One definition that the Merriam-Webster dictionary uses for “lost” is “unable to find the way.” College students and post grads are likely to quickly identify with this feeling of uncertainty. “Real life” decisions are fast approaching with the stress of job searches, apartment hunting, and financial concerns, and the changes that early twenties life ushers in are often accompanied with acute feelings of confusion. Turning to poetry in the midst of this turmoil can bring comfort or familiarity in overwhelming moments.
Here are nine poems to keep in your pocket for the next time you’re feeling lost:
1. For when you’re questioning your place within a friend group, job, or city:
you deserve to be
in your surroundings
not lost within them
-Rupi Kaur, milk and honey
2. For when you’ve been playing it safe instead of pursuing what you truly want:
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore-
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over-
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
-“Harlem,” Langston Hughes
3. For when you’re beginning to wonder if life will ever become less confusing:
Once when I was running,
from all that haunted me;
to the dark I was succumbing-
to what hurt unbearably.
Searching for the one thing,
that would set my sad soul free.
In time I stumbled upon it,
an inner calm and peace;
and now I am beginning,
to see and to believe,
in who I am becoming,
and all I’ve yet to be.
-“Self Care,” Lang Leav
4. For when you forget that the way you treat others says more about you than your accomplishments:
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
5. For the moments when self-love seems impossible:
as you were designed
-Rupi Kaur, milk and honey
6. For when you need to remember to make the most out of this brief life:
-“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” T. S. Eliot (read the entire poem here)
7. For the times you need to be both grounded and inspired:
-“Song of Myself,” Walt Whitman (read the entire poem here)
8. For the moments you need perspective:
it has been one of the greatest and most difficult years of my life. i learned everything is temporary. moments. feelings. people. flowers. i learned love is about giving. everything. and letting it hurt. i learned vulnerability is always the right choice because it is easy to be cold in a world that makes it so very difficult to remain soft. i learned all things come in twos: life and death. pain and joy. salt and sugar. me and you. it is the balance of the universe. it has been the year of hurting so bad but living so good. making friends out of strangers. making strangers out of friends. learning mint chocolate chip ice cream will fix just about everything. and for the pains it can’t there will always be my mother’s arms. we must learn to focus on warm energy. always. soak our limbs in it and become better lovers to the world. for if we can’t learn to be kind to each other how will we ever learn to be kind to the most desperate parts of ourselves.
-Rupi Kaur, the sun and her flowers
9. For when you must realize that the hurt, confusion, uncertainty you are experiencing is part of being a human:
“Which is why I am not here to tell you tomorrow will be a new day. That the sun will go on shining. Or there are plenty of fish in the sea. What I will tell you is this; it’s okay to be hurting as much as you are. What you are feeling is not only completely valid but necessary—because it makes you so much more human. And though I can’t promise it will get better any time soon, I can tell you that it will—eventually. For now, all you can do is take your time. Take all the time you need.”
-“Broken Hearts,” Lang Leav, Lullabies