Saturday, March 5, 2011

An Ever-Evolving Answer to the Question of Who I Am

I've been absent here from the blogosphere for about two weeks, and that is a major failure on my part. As I said on my first entry to this blog, A Rebranding, I need to sit my ass in the chair, and while I have been sitting quite a bit over the last two weeks, I haven't been writing. I did spend sometime drafting a novel whose first draft is nearing completion, but I set a goal for this blog of two entries per week (usually Wednesdays and Saturdays) and I haven't consistently achieved that goal. The guilt over not writing has led to to think about who I am and why, if I want somethig so much, do I fail to work on it.

Answering the question "Who am I?" might be a complicated endevaor for anyone, especially considering that answer is ever-evolving, morphing as events happen to change the circumstances surrounding the question. For most of my life, and even now as I write this, I have a firm grasp as to what that answer is for me. Now, I am a husband, a father, a son, a brother, a friend, and a teacher. I'm working (perhaps lazily so) to add "writer" to that answer, but that is the answer. While the answer comes to me easily now, there were moments in my life that wasn't neecessarily so.



Me (bottom left) on the 1st place
Milwaukee Brewers, 1989
  Growing up in the sheltered environment of a small Catholic elementary school, I knew who I was. I was a son, a brother and a friend. A growing boy who enjoyed cartoons (Transformers, GI Joe, and He-Man most prominently) and found a surpirse joy in writing. I remember the school's old secretary, Mrs. Perez, once gave me a small journal in which to develop my little stories. Writing gave way to drawing, reading (my love began with C.S. Lewis' The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe) and eventually sports. My short athletic career began with soccer (no way I was running that much) and baseball (I couldn't hit to save my life), but it wasn't until basketball that I found a sport where I was successful. And while I don't really play anymore, basketball remains an integral part of my teaching life with coaching. Sports is intricately woven into the nest of my life. It's something that I enjoy, although I suffer the teams on a regular basis. (See the current state of the Heat for an idea.)

But what absolutely altered the shade of my feathers was when I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes the summer before 8th grade. It changed me and my family, thrusting adjusts on everyone in the house. Entering high school, I found myself struggling to lift from my parent's nest because of diabetes. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed high school, and I thrived there, so much so that I returned to my high school to teach and coach. Diabetes merely changed the circumstances of my life. It forced an evolution to the answer of who I was. And while adjusting to this evolution took some time, I managed fairly well.

It wasn't until college that I really lost sight of my answer. I wasn't ready for college. The egg-shell of elementary school, and the soft nest of my small high school didn't prepare me for the wide-open blue sky of college. I fell from that tree of education and slammed beak-first on the ground. After a year or two, I managed to shake the dirt off, but not the stains of my mistakes. I managed to lift off the ground and found myself gliding through on the wind of writing. I rediscovered a joy in creative writing and it was through that wind that I found a direction.

I reaquired a sense of my answer and landed on teaching. Originally (and, truth be told, still), the plan was to bide my time teaching while I worked on my writing craft. But since becoming a teacher, I have become a husband, and a father (twice over). I remained a son, a brother, and a friend, but the answer to the question continued to evolve.

Dwelling on this idea led me to a poem by Langston Hughes. Dreams, by Hughes, reigns as my favorite poem of all-time, and has held that crown for some time. I don't want to be that "broken-winged bird" he discusses. I can't let my dream die, so I'll continue flying toward that next evolution of my answer. Hopefully, the winds of inspiration and faith will get me there soon.

Below you'll find a poem I crafted almost ten years ago. It's modeled after another of Hughes' poems, The Negro Speaks of Rivers. Poetry Modeling is a technique where a writer uses the structure and style of a published poem to craft their own poem, altering the words, images, and themes to something of their own, while assembling the pieces as the original poet did.

In his poem "The Negro Speaks of Rivers", a seventeen-year old Langston Hughes gave a voice to his people. He develops an identity for black people through an association with rivers throughout histroy. These rivers provided nutrients necessary for the survival and growth of the black people, while developing and evoling their culture, understanding, and soul. His use of simple diction, unaffected by dialect, really affords the poem a clear voice that resonates through history, much like the names of those rivers did.

My effort with this model stems from the idea of identity. Writing at the age of 22, I crafted this poem, A Young Man Speaks of Health, to stand as a voice for who I was, at the time. I've evolved since then, and like Hughes says in his poem, "my soul has grown deep."

A YOUNG MAN SPEAKS OF HEALTH

I have known health, its pure and perfect feeling, even during a life of sickness.

My soul has grown deep in health.

I have run in the field, when doctors said be weary.
I have felt the prick of a needle, just so I could eat.
I have looked upon others, gorging, while sweetness was my enemy.
And I have strived for balance when it was a struggle
To achieve it so I could run with no worry.

I have known health, its pure and perfect feeling.

My soul has grown deep in health,
even when others said it would never be pure and perfect.

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