While many came through the pandemic with new hobbies and “COVID projects,” Sam Houston State University senior Elijah Taylor found his voice as an author and poet.
“A bottle for my emotions, but I’ve never been opened,” repeats Taylor at the end of a spoken word showcase for his poem, A Bottle for My Emotions, at Friendship West Baptist Church in August, each reiterated echo falling deeper into a tone of resignation. Taylor’s most powerful poem voices the narrative of a man burdened by the societal pressures for males to withhold expressing their emotions. Though the young author would say the bottle is finally opened with the publication of his debut book of poems, As Life Happens.
“I do feel like I’m actually able to express how I’m feeling now, I’m able to cope more with the different changes that occur in my life, I’m able to understand who I am as a young man and as I’m growing into a man,” Taylor said, looking back over how far he’s come.
As Life Happens, is named for the twists and turns that life takes us through, following his journey battling depression and anxiety, finding self-growth and navigating his transition into manhood.
Completed largely between the months of March and July 2020, the catalyst of inspiration for the book stems from the sudden changes during the early months of the pandemic that brought forth feelings of seclusion and fear of the unknown for the author.
“I was very worried at the time, because I didn’t know what to expect, you were just kind of entrapped inside your house and not able to go see your loved ones or friends. I was a little bit anxious, but I remember my mom telling me that I needed to spend my time wisely,” Taylor said.
The education major turned to his writing, as he had in previous challenges that life threw his way.
Taylor first started writing poetry amidst a difficult breakup in 2018 as a means to express himself while taking the time to connect with God and self-reflecting on his choices and how he could be a better person.
Four days after the end of his relationship, Taylor penned his first poem, Love, exploring the impossibility of loving another if he can’t first love himself. He shared the poem on Snapchat, where he quickly found an audience that connected with his voice and inspired him to continue writing more. Bottle for My Emotions followed soon after and was published by the Beacon at SHSU in the spring of 2020.
“It meant a lot to me just from the different transitions that were occurring in my life, knowing that it’s okay to be a man and have emotions and knowing that it doesn’t change who I am as a person,” Taylor said.
“I know I always bottled in a lot of those emotions growing up and then I never really expressed how I feel. We’re taught to suppress our emotions instead of actually expressing them because we don’t want to be perceived as weak, but I also feel like a man is less of a man if they are not able to express how they’re feeling,” Taylor said.
As Taylor put pen to paper through the pandemic, his poems began to flow easier, progressing from writing one poem per month, to 20 poems in the month of April alone.
“I actually remember a few people asking me about writing a book, but I didn’t really think much of it at the time. Then I started to actually see it as an actual goal and my dream came true,” Taylor said.
As Life Happens was published in August with just over 50 poems targeted towards boys or young men in the stages of growing up, whether they are just entering college at 18 years-old or are finding their way in high school. Taylor hopes for his readers to understand how to navigate through the different challenges and circumstances that can occur in life while confronting the emotional complexities of manhood.
At 22 years-old, Taylor is now preparing to graduate with a degree in education and start his career teaching fourth grade language arts with his book, As Life Happens, serving as a tool for working with and mentoring younger generations. The possibility of a part two in the works and Taylor also hopes to write children’s books in the future.
"As Life Happens" can be purchased through Amazon, Walmart, Barnes & Noble and Books A Million.