A Tragic Tale

When I was talking to my Uncle Mark last week about writing, I remembered for the first time the event (or rather, the decision) that nipped my self-expression in its unformed bud. . . .

It was eighth-grade Honors English class, and we were in the throes of a poetry unit. The night before, I had written a poem of which I was incredibly proud. I mean, it was deep. So when the teacher asked "Who would like to share their poem?", my hand shot straight up. And I read it. Confidence. Freedom. Expression. Myself, unveiled.

Then the student behind me stood up to read his poem. He began, "From childhood's hour I have not been As others were; I have not seen As others saw; I could not bring My passions from a common spring. From the same source I have not taken My sorrow; I could not awaken My heart to joy at the same tone; And all I loved, I loved alone." I decided, right then and there, that it was all pointless. Someone else would always say it better, so I decided to just shut up. But then I forgot that I made that decision.

I don't think I wrote much as a self-expression after that. Research papers, assignments, but that was all. The ironic thing is that I found out several years later that the guy had plagiarized the poem from Edgar Allen Poe--I mean he even published the sucker in our poetry anthology. It would be silly to compare yourself to Poe as an eighth grade student, and to give up writing as a result, but I forgot that's what I did.

Now that I can see that I made something up about myself--that my voice had nothing to contribute--I can actually choose to make up something else instead. Something like "every person is a unique expression in the world". Even me. Take that, D.G.