To understand the heart and mind of a person, look not at what a person has already achieved, but at what a person aspires to do. - Kahlil Gibran, 1883-1931
Caroline Center is 100% about investing in human potential. Human potential is the only investment that maintains its high value while delivering consistently great returns.
The 15 weeks a trainee is enrolled at Caroline Center is barely enough time to begin to know a person – I mean, to really know a person – much less understand her heart and mind. But sometimes there are powerful moments of revelation. Moments that are outright gifts. Not only because they allow us to begin to know; but, because they allow us to be witness to a woman as she gives voice to her highest hopes and dreams.
Jessica, the author of this post, will graduate from Caroline Center in just a few weeks. In addition to her educational accomplishments and excellent career skills, she will carry with her into her new profession and life a remarkable strength and confidence.
With or without the applause. With or without anyone’s approval. At this time in her life and in this place, Jessica has found her center – her space to be, and to be her best self.
“How Open Mic Poetry Saved My Life” is Jessica’s original essay. As she pursues her aspiration of becoming a pharmacy technician, Jessica continues to write and to share her poetry and personal journey at creative venues and art spaces in the city.
We are honored to be able to publish Jessica’s essay here with her permission and to welcome a gifted writer, speaker, poet – and, emerging healthcare professional – to The Breakroom.
Not killing yourself is a full-time job, and I’ve been working since I was 13
I have this bad habit of searching for pain in everything I touch. It’s how I know for sure that I’m alive. Far too often, I hover in this space between numb and need, between flat and feeling too sharply.
So, when a new friend told me about this open mic happening at the Eubie Blake Center, I went out of a need to feel something, to feel something other than a sense of drowning on dry land. I sat still and watched people closely as people cut their hearts open on stage. It was like observing open heart surgery where everyone held the scalpel, from the audience to the performers. I was seeing a life-saving work of art.
Have you ever been hungry
Not the kind of hunger where ribs touch
But the kind where you’ve just spilled your guts in ink
for the past 24 hours straight & all that will fill you is more paper
so you can continue the regurgitation of your soul
Could I save myself? Did I want to save myself? Was I worth saving? Each and every time I stepped up to the microphone and spoke, no matter what I said, the answer to these questions was a resounding, “YES.” Every time I walked on a stage and stated my truth, it was another night that I did not spend with a bottle and a blade . . . and I soon discovered that I was not alone.
I should clarify. Writing – and, specifically, performing open mic poetry – not only saved my life, but continues to save it. Poetry is not a cure-all remedy for the inevitable aches and pains of life, but what it does is give me a way to speak what I used to believe was unspeakable. It gives me something to hold onto when I cannot hold myself. And there have been far too many times when I could not hold myself because it hurt too much.
I know the cold taste of bathroom floors
I have wrapped my arms around toilets because I could not bear to hold myself
Together. . .
I learned that sometimes the best together is
Me, myself & I
Performing open mic poetry has allowed me to learn a lot about myself and what I can withstand. I have received standing ovations, and other nights I get nothing but blank stares or even laughter. I gradually learned not to base my worth on how much somebody did or didn’t like my work, especially because my work holds different meaning for each person.
Poetry helped me learn the concept of radical acceptance – taking things for what they are, as they are, without desiring to change them according to what I think is best. This, too, saved my life because it allowed me to accept myself as I am – embracing all the shades and all the facets of my being. Poetry gifts me with sacred space to grieve, rage, laugh, sigh, or just breathe. In this space, even the silence between stanzas has power.
Write a poem
This is not the end
Every time you speak you are born again
Every word you breathe out is oxygen
Cycling out to the world and back to your lungs to revive you
Your life is literally in your hands
Write a sonnet
Whatever WHATEVER will save you
Your life is literally in your hands