I can very distinctly remember being a Senior at Garland High School in Ms. Gillilan’s AP English class. She was the best kind of teacher and we were the best kind of class. There were only eight of us, so we got our work done very quickly. I’d guess that we spent 40% of our time working and the rest just kickin’ it. Summer of 2009 Ms. Gillilan took our small class on an unofficial field trip to what was my first Ranger’s baseball game. I didn’t want to drive all the way to Arlington in my gas guzzling Jeep, so she let a few of us ride to the game in her Hummer…laced with dog hair. Her dogs were her family. They were practically a part of our class. The night ended with my first trip to Fuel City for tacos. If you’re from Dallas, you know.
We spent the rest of the semester listening to her stories about the trips she took to lighthouses and haunted castles in Ireland and the weirdos she met in New Orleans, her tattooed makeup, and her first degree in marine biology. I know this is a lot about a high school English teacher, but I need you to know what kind of woman she was so you can understand that she was the type of teacher who made you realize that there is an enormous world beyond your bubble. Beyond your friends and your city. And that’s a big deal for a kid in high school.
I remember turning in an Independent Writing Assignment one day after she’d made me revise it a bunch of times because she always told me I could do better. Then one day she stopped me and said with a closed-mouthed smile peeking through her poker face, “I can tell when I’m reading your work without looking at the name. You have a very strong voice.” I beamed. I still beam. She was a hard woman to please.
I’ve been developing my voice ever since. Every time somebody says, “Kaisha, I like the way you say things,” or “there’s a special touch you have when you tell stories,” that 17 year-old girl inside of me is filled with joy. She really really just wants to be heard. We all do. I challenge everyone reading this to find your voice. And when you find it, get comfortable with the sound of it. Your voice is your fingerprint. It is the way you do what you do how no one else can. It is you infusing your spirit into something ordinary and making it magical. It is where your gift and your soul collide. This world will try to silence your voice. It will be scary when you start using it if you aren’t used to it. A lot of people won’t like it. You may not like it because you don’t know what to do with it. But you have to use it, nonetheless. And I could make some super cliché proclamation about how all of us using our unique voices will create a harmoniously funktastic symphony around the globe for all the stars and all the heavens to vibe to, but…….oh wait 😉 My point is: Do not be afraid of your voice. Embrace it because it’s you. You don’t have to hide.
When did you learn to use your voice? How do you use it?