“We know you can write sad poems. Have you thought about writing a happy one?”
She said this to me at our group’s monthly meet-up and it was followed by murmurs of agreement and chuckling. Someone else said, “Oh, she’s young.”
I was stung. Literally as if their words were a hive of bees and I sat frozen. I could feel my insides shriveling up, reversing the work that poetry does in opening my soul. I will forever be grateful to the person who whispered, “Ignore them,” because it dried my tears at least.
I believe that was the last time I made the trip. Other things factored in, such as winter coming and my anxiousness with driving in the dark. But I’ve faced the fact that this moment successfully killed all desire to meet with these specific poets. This was two years ago.
I was twenty-eight at the time, although I am often mistaken for ten years younger based on my face. I don’t consider late-twenties to be a “young” designation. I suppose in comparison to living until you re ninety, twenty-eight is youthful. But I had nearly three decades of experience on this planet. I couldn’t believe how dismissive they were about the things I had to say based on my perceived age. I had been through a lot. I have been through a lot. But even if I hadn’t been twenty-eight, perhaps I had been eighteen, they had no right to dismiss my pain. All pain is valid. It doesn’t matter how much or the type, all pain is fucking valid.
At the time, I was clinically depressed. I was homesick and lonely. I was still processing trauma. Instead of turning to drugs or alcohol or any other destructive behaviors, I turned to writing. I’m sorry that I did not find catharsis in writing about rolling meadows and babbling brooks.
Just remember, your experiences are never less and pain is not a contest.