By Sarah Bey
Blog Content Contributor
“Art can free a nation. Art can be a sanctum.” – G Yamazawa, National Poetry Slam Champion
So there I was—sitting next to my Dad on the R train going from Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn to Time Square in Manhattan—without Wi-Fi. We were just sitting there for about 30 minutes and for anyone that is used to checking their Instagram account or Facebook every five minutes knows that’s like a lifetime. Me and my family were visiting New York City for the first time and were completely awe-stricken with everything. We fell in love with the subway. And the places it took us. And the people that rode them with us. And that’s when I decided to pull out my phone, open the notes and just write.
This was the first summer during my collegiate career and like everyone else, I was so relieved to not have to worry about school work anymore. My first year was a lot like what T.V. shows and movies make them to be: extremely free, joining a sorority, living it up and all. But then spring semester came and with it, a season of loneliness and sadness. I wouldn’t call it depression because I was never medically diagnosed but I just wasn’t myself. I would hide away from friends in my dorm room and binge eat. I started to cry for no reason and it scared the hell out of me. I didn’t know what was going on and I didn’t know how to make it better. So after I finished finals and went back home, I went back to my roots.
Now, I had wrote some poems before when I was younger in that love-lust state off of a hormonal high but I had never written about what was around me—what was outside of me. Within a few minutes sitting on the subway, I was writing my first real poem about the people I saw on the subway. I wrote about an older woman’s smile, a little girl with her father and a man that fit that hipster New Yorker mold. These people gave life to mine. With just two thumbs, open eyes and ears and a willful spirit, I grew into the person I needed to be. Through poetry, I discovered a beautiful and evergreen community that is so supportive and my family and friends grew even closer. Through poetry, I grew to connect to people after I had been so disconnected.
So, I credit poetry and art for saving my life. Adjunct Associate Professor Michael Friedman of Columbia University of Social Work said in his article “art can be a healing force for people with mental disorders, including people with dementia, and art can contribute to psychological well-being of people regardless of whether they have a mental disorder or not.” Friedman also mentions a conversation he had with a jazz musician about the effect of art on mental states. The jazz musician, like so many others, questioned why he was so “messed up” if he made art. Then, he realized that without his art, he would be even worse. Without poetry, paint, and pen, I would still be stuck in my room, gaining weight from my gluttonous habits.
To make sure my revitalized state was here to stay, I started writing poems daily and even came up with a hashtag on my social media. #Dailypoem skyrocketed and amateur and professional poets noticed as well as family and friends. They encouraged me to keep at it and that my words impacted them somehow. My daily posts snowballed into monthly publications on an international web magazine called WildSpice. While I don’t write for the magazine anymore, the content is phenomenal and the leadership team continues to inspire me with their wild adventures. Poetry bled over into canvas art and family and friends asking me to paint for them.
Riding the subway without Wi-Fi taught me that in the in-between moments of our daily lives, we forget to unplug and look around us. I could’ve ran up my data and had an expensive bill to pay later but I decided to just sit there. So friends, just be still. If you feel like life has got you down, that is when you just need to trust in yourself and your gifts. And trust me: you is smart, you is kind, you is important! You are the answer to your problem. I found my life through others. Now it’s time for you to go explore yours! Good luck!