Sarah Kay, Spoken Word Poetry, and Me

I used to hate poetry. No, I used to detest poetry. I couldn’t understand it, it didn’t make sense, and I hated having to memorize rules in order to be creative. It wasn’t until I discovered Sarah Kay (and through her, Phil Kaye) that my opinions on poetry began to change. I was fifteen years old and in my Freshman English class when my teacher pulled up Sarah Kay’s TED talk. She opened with her poem B, and instantly I found myself falling in love with the way she used words to portray her thoughts. She mentions in her talk that spoken word poetry is how she combines her love of theatre and poetry, and it wasn’t until I was a little older that I realized how true that is, and how much I now relate to it.

After watching her TED Talk, I continued to look for more of her poems. As the years went on, she quickly became my favorite poet. I read her book in April of 2017, and over half of it was underlined after reading it just once. I recently reread it, and different pieces stood out to me, underlined in a different color to signify the time difference.

Over the years, Sarah Kay has given me words when I had none. When I was heartbroken in 2016 but starting to move forward, her poem with Phil Kaye entitled When Love Arrives, was played constantly. In 2017, I often returned to her poem Postcards, and I have heavily underlined and annotated it in the book. In the past few months, her poem The Type has been on replay in my head, pieces of it written on post-it notes and placed in various notebooks and on walls. You see, over the years there have been few moments where I haven’t been able to find words. I talk a lot, and I write even more. I always have. But still, there have been moments where I have had no idea what to say. Sarah Kay has been there every time, handing me a line or a complete poem that gives me the words I desperately needed.

Knowing all of this, you can imagine the joy when I discovered I could see both Sarah and Phil in Seattle for a mere $15 over my spring break. I bought the ticket, told my mom about it, and then bought my mom a ticket as well. I texted my uncle to ask if we could stay with him, and got myself a bus ticket to Seattle. On a warm Saturday evening, my mom and I saw my favorite poets live. I managed to hold it together until Sarah performed The Type, and then I silently lost it. Phil Kaye also did many poems that I love dearly, so it’s safe to say I was a little bit of a mess by the time they were done.

After it was over, we were all given the chance to buy books of theirs and then get them signed. My mom and I stood in the long line and I slowly grew more and more worried that I would make a complete fool out of myself. My mom says I did fine, but all I remember is going up to them, handing over the freshly purchased books, and saying, “I’m not really sure what to do now so I’m just going to stand here,” and smiling like a little idiot. They asked me for my name, signed the books, and I said a simple “thank you” over and over again. If I hadn’t been so nervous, this is what I hope I would have said:

Thank you, Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye, for being my words when I had none. Thank you for calming me down when I was anxious and for making me happy when I didn’t think anything could make me smile. Thank you for helping me fall in love with poetry, and for being a gateway to so many other poets I have come to love. Thank you for giving me inspiration for my own poems, and thank you for being the reason I write poetry at all.

Claira Changed Her Major Again

At the end of Winter Quarter, on a Wednesday around 9:30 pm, I could be found in the green room of the Film department talking with the Dean of the Communications & Languages department. My roommate and I were both having a crisis about our degrees, hers because she wanted to spend all her time being creative and wasn’t sure how, and me because I was a Social Work major who didn’t want to be a Social Worker. I loved learning about problems and how to fix them, but I was getting tired of the looks I would receive from other Social Work majors upon saying I didn’t want to follow the traditional career path after graduation.

That night, in the green room, I talked to the Dean who would eventually become my new advisor (hello Dr. C!), and explained how I want to help people using theatre. I told her how I was starting to consider Global Communications as my major, simply because I’d been thinking more and more about the global need for Expressive Arts therapy and how little access there is. I told her about my upcoming trip to Nairobi and what I’ll be doing there, and she said Global Comm. seemed like a good decision for me. The following day, me and my roommate both changed our majors, and I embarked on journey towards helping others tell their stories.

Along with thinking about the need for Expressive Arts therapy, I’ve been thinking a lot about how important our stories are. As an actress, I get the chance to tell a lot of different stories while somehow telling my own at the same time. There are so many circumstances and situations that people can end up in that lead to their stories being erased or vastly misunderstood. I want to spend my life not only teaching people how to express themselves on a stage, but also giving people the chance to tell their story in a safe environment. There is such a need for empathy in the world, and I don’t think we can have real empathy if we have no way to understand each other. Stories are a way we can be understood, and they are how I want to help people.

So there you have it. I am now a Global Communications major (with an emphasis in Spanish), with a double minor in drama and psychology. I was always that kid who wanted to do five things when they grew up, and now I’ve found a department where I can do just that. I’ve combined a bunch of things I love into one, and I’m so excited! I believe I was put here on earth to love people and help them tell their stories. I am in school to learn how to do that to the best of my ability, and I can’t wait to continue this journey.

Why I Loved the Book "A Wrinkle in Time" So Much

When I was eleven years old, my mom gave me some books for Christmas. Being an avid reader, I was excited to dive right into a book called A Wrinkle in Time, as well as the four other books in the series that followed it. Weirdly, however, I was unable to get into the story. Year after year, as much as I tried, I wasn’t able to finish it until I was seventeen. My mom has told me a few times that we aren’t able to read books that we don’t need yet. When we need the book, we’ll be able to read it. That was certainly true in this case. When I was finally able to read it, I fell in love with it for various reasons, one of the main ones being how Meg was written.

Meg is impatient. She thinks she’s ugly. She is loyal and protective of her family but doesn’t know how to harness those strong emotions into acceptable actions. She doesn’t understand the things around her, but she feels a need to understand things. I have related to each of these things over the course of my life so far, and I still see myself in some of these things now. I think it is rare to find a character who is portrayed honestly and without hesitation in their flaws being on display. I love how honest Madeleine L’Engle wrote Meg. The way she was written definitely helped me feel more understood, even as a seventeen year old.

When reading A Wrinkle in Time, one of the things that struck me most was the relationship between Meg and Charles Wallace. Their relationship reminds me greatly of the relationship I have with my brother. I don’t always understand my brother, but he always seems to understand me. He is protective, and loyal, and smart. There are so many times where I have been confused about something and he has instantly understood, and there have been times when no one has understood something about me but he has. My little brother is my very own Charles Wallace, and I consider myself very lucky.

I love this book very much. One of my favorite sentiments of it is to never be afraid of being afraid. I have always been a nervous person, and anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I scare easily. Still, I do my best to push myself out of my comfort zone on a regular basis. Another theme of the book that I love so much is the idea of love being bigger than hate. The only way Meg is able to help Charles and get everything sorted out is by remembering that she has the power to love. I think if we all remembered that love is greater than hate, and that we all have the power to love, the world would be a much better place.

If I read the book at 11 when I was first given it, or at 14 when I was the age Meg was, I don’t think I would have noticed all the similarities like I do now. I don’t think I would have related to Meg because I didn’t see how we were the same. Time was good, and having the perspective as a 17 year old reading it and as a 19 year old performing it is better, I think. At least it is for me. Oh, yeah, I may have forgotten to mention that my school is doing A Wrinkle in Time as our spring production, and I have been cast as Meg. I am extremely excited about this opportunity, and I can’t wait to continue with rehearsals and grow in my acting ability. This is certainly a challenge, but it is a challenge I believe I am ready for.

Changes Are Afoot

The summer I was sixteen, I moved, went through a bit of a heartbreak, prepared to change schools, and started a blog. This here blog did not go live until October, but I started writing posts and designing the bits and pieces in July. Shortly after moving, actually. I wrote my first poem, read the Harry Potter series, and played my ukulele and guitar a lot. The summer of 2016 was actually a really awful summer, but the years that have followed have been wonderful.

The summer I was eighteen, I worked with a theatre, went to France and Luxembourg, finished a book (that will remain unread for who knows how long), and prepared to head off to college. Since moving to Washington I have been involved in three(ish) productions, most recently in a play about a Ferris wheel where I played a character much like myself who is terrified of heights. Last Sunday I had an audition for the spring production, A Wrinkle in Time, and after a callback and a few days of impatiently refreshing my email, I found out I’ll be playing Meg Murry. It’s a huge undertaking, and is one I am nervous but extremely excited about. This sort of brings me to my point in writing today…

I have a feeling a lot is going to change with this website soon. I’ve been here for almost two and a half years, and over the course of this time so much has changed. Not only have I gone through my final years of high school and finished two terms of college, but certain parts of my personality have changed as well. I started this blog when I was sixteen (though nearly seventeen), and I was in kind of a weird place at the time. Originally, I wanted to have the blog for two years in high school in order to gain an audience before starting a YouTube channel in college. I wanted to be known and recognized for my work. After going semi-Adventist viral back in October and scouring through (mostly negative) comments about my writing, I’ve changed my mind about a lot.

I am perfectly content with the little audience that reads my blog. I love knowing I’m writing to friends and family, plus the occasional new twitter follower who stays around for a day or two. With that said, the main reason I write now is for me. Every once in a while I will look back at old things I’ve written and it feels like reading a public version of a diary, especially since I know everything that was going on behind the scenes of writing each post or poem. This blog is my scrapbook, but right now it is very polished.

Since January, I haven’t been writing as much. Part of it has to do with being pretty busy, but a lot of it had to do with feeling daunted by the prospect of facing a blank screen and having to fill it with five paragraphs of a new life lesson I’ve learned or a story from years and years ago. I don’t want to do that anymore. Okay, I still want to make lists of the things I’ve learned from a play or the *current age* things I’ve learned before my birthday, but I also want this blog to be more scrapbook-y. I want to share stories as they happen, and instead of fitting my life in with this blog, I want to fit my blog into this life.

When I was sixteen and this blog began, my life revolved around the books I read, the tea I drank, and the songs I wrote. Now, at nineteen, my life revolves around the drama department, the game nights I have with my bestest of friends, and the weird conversations I have with my roommate. I drink (possibly too many) cups of coffee, and I don’t read as much anymore. I want these things to be obvious upon reading a post, not thrown into a random paragraph. I want to look back at these posts in a few more years and know for sure what it was I was feeling when writing. So, some changes are afoot. I’m really excited to start sharing :-)

Me, summer of 2016

Me, summer of 2016

Me, spring of 2019

Me, spring of 2019

Why I Changed My Major

I was happy as an English major for about two weeks, and one of those weeks was orientation. After the first week of classes I found myself feeling very bogged down by all the reading and writing. I knew it wasn’t just the regular exhaustion that comes from reading textbooks and writing essays because I was enjoying my other classes. After I posted my piece called Why I Chose the Major (and minor!) That I Did, I found myself questioning my reasons for hanging on to the English department, but my worries started a couple of weeks before that. Hold on friends, because this is going to be a long one.

During the third week, I was in my acting class when I had the (somewhat obvious) realization that I didn’t want to study anything other than drama. I was again greeted with my frustration at the lack of a theatre degree being offered at my university, and thought about switching to Film & Television. After class I went to talk to my teacher about whether or not he felt me getting a degree in English would be worthwhile. Having been an English major himself, he said he thought it would be beneficial, but I should probably look into adding a business major as well or a business minor. I thought about it, and the next week went to my advisor to tell her I wanted to switch. She suggested I speak with the business department and then said she also thought sticking with the English degree would be a good idea since I’d gain knowledge in analyzing plays. I spent the next couple of weeks trying to schedule a meeting with the business department while still writing literary analysis essays and reading Chaucer.

I ended up being unable to meet with the business department due to too many miscommunications and confusing emails. I put my plans to change my major on hold, and heeded my mother’s advice to remember that I was only in my first quarter of college and had plenty of time. I continued through the quarter, hating my major all the way. I wasn’t excited about what I was studying, and I found myself dreading going to my classes and reading the assignments. I know (and knew then) that no matter what I study there will be moments where I simply do not want to do the work or go to the class, but I also know (and knew then) that I was miserable. I watched the people in my English classes excitedly discussing the works we were reading. They were all contributing to the conversations and I couldn’t think of a single thing to add. They were all coming into class with smiles on their faces and staying back at the end to talk with the professor some more. I, on the other hand, watched the clock the whole time and couldn’t wait to leave.

In the end, there were two main moments where I knew I needed to switch my major for my own peace of mind. The first came over Thanksgiving break when I turned in an essay for my College Writing class. I didn’t receive a grade I was proud of, and was especially hurt because I had been so proud of the essay. I had worked hard on it, and didn’t know what else to do to make it better. I sat on the couch and cried about how angry with myself I was, and how all I wanted was to be out of the English department. It was a moment where I truly did not care about writing, and I had never felt that way before. The second, and bigger, moment came the week after Thanksgiving. I was trying to finish my final paper for my Survey of British and American literature class, and, while on the phone with my mom, realized that I didn’t care about Shakespeare. Okay, I did care about Shakespeare, I just didn’t want to write about him anymore. In high school, I loved talking about, reading about, and writing about Shakespeare. I used to read his plays and memorize his sonnets just for fun. But, seemingly all of a sudden, that love was gone. I simply did not care about Shakespeare the same way I used to. I was not excited about what I was studying, and I wanted out.

Before going into what my new major is and why, let’s quickly go through the list of majors I considered before: Film & Television, Business, Journalism, Communications, and Sociology. After crying on the couch to my mom about how much I disliked being and English major, I pulled up my school’s website and went through the list of majors they offered. I settled on Sociology, and a couple weeks after returning to school walked into the building for the School of Social Work & Sociology, and asked if I could speak with someone from the Sociology department. I loved the idea of studying sociology because I’ve always wanted to use theatre to help people and to better society, and figured what better way to prepare for that than to study society? I was given a business card and sent off in the right direction before walking into the office and talking with a Sociology professor for a few minutes. During our conversation, he was really selling the research aspect and also the connection Sociology has to English. He also suggested I add an English minor, which was just the opposite of what I wanted to hear. So, after the five minute meeting concluded I promptly went back to the main office and, without really thinking about why, asked if I could meet with someone from the Social Work department.

I was immediately led down a hallway and into the office where I spent half an hour meeting with the head of the department. As I talked with the professor, I felt myself growing more and more excited about my future at my school. We talked about my drama minor and how Social Work would help me accomplish my goals. Later that day, in my acting class, I was talking with a girl who happened to be a Social Work major. My teacher overheard and asked if I was thinking of switching from English, and I said I was. He asked if I had ever heard of drama therapy, and that question is how I came to write this blog post. Put simply, drama therapy is the intentional use of theatre  to help people actively and externally process their emotions, often through the use of exercises and improvisation. I spent that night researching drama therapy and realized that it is everything I have been saying I want to do without knowing there was an actual term for it. The next morning I went to the records office and officially changed my major from English to Social Work.

The new plan is to get my BSW and then go to graduate school to work towards my masters and certification in Drama Therapy. When I go back to school in January I will also be adding another minor in Psychology because every grad program requires me to have a little background in psychology. I still plan to open my own theatre where I will act, teach, and direct, but the idea of drama therapy feels right to me. I am extremely excited to head back to school and get to work on this degree, and I am even more excited to learn more about drama therapy and to eventually become a drama therapist.

Part of me was sad to leave the English major behind. I had spent so many years gearing up for it that I never stopped to consider the idea of me not even enjoying it. I didn’t like the idea of giving up something my younger self was so excited for, until I realized that my younger self always wanted my current self to be happy and being an English major wasn’t going to make that happen. I am so happy with my change of major. I am excited to learn more about what I know and learn answers to questions I don’t even know I have. But even more so, I am really looking forward to continue waking up excited.