Are traditions always valuable things?
Sometimes the word tradition conjures up fond memories of candlelight services on Christmas Eve. On other occasions, it reminds us of strict rules or strange practices that are justified because, after all, “they are tradition.”
I’d like to share about a tradition in our culture that I’d like to kick. It’s a simple tradition really, yet it’s one that can impact self-esteem and the way we treat other people.
This tradition is simple: it is the tradition of sticking to the path. I’d like to share one story of a time when I did not stick to traditional age roles, and how that impacted me.
When I was twelve, I wanted to write a play for our church. I had never met another twelve-year-old who had written a play. In fact, I don’t recall knowing anyone who had written a play. I wanted to try it simply because acting was one of my passions, and I enjoyed writing. However, I was twelve and had no writing experience beyond writing five-minute skits.
Now of course, at twelve years old, no one would have thought my parents were being harsh by telling me, “Acacia, you are too young to write a play. Wait until you’re older.” That is what I expected them to say when I shared my youthful dream with them. Much to my surprise (and delight), my parents chose to support my idea and I eventually wrote and co-produced a twenty-minute play for our church.
This involved convincing people to be a part of it (not everyone was persuaded), organizing rehearsals (ever tried to coordinate twenty people’s schedules?) and, of course, writing the actual script. It took me over two months. And I have to say, at the end of that, my twelve-year-old self was quite proud.
It’s important to say that my parents did not simply tell me I could write, they provided feedback and assisted with various aspects of organization. Did I make mistakes? Absolutely. The play had its bloopers, the writing would have been greatly improved if I had waited a couple years, and our organizational skills were definitely… stretched. Yet, at the end of it all, I had learned far more than if I had simply heard of or studied a similar project.
Through that experience, I learned that my voice is worth being heard. I learned that making mistakes is not the end of the world and that when I slow down enough to learn from them, I can greatly improve my craft. Being supported by my family and my church gave me the confidence to continue writing without worrying about perfection. I learned how to try things without expecting everyone to agree with me, as long as I had a few key people supporting me and giving me feedback, anything could be tried.
As a teen in our current western culture, I see that one of the most destructive traditions is the belief that youth cannot take on large challenges. Today’s teens have been told that their views on gun violence are not valid. We are told that our ideas are not worth hearing. We are shut down and not given responsibility for the first eighteen years of our lives. This example of writing a play is miniscule in comparison to the events which many teens are rising to today, whether it be protesting, speaking out against gun violence, fighting for equality, standing firm in the face of religous persecution, or simply being a support to other people.
It is incredibly important to let people create, to let people try new things and to let their voice be heard. However, it can sometimes be a rare thing to see; so much so that our local newspaper came out to do a story on my play. While people were surprised by my project, they were very supportive. The day that we performed, we had nearly two hundred people in our church. We normally had about seventy.
An extra one hundred and thirty people came to support a twelve-year-old girl.
Should this be unusual? I don’t think so. The experience of stepping out of the mold helped me to grow in many areas. If my parents had not let me learn to write, (or made me believe it was possible) I would never have had the chance to see my vision flourish and my voice be heard. I probably would not have continued writing. I would not have learned about leadership, organization, or teamwork. These ideas have been fundamental to my development, and I believe that now is the time to let other’s experience the same.
If you have an idea, try it. If it seems impossible, try it. If you have no supporters, try it. Do not let other people tell you that your voice is not worth being heard.
How will you break the tradition of staying in the mold?
Hello everyone! Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. I am hoping to begin publishing a monthly article on a topic that I think is meaningful…or simply something other than poetry. Please feel free to suggest topics!
I have also just launched an online poetry shop- please go check it out here!
*Image from the movie Fiddler on the Roof, 1971.