As a child I was very quiet and very shy. I am still very shy. Painfully so. But so is my dad. This knowledge does make me feel better. Oddly. I fight my shyness mostly. But not always. It stems from a fear of judgement I think. And a sense that I am not valuable enough. Even though intellectually, I know this is not true.
At any rate, I was very quiet. My voice didn’t work for myself. For others it did. If I had to protect someone else my voice had no problem. Just for me. And I always acquiesced. I disliked conflict so it was easier to placate, to not rock the boat, to just do and be what was expected.
In fact, it was only just this year that I realised that my love (possibly obsession) with tattooing arose from my need to ensure my voice. My tattoos are an insurance policy that whilst ever I am alive, my voice will be heard, at the very least, noticed. Not that I like people looking at me – the contradictions that make the wonderful world of Tina what it is. Similar to my belief that we shouldn’t mix foods except for the exceptions that I like lol.
My voice first rose to prominence during my final year of uni. I was blessed to have an excellent English Teaching Method tutor and a very supportive (and patient) class. We were a very mixed group of personalities. Interestingly this is also the first year that I started wearing long black skirts, black jumpers, black shoes, black everything. This was the year of turning for me. I was twenty one.
We were discussing assessment. I dislike formal assessment. Something within me has always said that the arbitrary labelling of students and their work is just ridiculous. It does nothing more than provide kids with a sense that by society’s schooling standards they are either smart or dumb and it pays no heed to the effort that the child has put in. This was something I had never really articulated prior to this session on assessment; I’m not even sure that I really knew I thought that. But I did. And I still do.
And for that one tute session, I was a dog with a bone. Not a cute little Max, but a violent, mistreated, aggressive Pitbull. And even when my tutor realised I needed a change in direction, I relentlessly brought that discussion back to my bone.
I made myself heard.
I made my voice count.
I expressed what I thought.
I expressed me.
The me that fights for the underdog, protects the vulnerable, and stands up for what I believe/perceive to be right. In my mind, what IS right. But I have learned to temper the aggressive voice over the years and now say things the way that people like to hear them ;-). I digress …
There were several factors at play that day that enabled this transformation to begin. I had the support and respect of my tutor. I had the shock but love from my peers (who intuitively knew that the aggression was spurting from a place removed from our classroom and from this issue – we ended up laughing at the uni bar afterwards). I was away from the place that had silenced me. And away from the people who had silenced me. And I had been for three years. I had forged my own life in Bathurst, separate to who I was at home.
I have tempered my voice over the years. Wonderful advice from an early teaching mentor, who saw in me the potential to enact change if I learned how to, offered me advice I live by, to this day; she asked, “Is this the hill you are willing to die on?” My barometer now is this. And as a result I have blossomed into a tempered hot head, living by the rules I can live by, working to change the rules that I can’t. Most importantly, I have had many people who have believed in me and believed in my potential. Without that, I would have suicided years ago. And I don’t say this flippantly.
A few days ago I was having a conversation with a dear friend who is learning to use her voice. She is a lion. I am so blessed to be on her journey with her. And it shows, my experience and hers, that even after a traumatic childhood, a childhood where we are forced within, a childhood that robs us of childhood, it is possible to still become your authentic self.
And it hinges on the development of your voice.
Finding it. Using it. Upsetting others. Learning to temper it. Using it.
And that depends on your belief in self. And the people you choose to have in your life.
If someone doesn’t like your voice, minimise the impact of them in your life, if you can’t rid your life of them. It is a difficult journey, discovering and learning how to use your voice. And a lifelong journey.
One that I am truly blessed to be on.