I wrote this poem back in 2010 and recently dug it up while rummaging through old files. It was part of my final presentation for an honors humanities course in cultural diversity and identity. In my presentation, I talked about my clash of experiences as a first generation student, an american, my Vietnamese cultural background, and Chinese ancestry. It gets complex if I try to explain all of this; however, the point is the poem can be taken by the perspective of anyone regarding anything, whether you’re thinking of your race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, ability, class, etc. While reading, think about what this poem is trying to say about
- How you perceive yourself,
- How strangers (or even family or friends) or the media depicts who you “should be/are” based on misunderstandings and generalizations,
- What you know about others based on things you don’t really know anything about and
- How others perceive themselves or want to be understood by others
There are four roads I may take, two of theirs and two of mine.
For two roads describe each, only one for every kind.
These two roads I will take, two truths shall I endure;
With blindness should I seek the trails of bliss shall I incur.
I’d walk a path of beauty, to sheath the pain and sorrow;
Hidden; beneath the surface of the words that I have borrowed.
But for I choose the other road- a path I’ll then create;
Unsheathe that pain and sorrow; break through walls:
It’s time for me to choose-
The path I then will venture-
Not down the path that I’ve been given, but down the trail of censor.
To enter through this world means to break away from theirs-
A path off one provided; I’ll have to pay my fares
To clear a path in a world of thorns –
Flames of sorrow will be my guide.
To break through waves of pain and hatred –
Acceptance and understanding will see through lies.
I’ll trudge through blizzards of confusion,
Where I end is still unclear.
A difficult journey to take,
And I understand the fear
But the beauty that I seek, I know is the only truth around –
The peace that I shall meet, Is one not easily found.
The path to understanding, is the most difficult path of all –
But the self that I shall find, is worth breaking down that wall.
I seek not this path alone,
And now I must ask:
For you to venture with me –
Travel to the past.
To rebuild bridges broken,
To take upon this task.
To speak that which unspoken,
Is truly not,
This class was a huge eye-opener for me; a bit about how I perceive myself but more so by forcing me to question my beliefs about others. From generalizations about a group of people down to everyday things like shrugged-off jokes, common phrases or media icons. It was a discussion-based course, drawing in information from texts, case studies, documentaries and largely on the personal experiences shared among members of the class. The topics we discussed are not topics generally acceptable to speak of casually in public. When you talk about “difference,” many people cringe, become defensive or shut down. However, regardless of who you are and what your background is, you HAVE heard of or been taught to believe things about yourself, your “people” (read, “people like you”), or others around you, that aren’t necessarily true. It takes a lot of reflecting before you admit to yourself that what you’ve been taught is wrong or that the comments/jokes you hear and every-so-often make aren’t really that funny. It then takes quite a bit of pain to change the way you perceive yourself in relations to those around. The challenge is to actually change your behavior – your reactions to certain situations, the questions that you ask, the way you phrase things, the jokes you catch yourself making, etc. And from there, a hell-of-a-lot of courage to be the one person that stands up in a room to voice your opinion, either to defend yourself or someone else being targeted based on misunderstandings or misguided beliefs. If anything- If you’ve never thought of any of this, I hope you leave this post by beginning to think about how you perceive yourself and noticing things around you that have shaped your understanding of who you are or who you “ought to be” in order to fit in with the identity that you’ve been forced to accept.