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Got to Get a Voice
Got to Get a Voice
How often do you hear a message that is so false that it evolves instead into the foundation for something brave, strong, right & truthful? Perhaps the message is one that gets you feeling feisty, determined and strong beyond words. There are some false opinions within each of our corners of the world that need to be met with a “stand back & watch me” do the thing you say is not possible for us.
Last week I happened upon a heartwarming short story about Thomas Edison’s childhood. It was about the day that Edison received a note addressed to his mother from his school teacher. When asked what the note said according to this story source his mother said that Edison’s intellectual abilities were far beyond the resources available to him at his school & that he ought to be homeschooled to allow his full abilities to shine. Then we are told that many years later Edison came across the note from the teacher & what it actually said was that Edison was incapable of learning at school & that he was mentally ill. I loved the hero of the mother that emerged for the genius( Edison) that left a legacy of brilliance as well as tenacity & inspiration. In researching further another source documenting Edison’s childhood debunked the above story. We are told instead that Edison was vividly aware of the negative assessments made by his school. His mother however remains the heroine since she went ahead & told the school that they were absolutely incorrect about Edison’s abilities & she pulled him out of school & home schooled him. The story revealed that although Edison was challenged by dyslexia that his mother created ways of teaching him that met him at his needs & that it brought out his abundant potential. It can be a cross roads when a person is labeled with anything that society perceives as a lack of. Examples could fall into academic learning styles/challenges/differences, physical challenges, emotional challenges and many more areas. Some labels become tattooed onto us against our permission. How does that feel? I would think that most if not all of us would answer with a resounding, “That sucks!” Many of us likely have had experiences in our lives where we have been labeled & treated less than or externally reduced by someone else’s definition of our shortfalls. What a cross road that can be. What do we do about that or with that or both? If we were children then we had best hope that there was at least one person of strength, character and bravery to question the status quo, the self proclaimed experts & gurus. Once we are adults we have the choice to stand up for ourselves or people who are vulnerable. We can be a shrinking 6 foot 7 for instance or a tall, feisty 5 foot 4 person.
It can be a mystery to us at times when we ask ourselves the question “Why did that happen?” I have come to learn that I cannot answer that question when it comes to things that don’t make sense like losses in our lives. The losses may include loved ones dying, the loss of what may have been perfect health when we have a chronic illness (or many) and countless other real life examples. Do you know what makes me go from 1 to 1000 on the feisty Richter scale in a nana second? It is these words from others who I guess think they are offering comfort, “It happened for a reason.” How is that comforting though really to the person going through raw, gut wrenching emotions of loss? There are other words that bother me as well but let’s just stick with this one for now. It is my feeling that if a person is going through something that is deeply painful or devastating that words like “it happened for a reason” can actually add to the sadness that the person is already feeling. It can be very isolating when people don’t “get” what you are going through. Thank goodness for the everyday heroes within the world that behave, believe & live in a way that shows us that they “get” it. And how about those giants that go to bat for others or for themselves in tough situations. Maybe you are picturing these exact people’s faces that have gone to bat for you. Did this person or people stand up for you when you were being reduced or labeled or told that you could not achieve something? It is easy for me to think of personal examples. There are 2 childhood memories that impacted me in conjunction to having someone go to bat for me. Both of the examples pertain to school hood days. The first instance was when I was in grade 4. My teacher contacted my parents to tell them that I simply could not read at all. It was alarming to me that my teacher had drawn that conclusion. It was confusing & disappointing to me since I have always loved books & reading. How strange I thought this was that she would believe this about me. What an awful feeling it was to be labeled albeit inaccurately as illiterate in grade 4. I went from feeling invisible to feeling like a loser. The invisible part was there already because I was a kid that did everything within her might to fly under the radar. My level of shyness was off the charts. If I was called on during class to speak I felt like I would rather have the earth open up & swallow me. My hands became soaked, I would almost be sick to my stomach and my tiny whisper of a voice was shaky big time. A good day for me in elementary school consisted of not being called upon during class time or even gym class to speak in front of the class. You can imagine the portion of language arts class when the reading aloud time was occurring. It is common for people to have a fear of speaking publically yet the wizards of the school I attended did not put two & two together. They jumped hurdles to come to etched in stone conclusions about my literacy. It was kind of a time in education where the teaching team & principals were placed on pedestals as self proclaimed experts on all things child related. Thankfully & mercifully things have changed in that regard within the current education system in most cases. When I was in elementary & high school it was not in vogue to question an assessment or recommendation from a teacher and or the principal. In the case of my labeled illiteracy the wizards at my school told me that I would have to meet with the principal after school with a goal of learning how to read. It turned into a stigma on top of a stigma because in record time my classmates learned that formerly invisible me was having to meet with the principal daily after school. The kids in my class articulated many fabricated reasons for my so called after school punishment. To their credit people are drawn to stories & when facts are not provided people have a natural tendency to fill in the story with invented facts. Thankfully my parents were well aware that I could certainly read & excelled at it. They told me that it would take very little time for the principal to determine that they had been incorrect in their assessment of me as illiterate. They were correct in that the first after school session suddenly I could miraculously read. Without a group listening to me my fluency shone through. I ended up the very next day being bumped up to the advanced reading group. That did not score me any “cool” points with many of my classmates so that was bittersweet. The teacher & principal did not however check their egos by verbalizing their inaccurate initial assessment of my reading abilities. Sometimes it is very healthy to forgive some people for the apology that you never got nor ever will receive & move on with life. The second instance of flawed assessment occurred in my grade 8 school year. The teachers made the emphatic recommendation that I was incapable of advanced studies in high school. To this day I remember my parents’ reactions vividly. They did not accept that recommendation in the slightest. Instead they told me that I certainly was capable of advanced studies & registered me in that program. It meant that it kept the door open for university in the future. Sure enough it all worked out. Thank goodness my parents did not do the doormat thing of blindly accepting the opinions offered. As a painfully shy young person it would have been very easy for me to lower the bar & accept a reduced version of my own dreams I believe in hindsight. Instead I learned the value of treating opinions as a buffet. Some opinions are green peas to me. I detest green peas so I don’t accept those. Some opinions are carrots. Sure, I accept that. I accept that I have choices aka free will & a brain to figure out what makes sense & what sounds like nonsense. And I believe that these experiences helped me to find my feisty, rascally voice. I found within myself a voice that speaks up for what is right or wrong without the fear of intimidation. To me that is a lasting gift that my parents provided through their examples of standing up for me when I was younger. And now I choose to use this voice to stand up for others who are still finding their voice. That is the most natural thing in the world.
My heart’s hope for you is that if you have not yet found your own voice that you have a go to person who lets you borrow theirs until you find yours. We were not meant to live an isolated life. Each one of us has a gift…something that will make a beautiful difference. Find yours, use it & celebrate it.
Have a gentle week. And about that girl who was too shy to read in front of classmates...she has spoken in front of groups varying from a few dozen people to a few hundred. I still feel the jitters to this day during public speaking yet if I have a passion for a cause, love someone or need to be the voice for others I find the courage. Sometimes our voices shake & sometimes we appear to be ultra comfortable in front of a microphone. When you need to be brave you will be. Next Monday's story is in the usual creative ether.