Featured Writer: Kayla Staley –
by Theresa Puskar
I write this article with a heavy heart and a deep sense of despair. Yesterday, another high school shooting took place in Florida. As I listened to the radio, my eyes filled with tears as I heard the deep, excruciating pain in the voice of one of the parents who is now living through the unthinkable. I was taken aback by the terror that reverberated in the voices of teens as they described the carnage they witnessed, along with the incessant nightmares they now struggle through. Where is the hope? How can we heal? I believe that one of the most powerful ways to do so is through creative expression. Sharing our feelings through music, dance or writing can be healing for both the creator and their audience.
This fall, I started substitute teaching to supplement my income while I continue on my entrepreneurial journey. As I worked with the high school students, I was very moved by their insightfulness, introspection and openness. I remember where I was emotionally at their age, and I don’t believe I had nearly as much wisdom or maturity. One of the classes I oversaw was creative writing. On one particular day the students were compiling and printing several of the poems. Many shared their work with me. I was taken aback, and in several instances, moved to tears. It is for this reason that I suggested the magazine highlight some of the gifted millennial and post-millennial writers in upcoming issues. So, this month I will not be reviewing an event. However, I am excited about introducing you to one of the many teen writers I had an opportunity to interview. I don’t believe there is any better time for this introduction!
“Many feel invisible, but few say it. Some of my friends think they are not entitled because they haven’t been through much trauma. They feel they are not worthy, but I don’t believe they need to earn a title to speak.” — Kayla Staley
The first writer in our new The Wisdom of Our Youth series is Kayla Staley. She is a sophomore, and while she is young, she has a real maturity about her. She reminds me of so many of the students with whom I have spoken. Several of her schoolmates have already suffered through anxiety disorders, financial hardships and broken families. They’ve been through rehab, drug addiction counseling and inpatient programs. While Kayla has gone through some of her own life challenges, she manages to maintain a positive attitude. She shared two poems, both of which really resonated with me. The first, entitled Invisibility, took me back to a place where, as a student, I felt alone, afraid and uncomfortable:
What’s it like to not feel this way?
To not feel like the world shrinks around you at the slightest mistake
To not wake up dreading each day
To not have to triple check every move you try to make
Tell me what it’s like to not fear the unknown
Because I can’t even walk into a restaurant without reciting their dishes in my head
In fear of making the staff laugh and groan
At the incorrectly pronounced words I have just said
What’s it like to not have to “go to the bathroom” after a terrible presentation?
To not hide there till the end of class so you don’t have to face anyone
To not panic the entire duration
To not feel your mind come loose to a point where it’s almost undone
Tell me what it’s like to be so proud
Because I can barely stand in front of a class without shutting down inside
My voice strains the whole time as I look into the crowd
And if they clapped for me or as an apology to me is something I can never decide
What’s it like to not think about what everyone else is going say?
To not have to peel your orange in the bathroom because someone may ask about it
To not have to find outfits without the same colors or patterns as yesterday
Because someone might notice it
Tell me what it’s like to live your life with one voice
Because I honestly can’t remember the last time
I actually made something 100% my choice
My life feels like an organized crime
I wish to live life like the people around me
To have these abilities
To speak, walk, and talk so free
But then why is the only power I’ve ever wanted, invisibility
“I believe the greatest fear of my generation is that we will not have a chance to make this world a better place. We see where we are now with climate change and corruption. We wonder if we have gone too far; we wonder if it’s too late.” — Kayla Staley
Kayla’s second poem speaks of promise and possibility, as she claims her right to dream:
In Your Dreams
“In your dreams”
A statement I hear a lot these days
When I talk of all the things I will achieve
Or hope to one day
But is a melting pink, blue, and red sunset on a beach
Or a restaurant with me as head chef,
A sea of blue beneath my feet as I walk a glass bridge
Or a giant blooming ball gown, really so far fetched to you
Well, I guess those people are right
In my dreams I live a free life
But, I know, in reality it nothing comes without a fight
Because life is never like the dreams
But that does not mean we – should stop – dreaming
I know dreams aren’t reality, but they can lead to it
Giving up is not an option
Giving up is not MY option
I can dream it
I can think it
I can see it
I CAN do it
My dreams are vivid and beautiful movies
Why would I settle for something less?
My dreams are a to-do list
Why would I leave a box unchecked?
Just because you say it’s impossible
You can’t change a thing about them
No matter how much you yell at me
My dreams are MINE
And I know they can-WILL become reality
I think both poems speak for themselves, and for many of our younger generation. In the final stanza, Kayla asserts, “You can’t change a thing about them. No matter how much you yell at me, my dreams are mine.” Let’s all keep dreaming. If we can express our truths without condemnation and continue to create, we can cultivate greater hope along with the despair and promise along with the pain. Then perhaps, our dreams will eventually outweigh our nightmares.
If you are a millennial or post-millennial and are interested in submitting your poetry, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Theresa Puskar, our All About Town contributor, is a writer, trainer, speaker and inspirational audiobook producer. She is the author of “The Terri Series” – seven children’s books that focus on social issues such as bullying, honoring diversity, celebrating creativity, non-judgment of emotions, finding alternatives to technology-based entertainment, discovering a non-judgmental God and overcoming fears. She has also recorded a powerful 7-CD experiential audio program, “How to De-clutter Your Mind and Live a Heart-Centered Life.” To learn more about Theresa and her upcoming engagements, log onto www.theresapuskar.com.