Becoming a Poet: The Side-Chick

At 17 years old I made a decision that would change the course of my life. I moved eight hours away from home (Charleston, S.C.) and began my college education in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  I didn’t know anyone. My biological father lived in the same town, but he would continue to be MIA for as long as nine months at a time.kwater

After my first semester, I declared my major as English. However, as I took courses, I realized that analyzing literature wasn’t what I was looking for. I wanted to create it. I changed my major three times. I switched to Journalism, and then to Human Development and Family Studies–finally deciding on being a marriage counselor. Poetry would have to be my side-chick.

The thing is, I didn’t know that creative writing existed as a genre. I knew what I wanted, but I thought I had to take English literature classes in order to get it. One day leaving class I noticed a flyer in Morgan Hall that read, “Creative Writing: 15 hours that could change your life!” It detailed classes for poetry and fiction. I felt like I had hit the jackpot. I signed up for my first poetry class the next semester.

It was the spring of my sophomore year when I heard this news, and that summer I decided to go home and stay until fall. I quit my part-time job as a collector at Wal-Mart Corporate Office and traveled back to South Carolina.  Here’s where the story changes and I’m sorry that I can’t give many details: while there I experienced a traumatic family event that knocked me off my feet. It was so personally devastating that it left me clinically depressed for months.

I didn’t want to leave my bed. I woke crying. I hate to sound cliché, but I was so miserable I thought I was going to die–mainly because I felt I didn’t deserve to live. Alone and away from so many people I knew, I floundered. I stepped out of who I knew I was meant to be. And I wrote. I wrote crying on the greyhound bus that took me back to school. I wrote in the computer lab on campus, in the library, and even in the gym. I wrote until I couldn’t see the computer screen anymore.  It felt like something I had to do. To get it out how I needed to, in the words I didn’t always say out loud.

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