Grade 11 English students were asked to submit a personal speech on the topic of ‘Choices.” The following was submitted by HDCH student, Magdalaina Teeuwsen.
I’m the rebellious one in my family. I don’t do drugs, I don’t smoke, and I’ve never had a major fight with my parents. Instead, I’m leading a quieter kind of rebellion. I’m a dreamer, which is not a personality type that fits in my extended family. I disagree with them on a lot of things, but perhaps the most isolating difference between us is that I’m a creative person. While my cousins were trapping rabbits in the backyard, I was hiding with my nose in a book. My uncles discuss the best university to attend and who will run the family business when they retire, and I’m filling countless journals and notebooks, and while my cousin Daniel was preparing to win his third “Geography Challenge”, I was using Google Earth to find places to visit for my first travel novel (which is currently Estonia, by the way). It takes a lot of bravery to share something that means a lot to you, but could be undervalued or misunderstood, but it’s very rewarding and can be life changing.
Although my parents are ok with my creative pursuits – as long as I find a stable job afterward – my extended family is not as excited about words or art or music. I think we all started to notice the difference when I was ten, stepped out of the van from the airport, and promptly told my grandfather that Sumas Mountain looked ominous in the dark. A year later, we were on our way up north to Kamloops. He tasked me with guessing one of the main industries of the Fraser Canyon. I did have something at the end of that drive – a seven-page fantasy story about an evil warlord destroying a gingerbread village. A few years ago, the whole family headed off to Sasquatch Provincial Park, to Hicks Lake. While my cousins were having a competition to see who could throw the biggest rock the farthest, I was composing misty mountain songs in my head.
It’s ironic that the place that had inspired me the most was the place I felt most unwelcome to share it. Moments like these are what scared me into hiding the things I had made, causing years of creative anxiety and insecurity. I was so concerned that everything I did was worthless and lacking in any technical skill, I never shared it.
Of course, if one is convinced they are simply no good or have no one to share their work with, why would they keep doing it? So, for quite a while, I struggled. I struggled to put pen to paper, to make music, to put the dreams I had out into the world. When people said nice things about a piece of writing done for a class or a piece of artwork I left out on my desk, I shrugged and rolled my eyes in my head. I’m sure many of you can guess that hating everything you do is actually not very healthy. I was unhappy, I missed having an outlet. Two things really inspired me to start creating again. First was a story on a blog about an author. She, like myself, had lots of doubt about her work, so much so, that she had a name for all the negative thoughts she had in her head – Nigel. One day, she met her publisher for lunch, preparing to tell him that the book she was working on was no good, that she needed more time and a new idea. Her publisher asked her to read a part of it, so she read a few pages. He liked it and asked her to read some more. She skipped to a part that she thought was especially bad, and once again, he loved her. She left the lunch that day with more excitement than ever to get started. The second was a movie called Dead Poet’s Society. The movie is set at a private boy’s school and follows a teacher who questions the traditional way of going about things. Most people have heard of the phrase “Carpe diem”, and this movie is where it’s from. The movie is about fearless creating and supporting others as they create.
Through these two sources, I decided to start consciously creating again. I started an Instagram page, which seems small, considering the fact that most people have it, but I loved being able to share pictures I’m really proud of. I sent pictures of my art to friends, who assured me that they should not be burned. I looked for places to share writing anonymously because sometimes so-called “keyboard courage” is a good thing. I’m trying to write every day, and although it doesn’t always happen, every time I write something that makes me smile, I’m encouraged to write more. It’s not always great – I’m 16, I’m going to write angsty poetry and make bad art, but how else am I going to learn?
From all of this, I’ve come to realize something. I was wrong about what was holding me back. My extended family is not, in fact, a group of culture hating Philistines, they just have different interests and priorities. I was the one stopping myself with my own insecurities, they were just a really convenient excuse.
Everybody has something they don’t want to share for fear of judgment or otherwise, and it takes a lot of bravery, but it’s a wonderful thing to do.