Spoken word: ‘Age is What Makes You’ by Ana Canales Ruiz

This piece placed third for Spoken Word submissions in the 2024 Ánimo Voices WRITING, ART, & SPOKEN WORD COMPETITION 2024, which invited students to respond to an open prompt. The competition is an opportunity to motivate, recognize, and celebrate our strong student voices through writing, spoken word, and art.

Age is What Makes You

Time is what shapes you
It molds you in order to make you
With every year is an intro to a new lesson
To open your eyes to see the person you are meant to be

At fourteen I experienced my first sense of loss
I didn't know I could cry so much
I was meant to get better, but instead I got worse
But I knew that couldn't be the end
I pushed through and brought it my all, and I was able to feel a new sense of hope
Yet, the feeling of grief never left my soul
Grief stays with you forever, it can never leave
But what is grief if not love that has nowhere to go
Showing that love perseveres even through times of dread
And that's what I am

There was crime all around me
In school, in the streets, and on the news
I was told to join in too
Even when everyone was doing it, I kept away
I call that discipline
And that's what I am

I stuck by your side even when no one else did
They warned me but I still went
I always defended you because you meant a lot to me
Even after everything I sometimes remenice because I'd be lying if I said I didn't have fun
Now I know that I really didn't mean a lot to you
It was my decision to trust you, and it was your choice to prove me wrong
Your choice is why we went our different paths
My loyalty was something I should've given to another
But that strong loyalty
Is what I am

I lay in bed wide awake
And these thoughts are getting to me
Wishing to disappear once the sun comes up
Wanting to give up on everything because life is catching up too fast


Then I close my eyes and I know I've come too far to give up on everything
I'll make it through the night and see the sun shine once more
That's what I call resilience
And that's what I am

I might be from perseverance, discipline, loyalty, and resilience
But I still feel like something is missing

And that is
That I don't really know who I am

I never really thought of what makes me who I am
I never really thought about it before

They are in every words we say, every smile we share, every tear we shed
It's the pains and joys
The trails and errors
The fails and triumphs
The love and hate
That's what makes us

Yet, when I'm asked to describe who I am I can only give a few examples before I fall silent

I haven't been proud of who I am
I wished I acted different, looked different, and thought differently too
I haven't been proud of myself because I always wished to be someone else

Even when I tried to change the surface of who I am, I still wasn't proud
I couldn't lie to myself
I can change how I act, I can change how I look, and I can try my best to think differently
But I can never rewrite my soul into a completely different one

But if I don't fully know who I am, I still want to be proud of whoever I am
I'll be proud of my strong perseverance
I'll be glad to have discipline
I'll be happy to have loyalty that no other can have
I'll be grateful to have a level of reliance that push me through the darkest of days

You know, life isn't always about being extreme all the time
Don't underestimate the value of being just who you are




Ana Canales Ruiz

11th Grade, Ánimo South Los Angeles Charter High School

Guiding Teacher: Clifford Campbell