervent passion through Langston Hughes, Audre Lorde, and Maya Angelou.
These poems have been great companions during my hopelessness, as they were able to strike a chord with my feelings, unlike any human being. Perhaps, as poems do, they carried the magic ability to mold into whatever I needed them to be. I never had to explain myself to them. Instead, I waited for them to listen and unfold themselves to me, layer by layer, like an onion, until we reached a mutual understanding. Strange, no? How we can feel more sympathy from the words of a stranger than from someone we have known forever. Perhaps, the beauty of poetry is knowing that someone out there has felt what you feel, no matter how dark, ridiculous, or bottomless. Poems are silent but powerful psychologists, allowing you to mend through self-understanding and compassion.
Dear reader, may you rise on a different note by the end of your read.
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