This I Believe

Amanda - South Hadley, Massachusetts
Entered on September 1, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30
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I believe in the strength of my own voice. For a while I thought that my only options were to be a loud, angry woman, or to sit quietly and be seen but not heard. Only now, during my first year at college, am I discovering that my voice does not have to fall into one of those two categories.

I started out as an opinionated and vocal little girl but “matured” into a quiet teenager. When I was younger, I always had something to say and was stubborn about expressing myself. I corrected my kindergarten teacher when she told the class that “T” was for toucan instead of toucan and my third grade teacher put me on a “behavioral plan” because I stood up, demanded that two boys stop calling one of my classmates a cow, and refused to sit down until they apologized.

However, somewhere between elementary school and becoming a teenager, my voice lowered into a whisper—and then the whisper faded into widened eyes, a bitten tongue, or even raised eyebrows if I was feeling especially expressive. I stopped feeling like what I had to say really mattered. I assumed that what everyone else had to say was more important and valid than anything I could be thinking.

What I experienced wasn’t a rarity—it seems to be common for middle school girls to lose their voices when they discover malls, make-up and MTV. Maybe some of them are afraid of being considered abrasive or are just scared that what they have to say is insignificant. Maybe the influences and expectations of society become so important to us that we will censor ourselves no matter what the cost. Whatever the reason, the price girls pay for silence is too high.

I think that my voice decided that it was safe to come out of hiding sometime during this year, my first at college. It could be because I was surrounded by other young women who served as encouragement or perhaps it was a result of being inspired by my new surroundings and academic opportunities. Or maybe I just realized that if I was going to survive in this world, I needed my voice: a voice that has developed and grown into something more worthy of notice.

I am discovering that I do not need to have some unique and passionate opinion about every breaking news story—my own perspective is enough. My voice can exist between the extremes of silence and shout and still have an impact.