“Life Ain’t Been No Crystal Stair . . . But I’se Still Climbin’”

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Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor –
Bare.
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
‘Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now –
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
- “Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes (1922)

As a continued student of lifelong education, I am always amazed to how often I can find so many relevant messages and themes in older literature, current events (Thank you, Mr. President for that Education reform!), and popular culture.

In Hughes’ poem, a mother is explaining to her child what the world is really like after the protective bubblewrap comes off when you grow up. The metaphor is pretty powerful!

Life is not easy, not even after high school, not even after college.  If anything, the contrast is even more profound and jarring.  In high school, you lived in the safety net of regimented classes, free or reduced meals, extracurricular activities, and a growing social circle.  Now in college, you live in a safety net of on-campus cliques, “free” money from financial aid (that you NEED to be using for books instead of those new sneakers!) and being on your own for the first time.

Then you graduate! What do I do ?  Where do I go?  Where do I live?  At first, you are completely terrified at the idea of not being able to answer these questions with any form of conviction and confidence.  I mean, you JUST graduated! Why do I have to have my life figured out RIGHT NOW??!!!  The beautiful thing about this is YOU REALLY DON’T NEED TO HAVE ALL OF THE ANSWERS RIGHT NOW!

What your parents and older adults don’t tell you is that THEY didn’t know it all either!  How reassuring, right??

But you better have a Game Plan or at least a sketch!

 

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25 thoughts on ““Life Ain’t Been No Crystal Stair . . . But I’se Still Climbin’”

    • The poem “Mother to Son” is a very inspirational poem. The messages in it are so powerful that almost anyone can relate to it. I can relate to the message that Langston Huge makes in his poem. Life is not easy, there will always going to be someone or something out there to put you down. The best thing to do is never give up because thats not doing any good for yourself; instead, just fight it, hold your head up, and keep doing what you was doing.

  1. Jean Daverne.
    The poem ” Mother to Son” written by Langston Hughes was a poem that I can related to during my short years on earh. Life is not easy to live but you can not stop now. You have to keep going and make a differences in life. Living life is all about taking sacrifice. Also you have to take life serious because living in this world is not a joke it is about business.

  2. The Poem “Mother to Son” has a very good message behind it. I can relate to the message in this poem; because life isn’t always going to be easy. I have learn to just deal with the hard times and in the end it will all be worth everything i went through. Then i will use the experience for other problems that will come in my life.

  3. The Poem “Mother to Son” says a lot about a young person growing to be an adult. Not a lot of people have someone tell them to prepare for the future. People situations are different but that does not mean the person has to be a parent or relative to guide you as a student to the correct direction. The mother gave advice that I will keep in me for a long time. Whatever my future is or become this message has a part of it.

  4. one of the quotes i live by is “The road to success is always under construction”, meaning that on your way to being successful there will be obstacles, but the will to succeed will help you get through. this is the exact same message the poem “mother to son” gives me. as said in the poem: life ain’t been no crystal stairs, it had hacks in it, splinters etc. but in the end going through all
    of that it made her the person she wanted to be!

  5. Andre Spencer eng 111 11am class.
    When you think about it it’s terrifying not know where you are going to go next after you graduate.
    But I’m sure that I’m on the right path and will be okay doing my school work and taking advantage of what it has to offer. Although scary I feel my mom did a good job raising me and I will succeed in life.

  6. I love the poem, i feel like the mother was telling her son about life and what will happen to him. the poet was also telling her son about what she went through so he would have an heads up on some things. i love the poem, because my mother and father have all ways told me about their past and how lucky i am. My parents tell me about things that happen in the past. That helped me get to the point i am today made me open my eyes to help me focus moreon the important things in life.

  7. The poem, “Mother to Son” written by Langston Hughes touched me, it brought back memories of me growing up in a housed with three younger siblings and a single parent head of the house hold was not easy. As the older child I had to step up and take charge of some responsibilities. I think many young people now and days have not gotten to see what their parents really went through trying to take care of them. Many children grow up ignoring what their parents really went through because they really didn’t care. This poem had a powerful message in it.
    -Floretha Hughes
    Eng 111/11am

  8. To me the poem “Mother to Son” is more true then we realize. I know we students may say it is powerful and it means so much to us,but we won’t really know until we get there. Unless the student is already on their own then they don’t under stand as much as they think. half don’t have to work for anything, they just call their parents when they need things. So they are still in their little safety nets, looking out at what they think they understand.

  9. The poem “mother to son” is written very powerful. It makes me think about when i was living with my granparents for 16yrs. reading a poems like this will have u stand ing strong everyday….

  10. that is a very profound peice that shows you that hardships are sure to come. life is an uncertasin series of

  11. events that cannot be controlled or even completely planned for but all i can say is that i do agree with the whole having a sketch thing and i definitely have several some thrown out or that fell on the floor of my life, huh its surely much easier said than done. i havent completely figured it out yet but i think im on the right track

  12. This poem is very powerful. I feel like I can relate. Life ain’t no Crystal Stair, and the only way you can experience the treasures in life is by going through the trials and tribualtions that come with then life will become a crystal stair

  13. I remember graduating from highschool and thinking “finally, im done” but come to my surprise, it was only the begining. Being a freshman in college made the four years of highschool seem like a long vacation. My life of hard work and stress has only begun and as you said, theres only more to come.

  14. This poem is very deep and touching. As I read the poem I could visualize what was being said. I was taught something similar to this message, but as I go through life I try to learn from my mistakes. There are bumps along the road, but if you keep your bright lights on then you will not crash. Meaning as long as you stay motivated and focused on your goal then nothing can steer you wrong.

  15. I could relate to this poem. It all bring me back when I was in High school. High school were the days that I kept hearing its going to get harder after you leave. But i didn’t to much care about what life was going to throw at me. But now I’m done with that first step, now I’m starting to fill it. Nobody telling you what to do. Its like you in a dark by yourself, with nobody to help you.

  16. Langston knows what he’s talking about in his poem. I’m very inspired by his work and his thoughts in his poem. It takes a lot to make it to the top and there’s no doubt that it’s not going to be an easy road to travel.

  17. Langston really knows how to capture his readers attention. Living life every day, i have always taugh that life would get easier after high school and college, but now that I am experiencing it for myself my opinion has change. With all the challenges that we all face most of us are regreting the day we leave the care of our parents.

  18. This poem is so true Life is not a crystal stair. You have to go through trials and tribulations on your own. Sometimes the stair will be easy but most times it will be hard. Just dont give up and keep climbing and in the end you wont regret it.

  19. I learned that life is no crystal stairs many years ago. Even though I am not sure what my outcome may be i still climb and make the best of it. I made a vow to myself to never give up on what I do. Even if I was not sure that I will accomplish my goal of having a stable home and job;it would never hurt to try. Ever since then, I have been blessed because I never thought that I would get this far and I still continue to keep moving.

  20. i thought that was a poem by my mom. my mom always say that to me. i felt as if that was me. i have been in the dark and my mom always tell me to continue, just the other day i told her i was dropping out of school and she told me to never give up and to keep moving. i really love that poem.

  21. Here I thought I heard practically every L. Hughes poem to man. Considering this one should be right up there with “I too Sing America”. But this poem speaks to everyone because it is a journey in our lives (depending on age) that we have lived and reached that cross road. But this poem just reminds me that through the rough terrain, keep on trekking, a smooth path does come along every now and then.

Very Interesting.

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