“Please begin,” her voice was stern. I felt like all the air was suddenly sucked out of my body. In literature class, in middle school we were learning to recite and interpret If by Rudyard Kipling. “Anytime now,” my teacher grew impatient, I took a sharp breath, knowing that I crammed to learn the last stanza the night before. An anxious hush fell on the room, and I in all my 13 year-old confidence began to deliver the poem.
“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you…if you can trust yourself when all men doubt you but make allowance for their doubting too…”
As I continued, the meaning of the poem started to click. I got it. I understood Kipling. I understood his message. At that moment he became one of my personal literary heroes.
I kept going. . .
“If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken, twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, and stoop and build’ em up with worn-out tools…”
I still find today that whenever I’m in a pinch or involved in a situation where it’s easy to become overly emotional and react, I remind myself of Kipling’s words and instead listen, understand and then respond.
It ain’t easy. Lord knows it’s not, but I’ve become better at it.
“If you can fill the unforgiving minute, with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run, yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, and – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son…”
Every experience, every encounter is an opportunity for me (and you) to grow and learn. In my younger days, I felt the need to be part of everything and wanted to be swept up in the crowd to find a place to belong. Over the years as I started putting up healthy barriers, I’ve planted my feet firmly and I’m able to look at those same situations differently.
I laugh at times, “What was I thinking?”
I’m sad at times, “What was I thinking?”
I’m angry at times, “What was I thinking?”
I’m sometimes astonished and other times confused all while uttering those words, but through it all, I was thinking. I was learning. I was growing. I evolved. This was part of Kipling’s message to his son. You have to be a thinking individual. You have to be a life-long learner…this contributes to your life as a growing individual. If you know who you are, if you know where you want to stand in life and choose to show up in that way, no one can doubt you. No one.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, poetry has an extraordinary way of feeding the soul.
Did you know that April is National Poetry Month? Who inspired you with their poetry? Tell me about them?