By Austin Malberg
Editor’s Note: This article is the winning submission to the Textbook Nova 2019 Scholarship.
In the last few leisurely days of August, before the start of my first year of high school, I had a desire to pick up a new book before classes started. I decided on a book based on the outburst of reviews it had received from my peers. Milk and Honey, by Rupi Kaur, was the first poetry book I ever read. I finished it in under an hour and then I read it again that very same day. I fell in love with the way the words danced on the page to create melodies, seemingly crafted for my ears alone.
I tore out page sixty-two and hung it on my wall, but not before highlighting,
“what drives you crazy / what keeps you up at night / i tell him i write” (6-8).
I spent more time on this page than I did reading the book to its entirety. I was caught off guard because when I read those lines, I was reminded of a time when I used to feel the same. A time when my heartbeat raced when given the chance to expose myself. When my breathing quicken at the very idea of fashioning my thoughts on a page in order to make sense of them. A time when I was in love with the art of writing.
I tried to place a finger on when the passion had evaded me, leaving agony in place of adoration. I found myself blaming the classrooms I grew up in. I remembered back to my elementary school years, when I was always proud of that fact that writing was my favorite time of the day. But as I grew, I realized they stripped me of the childish whims that used to inspire me. Where as I grew, it became less and less acceptable to speak my mind and act boldly with my words. I was taught to forget my voice and rely solely on the structure they provided. The classroom stole my passion from me, took away the first thing I loved, and I resented it for that.
I wish my education would’ve been fueled by the fragments of knowledge I gained from the people I met and allowed me to show how perspectives I encountered had shaped me. I wish I would’ve been told to take risks and learn as I go, instead of being told what my voice should sound like. With every generic five paragraph essay I was asked to complete, I became more frustrated. However, I wrote them because it became about appeasing the teachers and being found traditionally successful. Writing what they wanted to see, in order to get a grade I was satisfied with.
My frustration lead me to rebel outside the boundaries of typical school writing and I was amazed when the feedback came back positive. It was the first time I realized that my teachers were waiting for me to forget the rules of a five paragraph essay and give them something that shocked them. The five paragraph wouldn’t get me a bad grade, but a creative approach would get me a better one along with eagerness from my teachers for more. After that, I noticed myself getting excited for papers that were assigned because I was always looking for the next way I was going to leave people with something unexpected.
With the spark of my new found curiosity, I took advantage of a creative writing workshop offered at a university and forced myself to write at a time when I was unsure if I could ever love it again. Still however, I did everything in my power to respark my passion. I channeled my grief and heartache and poured it into poetry for the first time. I showcased my interpretation of love and life in stories that I wrote throughout the stretching hours of the night. I took as many risks as possible throughout each essay, no longer letting structure hold me back. I reconstructed the foundation of what writing meant to me.
Now, as a first year undergraduate student at Hamline University, I currently have around fourteen thousand words of poetry, along with an assortment of short stories, personal narratives, screenplays, and creative essays. I am loading my schedule full of different writing classes with the intention to get my Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Creative Writing. I am planning to perform at our campus’ monthly poetry slams. I own more books of poetry than what can be found stocked in bookstores. And I finally remembered why I loved it all to begin with. I have never found myself more, than in the times I’ve let my pen hit the page.
Page sixty-two, the ripped out page from Milk and Honey, by Rupi Kaur, now hangs pinned to my desk in Osborn Hall at Hamline. Every morning, I reglance over the page and am thankful that I came across it so many years ago. I strongly believe that if I never would have read Milk and Honey that I would not be planning to major in creative writing, and maybe wouldn’t even be attending Hamline University. Milk and Honey had the largest impact on my life by giving me back my first love, inspiring me to carry that love with me into my future aspirations.
I won’t ever be done spilling my words on a page and seeking new experiences that let me share my voice with others. I won’t ever give up on my dream of publication. I want to travel, to let the cultures I’m immersed in bleed into me and shape new perspectives and stories into my work and to let those experiences fuel my writing. I want to be bold with my education by writing for myself, even when others tell me it’s a foolish plan to mold my education around an art. To prove to everyone that asked what my “back-up plan” is, that a “back-up plan” is not necessary for my success. To stick with my passion because my heart and soul fuel my work, to allow myself to expose myself in script.