As a little girl coming up in a household where it was understood that “what happens in this house, stays in this house” and i was expected to “speak when spoken to,” i learned early on that my voice wasn’t valued. it could even be hazardous. (a major goal of childhood is to AVOID the whoopings, not open your mouth and invite them.) i stayed quiet, kept secrets, and MYOB’d, all in an effort to remain out of trouble and under the radar. Well into my 30s–ok, close to high-fiving 40–, i’m still undoing that programming.
but here’s why this post is less about the struggle, and more about the BEAUTY in the struggle. this realization of how and why my literal voice was stifled before i could even spell the word is major. it’s the reason i’ve struggled with confidence in my literary voice. this is the juicy enlightenment i live for but it’s also why my work is never good enough to submit; why i don’t honor my own deadlines but will bend over backward for someone else’s; why i second-guess applying to residencies and workshops; and why i have so much trouble committing to this blog! it’s why that little voice will whisper “nobody cares” or “you must think you somebody” with as much sass as your grandma’s homegirl, the one who has aged to the point of just knowing every-damn-thing.
so the beauty, right? the beauty is that this new awareness has helped me better understand who, and why, my current writer-self is who i’m is (yeah, i said ‘i’m is.’). it makes sense to me why i obsess over the literary definition of “voice.” (what does it mean and do i have one? what does mine sound like? is it strong, unique, special enough? how do i pin it down? do i have to? ) the stakes are high for me personally. it’s not just putting words on a page and out into the world; it’s about finally believing what i have to say is worthy of expressing.
THIS journey is the reason i became a writer, why this particular thing won’t let me go. i’ve been trying to convince myself ever since i was an itty-bitty rocking my days-of-the-week panties (thanks Aunt Jackie!) that my opinion, my stories, my feelings, my voice matters.
when i get that. like, really get it. Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiid.