“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”~E.E. Cummings
Today’s calendar message held these words by E.E. Cummings. Or more correctly e.e.cummings. I read them and marveled at their wisdom, at how I am still, daily, mustering up this kind of courage. Perhaps it takes a lifetime to do this. I hope so and others might agree since I don’t believe I have mined all the facets of who am I. Have you? Especially if the definition of growing up is living into an authentic self that was born with us into the world but may have been coaxed or beaten or shamed out of us at some place along the years. Growing up into who we really are seems our life’s work and I hope to give myself to it every day, turning from the voices that might want to convince me of some other ‘self’ I am ‘supposed’ to be.
Seeing these words of the poet and writer who shunned the capital letter brought me back to a growing up time of my own. I recalled a specific day when I was a senior in high school taking myself and life quite seriously. At the time I was writing and reading lots of poetry including e.e. cummings. I am sure I was staring off into the distance much of the time in a way I was certain real poets did, searching for that perfect source of inspiration. I was probably just shy of donning a beret to create the perfect image of a serious artist who was going to ‘be somebody’……’someday’.
At this time I had also dropped my upper case letters in favor of the style of Mr. Cummings. I have a vivid memory of receiving a paper I had written for English from the hands of my teacher, Ms. Elcess. As she handed the lined, white notebook paper back to me, minus any capitals, she simply said, ” You’ve been reading e.e.cummings, I see.” The paper could have been covered with red marks around all the letters I had not capitalized but instead this teacher simply smiled, affirming this stage of my growing up with grace and affirmation. I still remember the heat moving into my face and my cheeks turning rosy as she moved on to the next student and returned their paper. While my face may have been blushing, in that moment I felt noticed for a pursuit, a passion, and my love for poetry only deepened. And I must admit my love for Ms. Elcess did, as well.
This growing up to become who we really are takes many twists and turns along the way. While in that high school English class I was only imitating the poet and what I thought a writer’s life might be, this teacher’s noticing of my deep desire and longing made a difference. It helped nurture who I hoped to be. I am full of gratitude for her and for this envounter that only took a moment but has lasted decades.
I have heard more than one artist courageously speaking aloud what they hope to become in an effort of repeating it, claiming it, until it is so. “I am a poet.” ” I am a singer.” ” I am a painter.” ” I am a sculptor.” ” I am a chef.” “I am a composer.” ” I am…….” Of course, after the saying it, we all must engage in the practice of whatever it is we wish to bring to the world. A poet who doesn’t write poetry is not a poet, after all.
This becoming our true self, our authentic self, our God-created, hoped-for self, is a courageous act we make every day while we have breath. Hopefully, along the way, there are those who notice and affirm our unfolding and help us to strive and reach toward what grows us up, what brings joy and wholeness.
Ms. Elcess……wherever you are……thank you.