This month’s writing was (is) scary. The words don’t always come out the right way — awkward, devoid of feeling or understanding, even rudimentary at times. They don’t come to me the way that they used to.

It’s a byproduct of growing up, of moving, of rooting for my insides to untwist themselves every time I feel like I should have it all together (but don’t). I have to keep reminding myself that the first draft of anything may not have good words or lines or sentences. It’s not going to make sense all the time. I may not produce anything that can be turned into something so my gut asks me, “why write at all?”

This isn’t what writers do. They write despite X, Y, and Z. They overcome. They have a constant thought in the back of their head that feels like there’s homework to do, even on the weekend, and it always gets done.

So am I a writer? Am I lacking discipline? Skill? Surely if I were a writer, I wouldn’t have these problems.

Am I a somebody?

Whether I am or whether I’m not, I’ll do the only thing I know how.


A few thoughts for September:

  • I turn to Sarah Kay’s work (of which I was feeling too in-the-moment to pay attention to the title) and was inspired to write these lines: “I ask my mom if life is just a collection of bruises on top of one another, each more colorful — and painful — than the last.”
  • My poems: a collection of bruises on top of one another, each unapologetic to the last for existing. Each a more colorful and painful depiction of what this life was, is, and can be.
  • A good friend said to me, “feelings we pretend to put away are still there” and I scribbled down every word to remember how those words felt around the edges of my heart. It made me think of every feeling I can remember feeling before I realized that feeling is wonderful and terrifying and necessary. I would tuck them between pages of books on the highest shelf of the coolest metaphor you can think of just so I didn’t have to come to terms with them. Now — 26 in a few months — I find myself rummaging through memories that I vowed would never see the light of day. These half-forgotten images flitting through my dusty memory are old Polaroid pictures that need shaking. I’m still learning to develop these. I’m still understanding their worth.
  • Every semblance of feeling in our hearts is owed an exploration. It’s vulnerability at its finest: being willing to turn something over, afraid of what’s on the other side, but turning it over nonetheless.
  • I don’t always take my own advice. Oftentimes I find myself wrapping words perfectly, with bright bows on top, only to give them away to people around me so as to say, “this is me showing up.” But I don’t show up for myself. On most days, I’ll fill everyone else’s cup first, oftentimes meaning I’m left with grounds of the best parts of myself. If there’s any learning that has been apparent these past couple of months, this is it.
  • I want to live a life that’s free and open to people and things and places. I want perspective. I want to be shaped by all of the things that I’ve gone through and all of the people I meet. I want to be coming and going, to be present and unlearn toxic habits. But I also realize that I can’t just want all of this and not actually practice it. Action is sometimes underrated and overshadowed by words. Here’s to more doing.

The bell tower on Ball State University’s campus. Muncie, IN.
Getting these reminders from a friend in the mail gives me hope.
The Rogers wedding. A great group of fellas.
Working on showing up anyways.

While attending a poetry event recently, I was in awe awe of the work of students. Their poetry examined all facets of life: body image, love, heartbreak, gender inequality, things in between that I’m not sure even have labels. To think that there are so many young individuals who are embracing this idea of observing areas of their lives and are willing to write them down gives me hope.

I left the room to process with a student of mine. As I was returning to the room, a young man was making his way across the back of the room towards the door. A poet was at the front of the room giving her words of hope and pain and images of her memory to the room, and this young man had tears in the corners of his eyes. He was holding his breath, doing his best to be “strong” and keep it in until he was in a safe place to be himself.

He made his way to the bathroom. I gave him a few moments to himself, then made my way to the bathroom where he was standing at the sink. As I walked in, his hands were running under the water and he looked up to see me, tears running down his face.

Me: “Are you okay?”

Him: *splashing water on his face* “Yeah.”

Me: *embracing his shoulder* “Let me know if you want someone to listen.”

Him: (his energy shifting) “Thank you.”

I didn’t get his name. I didn’t ask him where he lived in or what he was studying. I didn’t ask him his story or why he was at a poetry reading on a Thursday night when he could be anywhere else.

I didn’t ask because in that moment of vulnerability, this young man was struggling to feel okay inside his own skin, to embrace something inside of him.

I could feel his reluctant heart begin to awkwardly open. I wasn’t expecting him to spill everything to me — a stranger wearing professional clothes, someone he’s never seen before— but telling him that he’s not alone was important to me. I wanted to give him the time and space to feel like it’s okay to feel what he’s feeling, to explore what that means, and to let go of the idea that he doesn’t need to keep it in just because he’s a boy.

I think about him often, wondering how I could be better at embodying light for others. I wonder how I could be a safe harbor during the strong storm that this life can be.

We need each other more than we think. We all deserve grace.

Show up and give it.

Published by Robbie Williford

Writer from Flint, Michigan. Partial but slowly becoming. Educator. Storyteller. Bashful. Paying attention to the quiet.

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