I grew up in the beautiful wetlands of Honduras. A gorgeous world of its own — one I call home. To me, heaven was the barren jungle that was the backdrop of my innocence and ignorance. I was once luckily gifted a small pocket journal by the only professor remaining in my school (the rest were either killed or forced to flee). In that journal I crafted a similar world like the one around me: the hungry, scavenging for food. The homeless and broken yearning for a moment of shade, and finding a home within my jungle. The gangs, machine guns and violence plagued me and those around me.
Árboles verdes, pájaros bellos, la selva que adoro nos protege sobre el temor. Ellos que caminan con armas de dolor no nos harán daño en mi selva.
I wrote unapologetically. I had no fear of how my tale would unfold in the real world because it was a variation of my real world.
At Cornell I was but a poor mimicry of the people I surrounded myself with – so here I am, the fictional being I had written into life: Born in New York, not Honduras. Living in an upper-middle-class home, not the tents of trash bags most would deem a luxury in mi Honduras.
Yet despite the change in character, my story has followed me to Ithaca. It reminded me of a key fact of my life: you can leave the wetlands, master the English language and run as far as your heels and heart can carry. Yet, the story runs with you. Here I am, two years into Cornell and in fear of how a story out of place might crumble this new reality that I exist in. The character I had crafted fears the new world, but I, Hugo, no longer wish to. Frankly, you should not either.
Mi querido Honduras:
My days run short as
does my memory of your misery.
Heads, decapitated, grazed the grounds
of you, which I call home.
Pero now I climb these hillsides of Ithaca.
Daydreaming of Nabokovs with a side of plátanos.
Dreams of longing
Dreams of change
But in my dreams I still climb your mountains.
I revel in your beautifully broken roads and
the man I long to be looks just like you.
Here I am, writing to you, hoping to reach you with a story that can bring us together. Because it seems that any other attempt has failed me, failed you. I am writing to claim an identity as a Cornellian — as an intellectual, a person with a story, a song and a purpose — and so should you.
I hope you can understand — not count or quantify — the measure of your personal triumphs. Your story is vital to the family we make as Cornellians. I remember sitting on the top of my home on the mountainsides, dreaming of who I was and where I belonged, hoping that someone out there could write this story with me. Now I sit on the hillsides of Ithaca, where I have come to understand that what I needed was not another story like my own, but to hear and experience someone else’s to help put my story in perspective. The growing pains of adjusting to a new world is as beautiful and enlightening as it is suffocating.
Despite what you think your past narration speaks about you, we all rest on the same hilltop. Not everything is rainbows and sunshine — there will be disappointment. There will be shortfalls, as there might have been before. Yet remind yourself to look around and acknowledge where your story has led you. The shared triumph makes us one. It makes us family.
Looking back now, perhaps my misunderstood speechlessness was not a lack of words but rather a multitude of feelings — perhaps an unspoken song, not heard but felt, that we have written over our years at Cornell. Curiosity, sorrow, love, animosity, compassion — you will always find poetry beneath these words in your life. The story that has followed you while you ran is powerful, but how you can make that a testament to your individual character now — that is poetic. Hopefully now at the cusp of adulthood and wisdom that we strive for at Cornell is the time that you must commit to being honest about your story, for the sake of you.
I only ask that you write down your poems and stories from this moment on to a rhythm only felt by you. Write to the judgment of your one-person audience.
Don’t look for validation of your craft, as all you’ll find is loneliness. I’ve had one too many peers, advisors, employers and educators attempt to force a version of a story onto me;
I have relied on others who would carry my pen and hold my paper for too long. If I had acceded to freeing myself from this responsibility, it would become my only life dictated by someone else’s lines. You have an unspoken story, and although you may not know the words to the next chapter of your story, or merely the words to the next sentence of your stanza, when you do, I hope that you’ll profess it with words that last a lifetime and with a desire to help others mend the backbone of their own anthology.
I hope that, in the end, you will mold the version of this story, this prose that you’ve worked on your entire life, to become your memoir.
I know I will.
Hugo Amador (he/him) is a junior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected] Caged Birds Always Sing runs every other Monday this semester.