Senior goodbye: Finding fulfillment


Shae Daughtery

“The only way to find something integral to your identity is to be bold and unafraid of the unknown. You have to be willing to fail, and you have to be willing to work hard.”

Writing has always been my greatest passion. I’ve been scribbling stories and poems for as long as I can remember. Poetry is particularly fascinating to me. The way poets say so little and manage to convey such a world of meaning has always struck me as some kind of magic. Shel Silverstein was my first introduction to poetry. As a child, I spent hours giggling at his rhymes and funny little drawings.

Eventually, I became more interested in his poems that weren’t silly, but rather seemed to be saying something more than what was written. One of my favorites was “The Bear, The Fire, and The Snow.” It told me–quietly, in between the lines–don’t worry, you’re still strong, even if you’re afraid of something. It made me feel brighter, as if Shel Silverstein had flipped a switch and illuminated the world around me in a new light. His words were among the first to truly resonate with me, and they inspired me to start writing.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to associate my love of words with my Chickasaw heritage. When I was in eighth grade, I learned about the Annual Chickasaw Nation Anolí Creative Writing Contest. At that point in my life, I was questioning my identity as a Native American. Thanks to my Chickasaw grandmother, I’ve been a registered tribal member of the Chickasaw Nation since birth. However, I haven’t had much interaction with my ancestral community. My mom thought the writing contest was the perfect opportunity for me to learn more about my heritage through a medium I was passionate about.

She was right. Poems flowed through my fingertips in a way they never had before, and I felt uniquely alive in the drafting and revising of my work. The piece I submitted resonated with truth and meaning. It was uniquely Chickasaw, an aspect I hadn’t quite been able to introduce before. When I’m in tune with my identity as a Chickasaw, my writing reaches a certain level of clarity that it doesn’t have otherwise.

My pieces have won first place for the past four years in the Anolí writing contest and receiving such an honor has cemented my identity as a Chickasaw poet. The connection between my passion for writing and my heritage draws my best work from me and inspires me to grow both personally and as a writer. Storytelling is engrained in Chickasaw culture, and whenever I write, I feel I am truly a part of the tribe.

My hope for everyone is that they find passions that motivate, inspire, and empower them the way poetry does for me. Poetry gives my life a deeper meaning and connects me to a heritage that I would otherwise be distant from. It makes my life whole and joyful in a way nothing else does, and I can truthfully say that I would be a different person without it.

The only way to find something integral to your identity is to be bold and unafraid of the unknown. You have to be willing to fail, and you have to be willing to work hard. The world has so many opportunities if only you have the courage to reach out and take advantage of them. I challenge you to do that. I challenge you to find something that lights a fire in your soul and fight until you find success with it. It won’t be easy, and it won’t happen overnight, but it will be worth it.