One of the most impactful things I’ve ever been told was a comment from my cousin Andy during a music festival a few years back.
“You seem like you have a lot to say, but you don’t know how to say it; like you’re trying to find your voice.”
This anecdote came the evening after I gave my testimony in front of my volunteer group, during a concert that the group was volunteering at. As we were walking back up to the group’s camp site that evening, Andy and I got to talking about public speaking, theater, and public vocal expression, in general, which led to the previous comment.
When I first heard his words, I was a bit shocked. I’ve always trusted in my words to save me and to make me appear confident in every situation. I had felt fairly confident when telling my story to my group members that day. What was wrong? Did I seem ingenuine? Was my story stupid or unworthy of being listened to?
I would go on to puzzle over these words for a long time after, not because he said something offensive or hurtful, but because he said something that proved to be very true and foundational to my character. He simply pointed out something in my life that I would otherwise have continued to deny and ignore.
Writing is a significant piece of who I am, and the development of a unique, worthwhile, engaging voice to speak to readers with is one of the most difficult things to find or develop.
I wonder, whenever I do feel confident in my public speaking, teaching, writing, and conversation skills, if my confidence is simply false pretense, or if I truly have found a voice for myself.
Reminders of the importance of voice keep showing up in my life these days:
My roommate is dressing as Ursula the sea witch for Halloween, a character which has gotten me thinking about the idea of voice. Ursula literally takes away Ariel’s ability to speak, express, and even be herself, by taking away her voice.
I have been working on a 9-week-lesson plan for my “Teaching Language Arts in Secondary Levels” class, and I chose the theme of “Finding Your Voice” to guide the set of texts, activities, and materials that I choose. My great desire for the students I eventually teach is that, no matter their love or dislike of reading and writing, they leave my class knowing that they have an incredibly important story and a unique voice to tell it with … and that the world needs to hear that voice and its message.
These reminders of voice are appearing around me, and yet I still don’t seem to get it. I can’t seem to finally accept that my words are actually important. I can’t seem to believe that process-writing is okay and that my writing doesn’t have to be perfect before I release it into the world. I don’t know if I’ll ever get past overanalyzing my work and fearing the response or lack or response it will get.
There are many times these days when I can’t seem to find my voice or my message. They seem to be hidden somewhere as deep and mysterious as the Mariana trench, and I have to conjure up a lot of energy to search for them.
I don’t know where my voice is right now or exactly what it sounds like, but God knows I’m trying to stumble across it in one way or another. So, thank you to everyone who has encouraged me to put my voice out there even when I thought it was insufficient or imperfect.
As it turns out, an imperfect, broken, human voice can be far more effective than a perfect one.
Photo credit: http://www.studiokotokoto.com/2014/12/12/beauty-in-the-art-of-repair-kintsugi-by-david-pike/