Paper and Silly Putty Don't Mix

In his essay "Self-Reliance," Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote,

"Society is a joint-stock company, in which...The virtue in most request is conformity."

Is this not the same society that taught me that everyone was unique?

Is this not the same society that taught me to "be myself?" 


Ah! how naive and innocent I once was,

like every other sweet child out there in the world. 

But as I grew older and saw for myself the real world,

I created my own pair of glasses...and I could finally see the leaves.

And the asterisks and fine print I couldn't see before. 


Now I see that the world isn't so kind after all. 

Now I see that the world wants me to be someone that isn't me. 


So I fashioned for myself some paper masks, 

painting realistic facial expressions and cutting out holes for my eyes.

(Of course, I still wanted to see the real world even though the world couldn't see the real me.)

"I want to be a good girl," I told myself as I accidentally scratched myself with the X-ACTO knife. 


Every day I pick out a mask to wear for the day.

Like my contact lenses, these masks are one-day wear only;

the acidity of the real world corrodes them so that by the end of the day,

I'm struggling to keep the remaining tatters on my face. 


Oh yes, I am doing well in school. As an Asian student, grades are definitely the priority. 

Stop perpetuating the stereotype that all Asians get good grades. And for the record? I hate math.

No, when you say, "Oh my, I actually beat you!" when we get our grades back doesn't hurt at all

Again, with the grades...why does everything have to be about grades, grades, grades?!

Oh yes, I just love playing cello so much that I'm willing to mess up my sleep schedule over it.

Mom and Dad, thanks for investing so much in me, but sometimes I think I only play to please you.

Okay, I will help you on your homework and let you borrow this pencil that you will never return.

Stop bothering and taking advantage of me. Sometimes I think I'm too kind.

Oh, how meaningful your words are! Thank you for teaching me this.

You just said something offensive. I'm just going to stay silent because you're an authority figure.

Thank you, I'm doing just fine.

No I'm not. Please save me.


Expectations are that society is the mold and I am the silly putty to be molded. 

But what society doesn't realize is that even silly putty hardens when exposed for too long.

One day my paper masks will all be too fragile to wear against the world...

and society will see the hard betrayal and hatred on my face.


But that is for another day.

For now, people can view my painted Mona Lisa smile with pleasure.


In his essay "Self-Reliance," Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote,

"For nonconformity the world whips you with its displeasure."

Is this not the same world that taught me that everyone was unique?

Is this not the same world that taught me to "be myself?" 


The only things that remain naked for everyone to see

are the shadowy bags beneath my red-rimmed eyes.


I am so, so very tired. 


Additional Resources

Get AI Feedback on your poem

Interested in feedback on your poem? Try our AI Feedback tool.


If You Need Support

If you ever need help or support, we trust for people dealing with depression. Text HOME to 741741