The Lives That We Lead (Off The Grid: Day 5)

If I should have a daughter
Instead of “Mom”
She’s gonna call me “Point B”
Because that way, she knows
That no matter what happens
At least she can always find her way to me

The first opening lines of this TED talk leave me somewhat transfixed. Clever. And poetic, very poetic.
I stumbled through the archives of TED talks one morning, looking for something to inspire me. Not so much to change my life entirely, but one that at least helps me get through the day. I’m drawn to the talk done by Sarah Kay. The still that serves as the video’s thumbnail is stunning. You can see that she’s in the middle of a spirited performance. There’s this sparkle in her eyes, this radiance from her face.
And the term “spoken word poet” piqued my interest.

Spoken word poetry, as Sarah describes it, is the love child between poetry and theatre. It’s about writing poetry that cannot sit still on paper. It demands to be read aloud, performed. And unlike written poetry where the people who reads it feels something amazing in a private and personal level, spoken word creates connections in the moment it is spoken and heard and seen, bridging the performer and the audience.

When I meet you, in that moment
I’m no longer a part of your future
I start quickly becoming part of your past
But in that instant, I get to share your present
And you, you get to share mine.
And that is the greatest present of all

It becomes apparent that stories and words are a huge part of Sarah’s life. I am amazed by how much I can relate to her. How we share such similar sentiments, share a love of words and stories. We see the world as one giant playground, one endless stage. In another talk entitled “How many lives can you live?” Sarah explores what you can do in a lifetime. Like me, she believed that she would get to do amazing things. Things that depended not on terms of ‘if’ but simply ‘when’.

“My Mom says that when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, my typical response was princess-ballerina-astronaut. What she doesn’t understand is that I wasn’t trying to invent some combined super profession, I was listing things I thought I was gonna get to be.” — Sarah Kay on her childhood dreams

Feeling like you have all the time in the world makes the horrible realization that you don’t all the more jarring. It’s scary to think that you only get one shot, only get to do a fraction of the things you want to experience. Because dammit I’ve just discovered how wonderful life can be and I want to spent every single moment feeling that way. 

I want her to look at the world

Through the underside of a glass-bottom boat

To look through a microscope at the galaxies

That exists on the pinpoint of a human mind

Sarah imparts a few words of wisdom, something that I guess I knew a long time ago but didn’t fully accept or understand until now. There is a way we can live multiple lives. Perhaps not personally, not through our own eyes but through the eyes of other people. And there is a tool that can help achieve that: stories. That’s why I open a book and read. I want to experience those stories — other people’s stories and catch a glimpse of what life is like from the other side.
That’s why connections are so important. That’s why story-telling is so important. It’s this sharing of experience and knowledge that can shape you as a person, and perhaps to an extent, shape the world. I’m not so good with interacting with people. Not because I don’t like them. As much as I like spending time on my own, I do like spending time with other people too and I have never purposefully tried to avoid that. Maybe I shy away from it — hey, that’s just my awkwardness shining through.
As much as I enjoy talking about things like TV, movies, music, I can’t shake the feeling that everyone has their guard up. I have trouble getting into what’s real. Not that I expect it to be easy, I just didn’t think it’d be this hard, to hear and be heard. It almost sounds impossible.

But I see the impossible every day
Impossible is trying to connect in this world
Trying to hold onto others while things are blowing up around you
Knowing that while you’re speaking
They aren’t just waiting for their turn to talk – they hear you.
They feel exactly what you feel, at the same time you feel it
It’s what I strive for every time I open my mouth —
That impossible connection

There are two kinds of stories: stories that we experience second-hand, stories that we hear from other people. And then there are stories that we write. Stories that only we can tell because we’re the only one in this universe who sees the world the way we do. And that’s something I keep in mind, every time I pick up a pen or sit in front of a keyboard, fingers poised ready to write.
I may not be sure that I’m saying what I want to say with the best words possible but I do feel that I have something worth saying. Something that comes from me — from my mind, my heart. That’s why being a journalist sounded like the perfect dream. Not only could I go out and enjoy the world, I could write it all down too. Not only did I get to tell my own stories, I could go out and listen, go looking for other people’s. And hopefully, with enough patience and skill, I could help them share their stories.
I may not get it right the first time. I might find pain and sorrow and heartache and find myself unable to find the right words to say. But that doesn’t mean I can’t try.

There’ll be days like this my momma said…
… When your boots will fill with rain
And you’ll be up to your knees in disappointment
And those are the days you have all the more reason to say thank you
Because there’s nothing more beautiful than the way
The ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline
No matter how many times it’s sent away

If at this point in this essay, I’ve sounded a bit too pretentious for you to hear me out, then watch the videos and listen to Sarah Kay. She is a much more talented story-teller than I am and I can only hope to come close to what she’s doing with her life.
This world can seem big and so, so scary. And things tend to go in a way that you never planned and never expected to happen. But never give into that nagging feeling that you’re too small to matter. You might see someone, someone who’s famous and talented and brilliant and although you admire them, you feel yourself shrink away, feel insecure just by comparison.
There’s really nothing to compare in the first place. Sure, someone else may look like they’re living the perfect life, but that’s their life, their story. And you have one of your own, one that’s just waiting to unfold.
Don’t give up. Just keep on trying, keep on striving to be someone better, someone like those people you looked up to in the first place. Someone you know you can be.

You will put the wind in win some, lose some
You will put the star in starting over and over.
And no matter how many land mines erupt in a minute
Be sure your mind lands on the beauty of this funny place called life

It may not seem like we can do much in one lifetime. But think about what we can do together through the lives that we lead. Lives that intersect and feed of one another’s energies, hopes and dreams. Lives that demand to be lived, listened to, appreciated and shared.
The life I’m leading has been a pretty confusing one so far. It’s a life that’s been revolving around words, stories and connections. And even as I write this imperfect essay, struggling to find the words I realize how much those words have given me, how much they’ve taught me.
A few closing words taken from Sarah:

This isn’t my first time here. This isn’t my last time here.
These aren’t the last words I’ll share.
But just in case, I’m trying my hardest
To get it right this time around.

Thanks for reading.
–Karin Novelia. And yes, on a scale of one to over trusting, I am pretty damn naïve.

*The quotes above may not be taken from the same poem/video
1). The lines in blue are from Sarah Kay’s poem “Point B” and red is “Hiroshima” which can be heard here
2). The quote in green is from her talk “How many lives can you live?” posted here


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