Literacy Narrative


Power of Words

Growing up thinking that Mathematics was the love of my life, I never expected that one day, I would be so fascinated by language and words. Raised by engineer parents, I was always exposed to project blueprints, mathematic equations and different kinds of models. My life pretty much revolved around math and sciences and the process of turning real-life problems into equations appealed to me. I felt satisfied constructing and solving equations and was intrigued by how our graphic life could be presented by numbers and symbols. Words were redundant to me. If there existed equations that were direct and could be easily understood universally, why bother using lines and lines of words that could only be understood by people from particular countries. But, my view changed the year I turned sixteen. The power of words struck me for the first time. Afterwards, the realization that language is empowering gradually solidified in my mind.

The first year that I was studying in Singapore, my English teacher asked each of us to pick a book of our choice to read. I chose one called “Romancing Jane”, which was written by Syrie James and inspired by the lost memoirs of Jane Austen. My reason of choice was simple: I knew that Jane Austen stayed single her entire life, which was unusual and extraordinary at her time. I happened to have just gotten out of a terrible relationship at sixteen and felt so disappointed about love that I never wanted to get married. Feeling that Jane Austen might share something in common with me, I wanted to know how she managed to survive the societal disapproval and objections and firmly hold on to her will.

Surprisingly, I found the book encapsulating and it turned into a movie, playing frame by frame in my mind. I was witnessing as I read about how their passionate and impulsive affection led a novelty eloping. Feeling excited and anxious, I wished them a future so bright and promising, praying in my heart that love would conquer all. Every word grabbed my heart and my emotions were completely dependent upon the words in the book. I could feel my heart accelerating as I read “His nearness, I confess, sent my heart skittering into a little dance; it required my most concerted efforts to concentrate and follow the music.” In the middle, where they made the heart-wrenching compromise with reality and parted, my body drowned in sorrow. I was on a roller coaster ride as their complicated affection went on. Towards the end of the book, when they finally met after years, I finally understood that she did not give up on love. She just loved him so much that she had to let him go. Their love never faded. It was there all along. It was there with her when she wrote those remarkable novels and it was certainly there when Mr. Ashford named his first daughter Jane. It was made eternal throughout both of their lives.

Tears pooled in my eyes and blurred the lines in the book. I did not know how to express my astonishments except for few drops of shared tears. Their phenomenal love was beyond anything that I had seen at sixteen, yet I could empathize with the Jane in the book so strongly. I could relate to her feelings and envision myself in her position, deciding between love and survival. It was a whole new experience to my formula-filled life. I wondered why I did not have such feelings before and I realized that human emotions, something that are innate to us, that we are born with, could only be described by words. All those formulas and equations, however intricate and exquisite they are, do not encompass the most basic and simple human feelings. The vivid images these texts were creating. The genuine emotions these texts were conveying. No equations could do the same.

Thinking back about my terrible relationship, I could not help but wonder if I could express my feelings with words. Every bit of disappointment that I collected and every agonizing moment when he begged and promised not to cheat again engraved excruciating pain on my heart. Countless time he knelt in front of me, looking at me with his eyes filled with only images of me, I forgave him. But the tiny bit of happiness was always ephemeral. He would once again relapse into his addiction to cheating and bring me endless suffering. If only I could reproduce the feelings that I had and show the entire school what a jerk he was. If only I could make those heartbreaking moments alive just like Syrie James did in his book. So badly I wanted everyone to know the truth about him, I started writing and even tried to emulate the description techniques that I noticed in “Romancing Jane”. As I was writing down my hatred, indignation and misery, I reread the book over to study the techniques to make my writing more authentic. I always read my writing from a third person perspective to see if I could relate to it like I did with the book. As I wrote and read and wrote and read, I no longer felt like posting it publicly after I finished writing it. Instead, I found myself enjoying the writing process. Every time I wrote, I indulged myself in it. I fell in love with the fact that I could express my feelings so genuinely and truthfully. I realized then, that I love writing.

In the years following that awful relationship, I continued to write. Looking back now, I am even thankful for that dreadful experience, and my secondary school English teacher. If not for that unbearable pain and abomination, I would not have any motive to start writing. I would not become who I am now. Writing changed me. When I broke up with him, I felt so helpless and vulnerable. Except for the boiling anger filled in my heart, I did not know what else I could do until I read that book and began to write. I felt empowered when I wrote about my suffering. Finally, there was something that I could do to appease my heart and get back at him. Words made me stronger.

A few years later when I entered college, I took communication and psychology courses. These courses explained to me, in rational reasoning rather than sentimental subjective perception, the significance of language. Language is a basic instrument of communication. The first thing that we learn as babies is to communicate our feelings to our caretakers. However, as we grow up, we tend to trivialize this ability, just like I did. But reading that book reminded me of the fact that the most primary human sentiments are captured by words rather than formulas. How can I not value words and ignore their power? How can I even think of them as inessential? Now I am fully aware that words enable mutual understanding between the rest of the world and us. Words express emotions, feelings and build relationships. Words are empowering; they offer us the  strengths to make ourselves heard and others listen.