Poem of the week: The Journey by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
‘Mend my life!’
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognised as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

 

I found some solace in this poem because I’m trying to do exactly what the narrator is doing – saving the only life I can save. I feel that the wind has been prying at the foundations of my own life as I have begun to question what I hadn’t questioned before, what I had just taken for granted as the path set before me. For years, I had assumed that my life would follow a certain pattern, including going to college, marrying a man, and having children. But I have come to realize that college may not be the right environment for me right now, I’m also attracted to people of other genders, and I’m not sure anymore if I want to get married or have children. Just like in this poem, people shout their bad advice: “Oh, so you want to work minimum wage the rest of your life?” “You’re not bi, it’s just a phase.” “You’ll change your mind.”

I’ve been charting unexplored territory here. It’s been invigorating, and I try to focus on that instead of letting other peoples’ reactions make me feel small. This poem challenges us to break away from society’s expectations and take care of ourselves. It’s heartbreaking to read about the narrator having to turn away from people who are also suffering, but I think that by making our own self care a priority, we will become wiser and stronger and ultimately more equipped to help others.

Source: http://maryoliver.beacon.org/2009/11/new-and-selected-one/

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