Posted on June 22, 2008
Today’s thickwit is Ruby Bing Veridiano Ching. She is a writer, poet, performer, and member of touring spoken word crew iLL-Literacy. Offstage, she is a television host, arts educator, and a g-mail addict. She loves fashion, dope sneakers, and listening to M.I.A. Her first book, Miss Universe, is set for release in the fall. She can run a lap around the lake without stopping for air.
I didn’t grow up an artist. I didn’t even know I had any ultra-special talents until I got into college and discovered that my love for writing could take me well beyond writing academic papers and killin’ it in all my English classes. I was med-school bound, like any good Filipina daughter was expected to be. I even enrolled myself in a four-year program called Health TECH all through high school, At 16, I attended medical terminology competitions geeked out in khakis, Mary Janes, and that uniform navy blue blazer with the caduceus emblem crisply brimming on my lapel, ready to kick ass with my badass definitions, son. Like what! Yep, I’ll still say it was bad ass, even though there was nothing nerdier than my lopsided bun and that damned panty-hose they made me wear during competitions. Oh dear. I definitely do NOT miss those days.
There was only one problem with med school: math made me cry, and I stopped enjoying science after I quite watching Bill Nye. Plus, I get mad queasy at the mere sight of a paper cut. Eeek.
When I discovered spoken word in college, my parents considered it a healthy hobby. You know, I was doing my poetry “thing”. When I abandoned my med school pursuits to be involved with my community, write poetry, and raise my fist all day, poetry suddenly became a nonsense activity. Imagine the horror on my mom’s face when I came home declaring, “Hey Ma, I don’t wanna be a doctor. I’m gonna be a revolutionary instead, become a poet, and work non-profit, kay.”
She gave me the biggest “WTF” eyes and asked how I expected to make money for anything that had the words non and profit right next to each other. “What, you gonna work for free??” I calmly replied, “No, Ma, I’m just tryin to help my people get free. Nawmsayin?”
Since then, I’ve helped to create my spoken word crew, iLL-Literacy, and after some failed attempts working non-profit, decided to become a full time artist and pursue iLL-Lit more aggressively. Three years strong, I’m proud to say we’ve traveled the world and back, have connected with communities from different parts of the globe, and continue to not only push our artistic development, but to maintain the mission to spark dialogue on race, class, and gender with our peers and supporters. AND I’m making a living out of the very thing I love.
Granted, I’m not ballin’ out of control or makin’ it rain anywhere (yet). There are those rough patches when I’m struggling with an empty gas tank, crunching numbers to figure out how I’m going to pay the bills for the month, and tearing over the newest Balenciaga spring collection reminded I can’t even afford the knock-offs.
From time to time, my parents will nudge at me to ask when I’ll get a real job, and the question comes up: “Come on, Bing, is it really worth it?”
And I proudly reply, “YES. IT. IS!!!”
When I receive letters from other young people who tell me how I’ve helped them see the beauty inside them, I know for sure, that I’m doing what God is asking me to do. More importantly, this art has taught me how to love myself, be happy, and develop a healthy relationship with the world.
I know I didn’t end up practicing medicine. But this art taught me to heal. So, YES, it’s worth it. It’s worth it all. And I’m gonna keep going, dammit. Watch me now.