The most valuable thing I have developed over the past 22 years is an open mind. Actually, most of this development has occurred in recent years as I become more of an open person and realize how much there is to learn in the world.
Having an open mind is, to me, being open to new ideas, new knowledge, and most importantly, change in yourself and others. For example, I used to say “I hate country music,” “anything but country,” etc. Country music is typically NOT my jam. But in the past four years or so, I’ve decided that I don’t want to have such stagnant, unwavering preferences. Especially ones rooted in hatred. I don’t want to “hate” anything, except fascism. (I’m kind of kidding here, but seriously, fascism isn’t cool and I don’t like it.) I would be comfortable saying “I LOVE yoga! I LOVE the Red Hot Chili Peppers! I LOVE eating chips and salsa!” because of the innate positivity, and I wouldn’t feel embarrassed later if I stopped loving yoga or the Red Hot Chili Peppers or eating chips and salsa (also, not likely). However, I decided that if I one day loved a country music song, or artist, or the entire genre, that I wouldn’t want people to give me a hard time about it because I had bragged about my hatred about it! Maybe it’s unfortunate that my desire to not hate something stems from how others perceive me, but hey, I got there.
(Also, since when is hating something cool? If I could respond to high school me saying she hates country music, I would say, “I really don’t care about what you hate. What do you love? What makes you so happy and excited and thrilled? Great, now take the energy you spent telling people you hate country music and rolling your eyes and put it into that. Also, sorry to have to break it to you, but you’re going to like the song ‘Cruise’ by Florida Georgia Line.”)
Now, you’re probably wondering how the title of this blog post – “Poetry” – ties in. No, it’s not because I think my writing is so eloquent and ornate that I’ve decided that this entire post is a long poem. It’s that another way I stubbornly resisted change in myself, or rather was prepared to, is that I have always known that “I am a math/science/foreign language person.” English and History have never been my thing. Historical prose confuses me, which makes reading and enjoying historical documents or even recent classic novels a chore. Shakespeare goes right over my head, and trying to make sense of it would make my chest tighten in stress. I really like the big picture of things, and outlining facts, so History class was never as bad, but senior year I chose to study Economics from the history department for a reason – it was the most likely to involve math. Math is much easier for me to make sense of, and solving problems is exciting to me.
While it’s really awesome that I love math and Spanish and physics, it’s unfortunate that I felt as though I needed to put down other skills in order to enjoy those. Luckily, in my practice of yoga I have come around to poetry and how it can exist in my everyday life (e.g. meditation). I am amazed by how writers can get the most out of words and use each so purposefully and with such depth. Even if a poem takes me a couple of reads, I choose to admire its beauty, truth, and power rather than be anguished by any confusion it may cause me.
While having a strong sense of self and feeling passionate about our identity is empowering and valuable, I also think it is limiting. My yoga teacher said something the other day like, if we spend our whole lives going for what we want, and avoiding what we don’t want, then we’re trapped and limited by our own minds. For who decides what we want other than us? If you spend your whole life avoiding what you’ve decided you don’t want, you close yourself off to so much.
I still think I am better at math/science/foreign language, but I don’t let that define me or discourage me from learning more about history or reading classic novels and poetry. History is something I don’t know nearly enough about, so I am trying to learn more through podcasts (specifically Stuff You Should Know).
I would especially love to exercise my creative muscle and write my own poetry. I really enjoy writing on my blog, and while that isn’t poetry, there is some creativity there in choosing what to say and how to say it. I’m going to start writing poetry every once in a while (in my journal, not here!), because what do I have to lose?
I hope I’ve inspired you to lose a stagnant part of yourself, and not be limited by your own mind. Even if it’s something small, try something today that you have, for one reason or another, decided you don’t want, can’t do, or wouldn’t succeed at.