Blog by Empress Isabela Reyes-Klein
I get frustrated and upset just like 99% of the population. I get irritated when I turn in an assignment late, when I stub my toe, and when I put a lot of effort into something and it isn’t appreciated. Getting worked up over the little things in life is easy. It doesn’t take that much to make me want to roll my eyes or scoff. But for me, there’s a distinct difference between frustration and anger. Getting really mad doesn’t happen as often, the moments when I get to this boiling level of frustration that it’s become anger, are usually when I’ve done something pretty regrettable, or witnessed something severely lamentable. This happened a while back, by listening to NPR on the way to school, hearing about a hate crime that ended in the loss of human lives. I gripped the steering wheel and kept driving, and therein lay part of the problem. Even though these awful tragedies we see flash before us every day continue to occur, we’ve almost become accustomed to the pain and suffering that people around us are experiencing. Later that day, a comment from a student at my school is what pushed me over the edge, because their words embodied a sense of detachment that has become so common in our world and in its people. When I turn on the news, there are flashing pictures of cowering children, and bits of buildings strewn across cities, yelling overheard from behind the strained voice of a newscaster drones on, and I stay — staring, amidst a huge realization.
Apathy is a poison to genuine sentiment, and we need to stop pretending we don’t care.
I think that is at the heart of what makes me mad, angry, and sad. It makes me frustrated that this world is made up of incredible things, and on it, is an incredible group of humans with so much potential for good. I see this huge gap from where we are now, and where we could be. I see it, and I want to help others see it too. So, what can I, as a 17 year old high school student do, that will make people start to care, even a little bit? I want to spread positivity when hate seems so common, so what can I do? I realized that as I asked myself this question, I had to list out all the different ways I know I connect and interact with people, so I did, and the item that struck me the most is what you’re reading. I spread ideas and thoughts through writing.
I started writing to create for myself, to help center my thoughts, to show myself that when I was in a dark emotional state, I could navigate my way out. It helped with mundane things too, before a rash comment, I wrote in a notebook, and would draw, I collaged and would find any way that I could to try and transfer the swirling emotions in my head into coherent thoughts and words. Then when I looked at what I’d made, I could decide what the message is, and how it would impact my audience.
That’s the big thing, we see rants on any and every kind of social media, saying this or that is awful or tragic, and that may very well be true, but those posts are giving you a situation without presenting a solution. I don’t want to be left hanging, if something moves me to the point of jumping out of my chair, it would be a pity if the only course of action is sitting back down to simmer in anger. So when I write, I try to leave the audience with a message, whatever it may be, wether it’s to dispel hate, or negativity. I write freely for myself, then I tailor it to a message that I want to share. The style my free flow writing usually transforms into is poetry. Verse, and sometimes I rhyme. I can rhyme about to my heart’s content, use fluffy metaphors and alliterations, but in this one case I rhymed about a sentence I heard someone utter when I was walking through the school cafeteria.
There had been some comment stating that anyone who was “different” was asking for whatever trouble came their way.* I didn’t know if it had been a joke, or semi-sincere sentence, it wasn’t ok either way. I walked out of the cafeteria with my knuckles white, clenching the spork I had ventured in to grab, trying to cool off.
They’re just words, Bela. Just words.
I repeated that thought, but no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get it out of my head, that people would subject others to aggression because it didn’t affect them.
Why should this person, or anyone else, be exempt from feeling any sympathy for an person that had never, and probably wouldn’t ever hurt them? My pen sliced my paper until it bled with ink dripping from the pain in the voices that couldn’t argue back. Because of skin color, beliefs, sexuality, whatever it was that this stranger didn’t consider to be “normal” had become a reason to diminish them as people. I wrote until my hand felt stiff, like I had some how funneled out this negative energy and forced it on the page. Once I wasn’t as angry I started changing bits and pieces of this thing that was transforming into a poem. I was looking over a rhyme scheme that had formed, and slowly built the message that I wanted to share. The thing that was missing in the crude comment mentioned; empathy, understanding, and kindness.
I remembered we’re all just people, trying to live our own lives and be happy. I wasn’t going to start a protest or slam some stranger on the internet. I was going to express what I was feeling in response to such negativity with the yin to its yang, I was going to positively art it out. And I had done just that.
I was still frustrated with the people who made comments that I thought showed a lack of empathy for others, but I realized, it is hard to see these invisible lines that connect us all together. It’s hard to see that we’re all just humans; mothers, fathers aunts, uncles, grandparents, siblings, daughters, sons, friends, neighbors, whatever. We’re all humans, trying to make the most of a disjointed, stagnant, state. We should promote love and peace, just not hate. It’s hard to realize that being empathic is an avid choice we have to make daily, and I wrote this to remind myself and others of that.
I’d love to see artistic and creative means of creating change in response to things that bring heartbreak and sorrow. I would love to live in a world of people that do their best to create instead of destroy, I’d love to see what you’ll create. And with that line, I’ll introduce the poem I wrote that I found as a tool to express what I was feeling, and maybe it’ll inspire you to create something too.
The poem that I wrote, I then printed onto a poster, and was actually purchased at a local teen art show.
*They were talking about the Orlando tragedy, the deadly shooting that killed 49 victims, injured 53 additional people and affected countless others. It instilled fear in not just the LGBT+ community, but in citizens in and out of a country that’s supposedly dedicated to the freedom of individualistic expression. I heard about it on NPR in the morning before I left for summer camp, and I was processing it still at lunch before the comment was overheard.
All Photos courtesy of the author.