It has been nearly two months since I stepped foot in the MICA office and the TOTUS classroom. My experience with TOTUS has been . . . strange. Stranger than strange. Mostly because I was sitting here with strangers, talking about things I didn’t even tell my family, friends or lovers. Talking about things that barely made sense to my self. But with these strangers, I found a shared connection. And it had changed me and the way I express myself.

I am not a poet. I neither do well with sincerity nor did I have any interest to try. Yet after the first class, I felt a desire to speak. After the listening exercise we did in our second class, I felt like others wanted to hear what I had to say. I have never been sincere out loud. Usually I hide behind jokes or sarcasm, and it was terrifying to say things with truth behind them. But that is slowly changing, and TOTUS has really helped me get in touch with a more honest part of myself.

Hearing others’ stories also helped me open up about my experiences and thoughts. It was incredible to see others talk openly and eloquently about injustices, and being around such passionate artists and poets has really helped spur my own creativity. It felt like I was accountable for my work and the quality I presented to class. At first, it was difficult to get the words to flow, but as the weeks progressed, the words came more easily, and I began to be able to translate my thoughts into rhymes on a page.

Finally, what I liked most about TOTUS was the willingness of all the other students to challenge me and push me to do my best. It was amazing to see so many people genuinely wanting me to better myself and my work. I felt like my voice was heard and that my opinions and worldview were valid.