Friday, April 1, 2011

A Little Inspiration from Sarah Kay!

I really enjoy a good TED talk. TED was formed in 1984 as a conference focusing on technology, entertainment and design.  However, over recent years it has become much broader in scope, as reflected by their simple tagline: Ideas worth spreading. Conferences are held each year with tons of fascinating leaders in every imaginable field, and the talks are filmed and loaded onto the website for everyone in the world to enjoy and learn from.  Most range in length from 5 minutes to 30 minutes, so they are great to slip into the little gaps that invariably pop up during your day.

While browsing through some of the talks the other day, I stumbled upon one given by Sarah Kay at the 2011 TED Conference. She is an amazing spoken word poet, and she performed two of her poems, bookending a talk she was giving about encouraging youth to express themselves through poetry and the organization she runs called Project V.O.I.C.E.  Quite honestly, I was blown away by her poetry. She speaks so beautifully, adding just the right movements and inflection to completely suck you in. Absolutely stunning. She beings her presentation with the poem "B" which has wormed its way deep inside me, and caused me to listen to it probably around 50 times over the past three days. The words (I keep wanting to call them lyrics, because there is a definite music in the way she presents them) are fantastic.  Though you really must see them spoken by her, I wanted to share them with everyone.

"B" by Sarah Kay
If I should have a daughter,
instead of "mom," she's gonna call me "Point B."
Because that way she knows no matter what happens
at least she can always find her way to me.
And I'm going to paint the solar systems on the backs of her hands.
So that she has to learn the entire universe before she can say
"Oh, I know that like the back of my hand."
And she's gonna learn that this life
will hit you.
In the face.
Wait for you to get back up just so it can kick you in the stomach.
But getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs
how much they like the taste of air.
There is hurt here
that cannot be fixed
by band-aids or poetry.
So the first time she realizes that Wonder Woman isn't coming,
I'll make sure she knows she doesn't have to wear the cape
all by herself.
Cause no matter how wide you stretch your fingers,
your hands will always be too small to catch 
all the pain you want to heal.
Believe me.
I've tried.
"And, baby," I'll tell her,
"Don't keep your nose up in the air like that.
I know that trick;
I've done it a million times.
You're just smelling for smoke,
so you can follow the trail back to a burning house,
so you can find the boy who lost everything in the fire,
to see if you can save him.
Or else,
find the boy who lit the fire in the first place 
to see if you can change him."
But I know she will anyway,
so, instead, I'll always keep an extra supply of chocolate and rain boots nearby.
Because there is no heartbreak that chocolate can't fix.
Okay...there's a few heartbreaks that chocolate can't fix,
but that's what the rain boots are for.
Because rain will wash away everything,
if you let it.
I want her
to look at the world
through the underside of a glass bottom boat.
To look with a microscope at the galaxies that exist
on the pinpoint of a human mind.
that's the way my mom taught me.
That there'll be days like this.
There'll be days like this my mama said.
When you open your hands to catch
and wind up with only blisters and bruises.
When you step out of the phone booth and try to fly
and the very people you want to save
are the ones standing on your cape.
When your boots will fill with rain,
and you'll be up to your knees in disappointment,
and those are the very days you have all the more reason to say "Thank You."
Cause there's nothing more beautiful
than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline
no matter how many times it's sent away.
You will put the wind in winsome...lose some.
You will put the star in starting over. And over.
And no matter how many land mines erupt in a minute
make sure your mind lands on the beauty of this funny place called life.
And, yes, on a scale from one to over-trusting, I am
pretty damn naive. 
But I want her to know that this world is made out of sugar.
It can crumble so easily but don't be afraid to stick your tongue out
and taste it.
"Baby," I'll tell her,
"Remember your mama is a worrier
and your papa is a warrior. 
And you are the girl with small hands and big eyes
who never stops asking for more."
"Remember that good things come in threes do bad things."
And, "Always apologize when you've done something wrong.
But don't you ever apologize for the way your eyes
refuse to stop shining.
Your voice is small
but don't ever stop singing."
And when they finally hand you heartache,
when they slip war and hatred under your door, 
and offer you hand outs on street corners
of cynicism and defeat,
you tell them that they
really oughtta meet
your mother.

I love, love, love, LOVE it. Seriously, here is the link again. Go watch her perform it. It was meant to be said, not read.

Anyway, in the middle of her speech, she was discussing that one of the ways they get kids to begin writing spoken word poetry is by asking them to make a list of ten things they know to be true. "And here's what happens. Here's what you'd discover, too, if we all started sharing our lists out loud. At a certain point you would realize that someone has the exact same thing, or one thing very similar to something on your list. And then someone else has something that is the complete opposite of yours. Third, someone has something you've never even heard of before. And, fourth, someone has something you thought you knew everything about, but they're introducing a new angle of looking at it. This is where great stories start from."

SO, I have accepted her (and Simi's) challenge, and here is my list.

10 Things I Know To Be True

1. One of my greatest strengths is my ability to find, and surround myself with, amazing friends. Unlike most people out there, I have strong friendships from nearly every stage of my life that have endured the tests of time, distance, and personal change. Our (nearly) annual summer camping trip's planning is underway, and I am absolutely overjoyed to spend time with people who are so very important to me. I am exceedingly lucky that my path has crossed with so many wonderful people, and that they all get along with each other! Can't wait until July when I get to spend quality time with Liz, Carl, and Greg (high school), Monica, Renee, Jo Anna, and Amanda (university), Lyndsay (Semester at Sea), and Debbie (professional...?).  And, I have so many others from various points in my life that I wish could be there.

2. I lead an absurdly privileged life. Sometimes it hits me, full force, in the face, exactly how privileged I am. And each time I'm caught off guard by the many many things that have happened in my life that are unbelievably awesome. Some of them are extreme, like having an opportunity to circumnavigate the globe, and the fact that in 25 years I've visited 26 countries. Some are so much simpler, and therefore more likely to be taken for grated, like growing up in a society and family that valued (and therefore provided) education, and being a native English speaker. I am beyond lucky.

3. Someone would have to pay me an exorbitantly large sum to repeat high school. Though I came out of high school with some great friends, the fact of the matter is that I BARELY came out of high school. It was a time that, honestly, I have mostly selectively blocked from my memory. Sometimes I marvel at the fact that my relationship with my mother (and my mother herself) survived the terrible, ungrateful, slightly insane girl that lived in my body during my four years at Roosevelt.

4. I love my students. This goes for my kids from Hiltop in the US and my kids here at Sincheon in Korea. No matter how much the bureaucratic bullshit makes me want to tear my hair out, or how many ridiculous decisions are made without consulting me, the kids remain a high point in my day. No matter how tired or cranky I am when I come into school, they never fail to make me smile, laugh, and remember why I chose to teach in the first place.

5. Heated toilet seats creep me out. I mean, don't get me wrong, I hate sitting on a cold toilet seat in the winter as much as the next girl, but the heated toilet seats they have in the staff bathroom here just give the impression that a long line of people were sitting on that seat just before you, bringing it up to a toasty temperature.

6. Trite as it sounds, things happen for a reason. I am far from religious, but I have to believe that there is some driving force behind my life: places I'm supposed to be at certain times, people I'm supposed to meet, things I'm supposed to experience. While I don't quite buy that there is some invisible puppeteer pulling my strings (and, really, I don't WANT to believe that), I can't help but feel like so many things that have happened in my life (good, bad, frustrating and inspiring) have put me on this path. And I can't help but feel like I'm in the right place.

7. Always striving for more and better can be a curse. Sometimes I get so caught up in the way I think things should be moving along, or how they could be better, that I get distracted from the good things that are around me. Hopefully one day I will be completely contented with who and where I am.

8. While I still have lots of hang ups and pet peeves about various foods, I've come a long way in my willingness to try new things. When I was younger I wouldn't let any of my food touch, ever, and sometimes even went as far as wiping off my silverware before starting on a different "section" of my meal. A lot of that was broken on Semester at Sea, but I still refused to try certain foods (really just based on some arbitrary judgement I had made, not real preferences).  I had never eaten a mushroom until I came to Korea. Same goes for a lot of foods I now eat without blinking here. While I still would never freely choose to consume a raisin, radish, tapioca ball, or cup of coffee, I have grown by leaps and bounds.

9. A love for reading is one of the best gifts you can give to a child. I can't remember a time in my life when I didn't love reading. It was so deeply ingrained in me that, honestly, I can't really even remember the last time I didn't have a book that I was working through. Reading teaches you so many things. Simply, an author can teach you new words, and to exercise your imagination. More complexly, a good author can teach you to question things you took for granted, develop a deeper understanding of how others (and you) think, and expose you to completely foreign ideas in an accessible way. Books are pure magic.

10. I wonderful people in my family. Inspiring, infuriating, loving, obnoxious, wacky, and supportive, I have a great home team. This especially applies for my mom, who is a total rock in my life. No words for that love.

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