This I Believe

Olivia - Miami, Florida
Entered on November 29, 2006

“Silence is Golden”

My name is Olivia Alvarez. I probably would never have mentioned my name or this story I am about to tell, if I were in pre-school, writing this paper. As a matter of fact, I would only be known as the girl who stood awkwardly in the corner, with my stained yellow uniform shirt, wearing a large bow under a cluster of scruffy hair.

I never said a word to anyone. I was like a mute, or simply did not know how to speak. My urges to go to the bathroom never overcame my resistance to ask for permission, so my bathroom breaks would be in the classroom running down my legs. My parents’ and teachers’ engrossing questions of “Why don’t you speak?” went unanswered. I could see the unnecessary stress and headaches I caused them. That was when the punishments began.

Even the punishments would never trigger me to speak, or even yelp. I distinctly remember how I could not participate in the long anticipated Easter Egg Hunt, unless I asked. My teacher smiled to herself, feeling certain her plan was going to work. I did what I knew best, I kept to myself. She had failed, once again.

The silence carried on into kindergarten; however, that was when I began making progress. I still would not speak directly to anyone; someone else did that for me. Her name was Stephanie, my classmate and my voice. If I ever wanted to say anything, I would whisper in her ear what I wished to be said, and she did what I had always feared.

I will never forget the day I was asked to choose between pink and yellow construction paper for an activity. My teacher, Ms. Wellen, had taken a hopeless shot at me responding. Of course, nobody awaited an answer. In a heartbeat, “Pink” slipped out. I did not notice it, but everyone else did. At that moment, all of my classmates’ heads were turned towards me, their faces full of shock. I felt this rush of accomplishment. I was too young to even know what the feeling was, but it felt extraordinary.

Still shy and only speaking a couple of words, I entered into first grade. This was not enough for Mrs. Thiry, my new teacher. She wanted me to speak full sentences and carry on conversations with her and my classmates, so she made a deal with me no child could resist. Mrs. Thiry promised me if I spoke everyday of each month, I would get a prize: however, I got so use to speaking that I no longer looked forward to the gifts. There was no point in doing so; I had overcome my greatest fear –– to express myself and converse with others.

Through my experience, I believe that the ability to speak is one of the greatest gifts anybody could have. Without it there would be no peace, love, or relationships. I realized that through speech I made friends, expressed my emotions easily, and no longer peed in my pants. I am very grateful for my experience of the silent phase because without it, I do not know how I would have changed after first grade and up until now. I make people laugh at my jokes, get intrigued by my stories. Every time I do this, I feel rushes of something that I felt back when I was in kindergarten: accomplishment. The feeling is old, but it still feels good.