"The Toothbrush," by Sarah Kay

I don’t usually share much on my blog about my personal love life…or often lack there of, but the other day I felt the need to write about how Sarah Kay’s story of “The Toothbrush (& The Bicycle Tire)” hit a little close to home.

Somehow, this girl always gets me. Her work has also taught me that to be vulnerable and honest is the most beautiful way to connect to people. So, here’s to courage…and here’s to the human connection…

When I first heard/saw Sarah Kay’s video performance of her poem “A Love Letter from the Toothbrush to the Bicycle Tire” from the Urbana Poetry Slam a couple years ago, I thought it was cute and creative. I even saw it pop up on some blogs later on and reread it, but it didn’t stop and hit me like it did the other night.

While going through my boxes trying to find new Brooklyn apartment “homes” for all my Manhattan stuff, I came across the special book that I bought from my first Sarah Kay live performance. Sarah was incredible–powerful, funny, beautifully honest and so incredibly warm, but more on her later. ;) I had already purchased the book “B” for my mom, as it has always been a very special poem to me, so I decided that “The Toothbrush” would be a nice little treat for myself.

I didn’t really open it or read it after that night. I thought, “I’ve seen the video. I heard her perform it. It’s cute and will look nice on my bookshelf of inspiration.” And then last night I re-found it. Or maybe it kind of re-found me. 


You see, this summer was an interesting one. A summer of lots of new beginnings and exciting adventures. I was trying new things and meeting new people. I was living outside of my comfort zone, but I loved it! All of a sudden I felt like I had opened my arms to the world and the world had raised its arms too, and taken an ice cold glass of water and splashed it on my face! It was refreshing and fun and freeing all at the same time. As I started embracing the water and waves of this new exciting part of my life, I met someone. Without really knowing what was happening or where things were going, I found myself laughing and adventuring and discovering all over again. I was excited to “feel excited” about someone–a feeling I had been afraid I wasn’t going to experience again. But as quickly as this tall glass of water appeared during a hot, sweaty, east coast July, he was soon swept off with the cooling breezes of the incoming season.

Not really sure what happened, and I questioned it for a little while; but soon I decided that there are some things we were never meant to understand. Breathe it in. Let God work it out. A big lesson that I am trying to learn–to release the things you were never meant to control.

Flash forward to the other night when I refound “The Toothbrush.” There it sat on my desk with piles of old Metrocards and receipts I was meaning to file. I lifted the small booklet to quickly place on the bookshelf, but this time I opened it…and soon realized that there was more to this story than just the cute letter I had heard in the YouTube video. And so I sat down and began to read:

“The Toothbrush & The Bicycle Tire,” by Sarah Kay

Once upon a time, there was a TOOTHBRUSH.

And she lived with the other toothbrushes next to the sink. And she did toothbrush things.

One afternoon, a BICYCLE TIRE came to town. 

Everyone had heard about the bicycle tire before. They whispered about him and the toothbrush became curious. 

When the bicycle tire asked her if she wanted to go for a ride, she said, “Yes.” And away they went.

The bicycle tire knew everything! He knew where the best puddles were and where to find secret alleys and potholes.

Pretty soon, the toothbrush was spending all her time with the bicycle tire. They went on adventures and saw everything there was to see. 

When she was with the bicycle tire, the toothbrush didn’t feel like a boring toothbrush. She felt like a paintbrush! She felt like a figurehead of a pirate ship! She felt like a calligraphy pen!

But the bicycle tire had other things to do and other places to go. And when he left, the toothbrush was sad and lonely.

One day, the toothbrush decided to write him a letter.

But a bicycle tire isn’t meant to live next to a sink.  A bicycle tire is meant to travel the world.

So off he went.

And the toothbrush felt very alone.

And she didn’t feel like a paintbrush. And she didn’t feel like a figurehead. And she didn’t feel like a calligraphy pen.

She felt like a regular old toothbrush.

One day, her friend, the MIRROR said, “Look. You are a toothbrush.”

“You are a toothbrush that can paint and have adventures and write and also do normal toothbrush things. And that is pretty important.”

“You don’t have to be a paintbrush or a figurehead or a calligraphy pen or a bicycle tire. And some days you can be all of them. But you will always be a toothbrush and toothbrushes are important too.”

And the toothbrush wasn’t convinced.

But she did feel a little better.

And for right now, that is enough.

The end.

And for that night in my unpacked apartment in Brooklyn, that was all I needed to hear…or read. ;)

Things have a funny way of appearing and reappearing just when you might need them most. I’m grateful for my exciting adventures with that tall bicycle tire this summer. And I’m okay with letting them be just that.

Maybe this regular ol’ toothbrush was always meant to live by a sink…but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some refreshing, minty MOUTHWASH for me just around the faucet bend! 

Breathe it in. Let God work it out. And remember: #youareyou.



Photographed Ryan Kuja with Stephanie Berbec at Discovery Park last week.  These images were another series done for The Seattle School.  It was quiet the Seattle morning - I am looking forward to photographing there again soon.

Reminds me of my photography adventures with my fellow CA sister in 2008. More water, less asian. :)

Keep doin’ what you do, MWal. These are beautiful, just like you.