On Being Heard

We all have our methods for being heard. I certainly did when I was a teenager, for example. For me, this time in my life was a time where it was important to carve out my identity and start to make bold statements about ‘who I was’, which resulted in a number of hilarious fashion choices and a lot of half-baked ideas about which ‘group’ that I belonged to and why. Scratch the surface and I was nothing but evasive, and made of nothing more than thrift-shop finds and pure teenage angst. I was terribly shy and I felt kind of alone, clinging on to the identity of others, trying to keep up with their changes. I wanted attention and to feel like people liked me.  I was kind of a ghost, in that I had little substance and nothing about me was really ‘alive’. I floated through college and went for days when literally nobody talked to me. I was put into groups in class with people I hated and I didn’t say ‘no’. When my one friend at college wasn’t in, that was hell. It has taken me ten-ish years since then to try to work out who I am, where I belong, and to have a ‘voice.' Sometimes, I kick myself when the old ‘me’ kicks in-- when I hide from awkward situations, don't standing up for myself, and don't state with authority, “This is me.” Whoever that is! But sometimes, it’s okay to be alone.

I don’t really blame old me for this, though. It was hard, with all of those new faces. Faces that can hurt, reject, mock (I bet they weren’t as bad as I thought.) It is hard as an adult for goodness sake. There are so many things that can stop us finding our voice. For some it is a personality trait, for others it is living under oppressive leaders (sometimes these can be parents or teachers), maybe it is the pressure created by the media. Often, it is because we feel like if we say who we really are, we might have a fight on our hands. A fight to justify who we are. And that hurts a hell of a lot, because it’s personal. We take things personally, as insults. We don’t dare to think that criticism is a good thing and often it can appear as one-upmanship.

I think what spurred on this idea for my writing, was the now viral Oscar’s clip of Jenny Beavan walking up the aisle to receive her award for her involvement in Mad Max Fury Road. When I watched the clip where she apparently didn’t get applauded by her peers as she went to get her award, I was flummoxed. I really couldn’t work it out. So I read up on it a little and looked at some opinions about it and it was suggested that she didn’t get applause because she appeared to have under-dressed for the occasion. What?! I really hadn’t noticed. I just saw a woman going to get an award with a bunch of people not applauding. Then it made me angry as I started to think about it. Allegedly her outfit was created to reflect Mad Max, and even if it wasn’t, who cares? This lady was showing us (again) that she was talented and deserving of another award. Then, upon reflecting on this incident again, I think, ‘Yes, girl! You legend!’ Maybe her choice not to opt in to the ridiculous masquerade of make-up and ball gowns was her ‘voice’. Everyone has been so angry about her not getting the appreciation she deserves, but really perhaps we should be focusing on her message. Her silent protest which can speak volumes. 

My head teacher at school often centered his assemblies on the idea of ‘success.’ It became such a constant in the day to day that we would often tally the amount of times he said the word in one of his speeches and it became a kind of in-joke. There was nothing wrong with the idea of success, and his idea certainly wasn’t harmful, but the idea of what success is, and how we plan to obtain it and what might happen to us if we don’t obtain it, can be really destructive. And young people have this drilled into them from day one. I’m so thankful that I lived in an age where I was allowed a childhood.

I don’t have children, but the idea of being a successful parent really stresses me out. Now, there is no ‘perfect’ parent, I know that! But part of the problem is that I know that I’ll be constantly looking around me to see if I’m doing it ‘right’. Some parents that I have seen have really damaged their children by making sure that they will be a success. I’ve watched my friends being suppressed by their parents’ expectations and going into jobs that they know they’ll hate, just to prove that they were a ‘success.’ I don’t want my child to feel like they have to meet certain criteria to be accepted and I am determined to continue to speak out about this issue. I wish that the government I live under understood this and applied this idea to our education system.

My new method for using my voice is to speak up. Sounds silly, but it takes a lot of time to work out how to use ones voice and I am still trying to work out how to. I’m no longer apologetic for my beliefs or my lifestyle choices. I don’t mind complaining where it is necessary, and I’ve learned to use silence appropriately too, learning that sometimes not being quick to speak is much better in the long run.

I’m glad that I’ve found my voice, and reluctantly and with a grimace all over her glum face, so is younger me, too.