Loud and proud: how I found my voice


Chubby, cherub cheeks framed my boastful smile as my grabby fingers clung to the picture book. My jittery leg kept up its tap tap tap in rhythm with my anxious heartbeats. It felt like the small and compact chair, containing my small and compact pre-school body, was going to explode with the weight of my secret.

My covert confession burst out of me when it reached my turn in show-and-tell.

“I read this book last night!” beamed my five-year-old self proudly to the circle full of classmates who hadn’t yet been acquainted with such a skill.

My expectations of reading the book in its entirety to prove my prodigiousness to my classmates were met somewhat differently, with a “that’s nice” from the teacher followed by a curt “next?”

I wasn’t crushed; I was confused.

Reading aloud about how Biscuit the dog took her oh-so-amusing bath was supposed to be my moment in the spotlight—a moment all the others could revel in as well. I had learned. I had practiced. I had prepared.

I had been completely swept aside.

That moment was not some grand realization or a defining moment in the tapestry of my life; rather, it was my first encounter with an ongoing pattern in society.

The cynical lesson that was shocking to a pigtailed, gap-toothed preschooler, but all too routine to a high school senior, is as follows: no one is listening for you, so if you don’t speak up, your voice will go completely unheard.

If my innocent hope to show off my reading skills was aborted, what was to prevent more meaningful requests of change or input from being silenced as well?

Myself. That was all that could prevent them.

Pessimism wasn’t the solution, so change had to be. The shift was gawky and graceless at first. Putting myself out there was done timidly and in fear of judgment.

But over time the hands I raised in the air grew higher, and the voice I spoke with loudened. The unbridled confidence of the shiny pre-schooler returned.

Naturally, my outspoken nature was perceived, by some, as hubris, but I was no Icarus. I had merely grown into a girl who no longer allowed herself to be ignored.

I didn’t have a vendetta against all who stood in my way of being the center of attention. I wasn’t needy or whiny–I was just me.

I was, I am, a person with ideas to share, stories to tell, well crafted and ill-timed jokes to crack. I have a head full of words that rattle around, constantly trying to break free. And I’ve learned to let them, to allow my mind full of words to carry me onward in life.

And, be it selfish or uncouth, I like when people listen to me. If I have something to say, important or irreverent, I want the love and appreciation of those around me. And, I want it for myself. I want to speak for myself.

I’ve changed over time; I’ve matured into a person who let her desire to be heard propel herself with aplomb into life.

The five-year-old girl grew up, but she never let herself go unspoken again.