I Have A Voice

 Photo by Verne Ho on Unsplash

Photo by Verne Ho on Unsplash

I can remember the moment I decided that I would keep my opinions to myself in “outside” conversations. Don’t get me wrong, at certain times and places I have been fully willing to express myself. However, when I am on social media, or out in public with people who I see as influential, or at an event with my extended family, I tend to keep my thoughts to myself and bite my tongue.

The moment...It was another high school day and I was talking with some friends in study hall about something I was passionate about. I was really pissed about what was happening and was definitely the most vocal in my circle. Then, I heard a group of guys coughing the word feminazi and staring over at our table. Surely, this could not be directed towards me? As infuriated as I was, I was also getting increasingly embarrassed as more people began to stare. Why were my prayers for the floor to open and swallow me up not being answered?

When I thought that it couldn’t get worse, a guy I have know for several years walked up to our table. He looked directly at me and said, “Why don't you shut up? Nobody cares about what you have to say. Keep your opinions to yourself.” Looking back, it is funny to me that I can’t even remember this kid’s name or anything about him. All I remember is the fact that I was crushed and in that moment a little bit ashamed. With that one statement, my teenage brain went into damage control. I wanted to be liked more than anything. This has been a problem that I have struggled with my whole life. On more than one occasion, I have changed who I was way too many times to fit in.

So what was teenage Vicki to do? I decided in that moment that I would keep my mouth shut and do my best not to engage people in conversations that could be considered touchy. I let him and the others in his group change the way I expressed myself. I would let it fester and build up until I exploded when I got home. Side Note…sorry, Mom. I know that you hear way too much of my passionate diatribes and complaining.

It wouldn’t be until my third year of art school that I began to get a bit of my voice back. Let’s face it. If you can’t have an opinion in art school, I don’t know where you can have one. I eased back into commenting on issues that were important to me and stood up for what I thought was right. This lasted until I started my own business back in 2007. With social media just starting to catch on, I was excited to get out there. Then a boss and mentor of mine said something that made me question what I should put out there into the world. He simply stated that if I wanted to continue to grow my business, maybe I should keep my opinions to myself. Again, I was stunned. Yet, as I thought about it, it seemed to make sense. I was 25 at the time and I reverted right back to stifling everything I wanted to say because I was afraid of rocking the boat.

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Flash forward a few months ago when it all just hit me. We have a President that has been on record being a misogynist and a bully. We have an avalanche of women coming out with claims of sexual harassment or worse in Hollywood.

With, the rise of movements across the country from The Women's March to #Metoo to #TimesUp to #RoseArmy to #NeverAgain. People are getting the bravery to speak out. The lightbulb went off. This is the time to speak up.

Why should I keep my thoughts to myself? If people can use their blogs, twitter accounts, and other social media to share their voices, why can’t I? I have a voice too.

Today, this is where I am. I am no longer afraid or willing to let someone else steal my voice from me. It has taken me 35 years to get here, but I am ready to wear the label of advocate, feminist, and resilient woman with pride.

I think what Rose McGowan said in an interview is the perfect ending to my post. If we can all just be 10% more awake, think of what change can happen. Really think about it. Open your eyes to what is going on around you. Take one small action to help someone else or speak up against an injustice or take the time to educate someone on why what they are doing is wrong. This moment can change everything.