I am a writer. I am not a great writer and I don’t think I am a bad writer either. I just write. I come up with ideas and sometimes I will remember them and other times I will forget them. I always tell myself to get a dream journal beside my bed to write down ideas I have if I wake up during the night. That happens often. The following idea wasn’t had during the night but while at work. To be honest with you, I created this story up on the spot and it actually seems good enough to be a crappy movie you’d watch on television between the hours of 1am and 5am.
The story is about a boy. He’s in high school. He isn’t the best kid. He is troubled and gets in more fights than any kid should. He isn’t very smart but has a passion for writing. He writes poetry. It is his way to escape the terrible hand God gave him. He is good. When I say, good, I mean really good. His poems have meaning, they show passion and depth. They are about love, pain, loss, and being accepted for who he is. While he writes, his mother works two jobs to put food on the table for him and his three brothers and two sisters, all who are in the same boat he is. They all are struggling with school and trying their best to pass school and graduate, something their mother never did. She didn’t finish high school but after years of hard work, she got her GED to show her kids that all is possible if you put your mind to it and set aside silly dreams that have no place in this dog eat dog world.
The boy, we’ll call him Calvin, knows what he wants in life. He wants to be a writer. He wants to share with the world his poetry and the emotional journey they put you in. It’s a silly dream his mom would say. While sitting alone in study hall, far from the other kids, the teacher, Mrs. Bellman, who happens to be the creative writing teacher, notices him writing away. She approaches him. She leans in and reads his work, hovering over his shoulders. Calvin slides the paper out of her view and hides it with his arms.
“Can I read it?” she asks him. Calvin is hesitant but after a brief moment of her praising him of what she read so far, he lets her read the poem. She nods and a looks like she is a bit choked up reading it. “Have you ever thought about getting into my creative writing class? I think you’ll enjoy it.” Calvin knows his mother would disapprove of such a waste of time and keep him from furthering his education. He couldn’t do that to his mother. She is a woman who has been through a lot and wants her children to succeed and not partake in foolish things like creative writing, music, or sports. Those things get you nowhere in life. A strong education and brains are what people want. Calvin declines her offer and just says writing is his way to clear his head before a big test. Mrs. Bellman smiles and hands him back the paper. “Well, that’s a shame. It would be a waste of talent to not share your heart with the world. The world needs people like you, Calvin. If you feel like changing your mind, we have a class after school where the class meets to share their works. The door is always open. Room 517. I’d love for you to come.”
Calvin returns home. His mother is busy in the kitchen. She is preparing dinner. The other kids are gathered around the dinner table, all with their noses in their books and scribbling away at their homework. Calvin’s mother calls to him. She is busy stirring the stew. “Needs more salt.” she says. Calvin puts a few dashes in the pot. She continues stirring the pot. Calvin knows something is up. She tells him, “I was cleaning your room earlier and found these.” She shows him a stack of papers, a bunch of poems he has written. She scolds him. “I am not putting you through school to write such worthless things. This won’t put food on the table. This won’t get you a good job. Look at your brothers and sisters. That is what I want. I want your nose in a book, not in some fantasy world.” She put the papers to the stove and they ignite. The flame roars as the papers light on fire, burning away his work. “You are a good boy, Calvin. Stop this childish dream and study. You can be something great and not chase something that will leave you defeated.” She tosses the burning papers into the sink. They smolder away and as the final ember burns, she puts it out with a running faucet.
Calvin storms off to his room crying. His mother yells to him to continue his school work and tells him she never doesn’t want to see him writing again. She wants him to have an education and study for a future that is bright and filled with fortune and a good job. He paces his room, not sure what to do. He could hear his mother talking to the other kids about how they are focused and know what being educated means. Calvin opens his desk drawers. Inside is a notebook, filled with dozens of poems. Clearly upset and not wanting his mother is be mad, he pulls page by page out from the notebook. He rips them up, and tosses it in the trash. He does it till everything he has ever written is gone. He is in tears. He tosses away the notebook and crawls into bed, eventually crying himself to sleep and vows to put away his dream to appease his mother’s demands.
The next morning Calvin didn’t say a word to his mom. He grabbed his backpack and walked himself to the bus stop, avoiding his mother at all cost. The ride to school was short but with what happened last night, with his mother erasing all his work, made the ride feel like a lifetime. Calvin normally chats it up with other kids on the bus but this time he didn’t. He just rested his head against the window and watched the outside, something he never did before. School was normal for him. He tried to focus on his work but all he could think about what his poetry and all the years of work gone in an instant. He was dreading home room more than anything. He couldn’t speak to Mrs. Bellman. She was one of the only people to ever read his work. He knows she is determined to get him to join the writing class. How was he going to tell her that he wasn’t interested anymore. Not that he wasn’t. He was. He wanted to join but knowing that his mother is against those sort of things, he had to act like it was a waste of time.
Sure enough, homeroom came. He sat in his chair. This time, no notebook. He was busy working on homework, something he never did while in homeroom. Mrs. Bellman stood near his desk. She smiled, “Write anything new last night?” She asked him. He didn’t answer. She tried again. He still stayed silent. After another attempt, he told her to leave him alone. “Okay, Calvin. We can talk about this later.” Homeroom ended. Everyone packed up their belongings, Calvin too, and headed for the door, ready for their next class.
“Calvin! Can I see you for a moment?” He knew what it was about. He rolled his eyes. He sat back down at his desk. Mrs. Bellman walked over to the door and closed it. She started telling him a story,
“A long time ago, a gentleman was raised to be a successful lawyer. It was what his dad did. What his grandfather did and what his great-grandfather did before that. But this man had other plans. He wasn’t wanting that. He enjoyed writing. He would spend all his free time writing about anything and everything, defying what his parents told him. Eventually, his parents discovered his secret life and his distaste for being a lawyer. They gave him an ultimatum. Either join the family business and be a part of this family or throw it away because you think you can be successful with just words on paper. He declined his parents advice. He walked away, never to speak to his family again.”
Calvin leaned in. He was wondering what famous writer she was talking about. Can he also become like him? Can he challenge his mother and be a poet. Mrs. Bellman continued with her story,
“The man never did become a successful writer. He was never published. He was never famous. He fell into oblivion. But that didn’t stop him. He still writes. While he didn’t become rich or famous, he was much more than that. He married a woman. They had two kids. They all love each other. He still writes but works a desk job, doing it to support the family. And, Calvin, this man, this man who had dreams, still writes. He doesn’t write for others but for himself.”
Calvin asked her, “Who are you talking about?”
Mrs. Bellman smiled. “I am talking about my husband. He is the reason I teach this class. While he never became a great poet, he never stopped writing. He will let me read some of his work but must of it stays in his notebook for only him to read. She paused, “Calvin, I don’t want you to ever give up. I want you to keep writing. Don’t do it because you want to be famous. Do it because you love it. You don’t ever have to share it with anyone. Don’t let anyone tell you what you do is foolish. It’s not. If it was foolish, I would never have met the man I love today. Keep writing. Do it for yourself. Write with passion, with love, write with meaning. Hell, Calvin! Write nonsense! It doesn’t matter what you write. Just write. It is what defines you as a person.”
Calvin teared up. He understood what she meant. He couldn’t let his mother control him and deny him of happiness. If he was going to write, he had to make sure if had purpose, even if Mrs. Bellman told him it was okay to be silly and write anything, as long as you write something. She looked at the clock. “I should let you go, Calvin.” He sat up and walked towards the door. Mrs. Bellman grabbed his arm. “Remember, Cal. Never let someone crush your dreams. Follow them. Prove to them that you are an individual and that you have a voice and aren’t just a cog in this giant world. We all can’t be lawyers.”
Calvin left the room. He felt better. He felt like there was someone out there who understood him and his writing. School ended. He could have went straight home but he didn’t. He stayed after and went to Mrs. Bellman’s after school writing class. She smiled as he walked into the room. She pointed to the classroom and motioned for him to grab any seat. It was one of the first times he felt welcomed somewhere. He was among people who shared his passion. The class started. Mrs. Bellman talked to the kids about the upcoming writing competition. There will be two rounds. If you are selected, you will move on to the final round… One kid from each school will be hand selected to read their work. The winner would receive a grant to college and also have their poem published in a yearly poetry book. Mrs. Bellman told the class but her eyes were on Calvin and she told them the news. “Remember to write something that means something to you. Share something personal. Chances are, there are others going through the same thing. If you can touch one person, you can change a life.”
Calvin listened to the others share what they wrote. They were all great. They all were great poems, some even wrote short stories. He didn’t feel like he had a chance but he was going to write, no matter what his mother said. Calvin spent the next few days at home and at school writing away at what he felt would be the best poem ever. Some were good. Some were garbage. He would toss the ones away that lacked feeling. The ones he liked, he kept in a pile labeled, “maybe”. His mother entered his room while he was writing. He had a pile of school books next to him to throw her off. She saw the books and smiled at him, “I am so happy you put that rubbish behind you. It was selfish of you to follow a dead end life. When you get a great education and are smart, you will thank you. You will be happy that you chose success over silly dreams.”
His mother left. He was angry. He stopped writing the poem he was writing and began something else. He knew what to write and wanted others like him to read it, to know that they aren’t the only ones going through it alone. Calvin was up all night, chugging energy drinks and eating snacks. He wasn’t going to sleep while the idea was still in his head. He wrote all though the night, till the work was finished. He read it. It was perfect. Amid all the scribbles and the scratched out verses, the final poem was in front of him. It was his best work. It was his most personal poem ever and even if he didn’t get selected or win, it was enough for him. He got it off his chest and that was a way for him to find peace.
Weeks passed. The poems were submitted. He won. His poem was going on to the final round. The number of applicants is high and Calvin has very little chance of winning. All the winners will get to read their poems to the crowd and in front of a panel of judges. The winner will get a nice prize, money, college fund, and to be published. They would have to wait weeks to hear back. All the kids were on edge…
More weeks pass… Today was the day they were to learn who won and who is moving on to the final round. Who will be going to the competition? Whose work was great enough to be selected? The winner of the entire competition will get to read it to the whole audience. It was something they all craved. Mrs. Bellman held the envelope in her hand. “I am just as nervous as you kids are.” She said, “Time to open the letter.”
She read it aloud, “Thank you, Mrs. Regina Bellman for submitting the selection of poems to our annual competition. We receive thousands of poems and are always struggling with picking which student will move on. We would like to congratulate, Calvin Diaz for his poem, ‘denied passion’. He has been selected as the winner and will be reciting his poem on March 4th. You will find the attach documents that need to be filled out before he can attend this event. Congratulations to Calvin again and thank you to everyone that entered. We look forward to seeing your submissions next year.”
Calvin was thrilled. Mrs. Bellman was too. The class clapped. She asked him to read his poem to the class but he declined. “This poem isn’t for us. We already are doing what he want in life. I want those who want to follow their dreams to hear it. We are following our passion. There are people out there who aren’t or can’t because of certain road blocks. Mrs. Bellman told that if I can touch one person, I can change a life. That’s what I want to do.”
Days passed. Calvin still held on to the letter his mother was to sign. Without her consent, he can’t attend the competition. Mrs. Bellman told him numerous times to turn it in but he just kept telling her he will. He didn’t want to tell her that his mother didn’t approve of him writing. Calvin was at home when he heard the phone ring. His mother answered it, like she normally does. It was Mrs. Bellman.
“Mrs. Diaz. This is Mrs. Bellman. I am one of Calvin’s teachers. He has a permission slip to attend a writing competition. He needs to turn it in tomorrow or he will not be able to attend.”
“Writing competition? My son gave up that garbage weeks ago. He is too involved in his studies to write poetry. That dream is foolish and it won’t give him a career.”
Mrs. Bellman replied, “But his poem won! He was selected among many people to attend this competition. I urge you to sign it and let him attend. This will be good for him. It is what he needs.”
Mrs. Diaz snapped back. “You don’t tell me what my child needs. I am his mother. I know what he needs and he doesn’t need some trashy teacher filling his head with dead end dreams and hopes. The only thing he needs is a good education. I suggest you drop this foolishness and let the parents do the upbringing and leave the teaching to you, if that is what you do…”
Calvin’s mom hung up the phone and stormed into his room. She ranted about him going behind her back and perusing this fantasy she told him not to. She got her education and the other kids are too. He is not going to toss away everything because he can make a few words rhyme.
“But, mom! I am good! I am a good writer! Why can’t you let me just write and be happy?”
“Cause, Calvin, that doesn’t put food on the table. A real job does. Why must you defy me and chase such foolish things?”
Calvin yelled back, “Because I like to write. It’s my dream mother. I want to be a writer. I want to touch people in a way no one else can.”
“Your dreams!? Stop being silly and know that you aren’t going to be successful with just writing. A good job puts food on the table, not some silly poem. That is what I want.”
Calvin grabbed his backpack. He was heading towards the door, ready to leave. “That is your dream, mom! You want me to be a 9 to 5 kind of guy! Why can’t I follow my dreams. Remember, mom! These are my dreams, not yours!”
His mother was getting upset, “No, Calvin. Listen….”
“No, mom! You listen. Those are your dreams, not mine! Your dreams, mom! Your dreams! My dreams, mom! My dreams! Mis sueños, mama! Mis sueños Not yours! Mis sueños, mama!
“Mis sueños!” “Mis sueños, mama!” “Mis sueños!” “Mis sueños, mama!” “Mis sueños!”
Calvin stormed out of the door and left, going to a friends house. Calvin still had the permission slip in hand. It was during the walk to his friend’s house that he decided to forge it, getting himself into the competition. His mother didn’t even try to stop him. She was sure he would return him the next day after he had cooled off. The next day his mother awoke to an empty room. Calvin hasn’t returned home. She was sure he was going to go against her and go to the competition. His mother still angry about the fight they had, knew her son was going to go the competition even after she said no.
She found out where it was and drove to it. The place was packed. People were everything. These people were parents who let their kids follow their dreams. None of them were like her. They let their kids follow their dreams and didn’t deny them of it. She sat quietly in the back, making sure Calvin will not be able to see her. She didn’t want him to see her. While she didn’t want her son to follow his dreams, she still loved him and she wanted to hear him express his feelings. She wanted to know what was so great that got him to where he was at.
She sat through dozens of kids read their poems. While she never said it, she knew Calvin was better than them. She is mother. She knows him. She waited for him to take stage to read his poem. Finally, she heard his name called. He was to be up soon. “Now coming to the stage with his poem entitled, “denied passions”, is Calvin Diaz.”
Calvin didn’t approach. He was nowhere to be found. They called his name again. The crowd waited. You can hear the restlessness among them. His mom crossed her arms, wondering if maybe he bailed, heading her words about chasing such an empty dream. It wasn’t until his teacher took the podium. She tapped the microphone. “I know we are all hear waiting to hear Calvin read his poem but I hate to be the one to bring such bad news. On the way to the competition, Calvin and his friend were involved in a car accident. Calvin died.”
His mother gasped. She cried for her son. A few people looked at her, not knowing who she was. Mrs. Bellman continued on, “I will like to read to you all the poem Calvin prepared for us today. I don’t know it. He didn’t want to share with anyone. He said it wasn’t for us. It’s for those who are still chasing their dreams.”
From the crowd, his mom called out. “No! I will read it. He was my son. I think he would want me to read it.”
Mrs. Bellman stepped back, motioned to the podium and let Mrs. Diaz read the poem, ‘denied passions’.
“I am Calvin’s mother. I wasn’t supportive of him and his dreams. I didn’t like the fact that he wrote poems. I always saw it as a waste of time. Now, seeing you all out here, and these kids on stage, made me realize that even if this doesn’t make you rich or famous, you all have a story to tell. I want to be the one to read his story. I want to be the one who reads his final words and hope that he connects with someone out there.”
She read his poem. She cried while reading it. The whole audience was in awe. No one knew what to say but the judges did. Calvin’s poem won. The final poem he wrote was titled, denied passions. This is what it was,
Follow your dreams you are told,
follow what you feel,
but when those who love you crush it,
why do you continue?
crazy ideas and laughable goals.
Stop trying and follow the norm.
Don’t tread from a path that is safe.
Don’t take chances,
and don’t be creative.
Don’t chance dreams that aren’t reachable.
Be successful, not creative.
Be the same, not unique.
We are told to be unique,
to express ourselves,
but when we do,
we are told to stop.
stick to the norm and stop chasing rainbows.
If you have a dream, chase it.
Keep that dream alive,
don’t let others deny it.
It is your dream, not others.
Share with the world your heart.
We all have pain, we all have love,
we all have happiness and loss.
Express yourself. Let others know.
You are never alone,
others know your pain.
Share it with them
It’s never fun being alone.
Share your passion, no matter who says no.
No is for those who don’t want change.
No is for the unhappy,
No is for those who never tried.
Try. Try and be the voice you want to be for others.
You have thousands of words. You have a voice that needs to be heard.
You may not touch millions with your words
but touching one is all you need.