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Column: Take up space and use your voice

Photo via Jessica Taylor

I am not great at speaking up about the important things. Unless given explicit permission, I usually prefer to sit back and observe a situation rather than jump in and speak, especially when other people are involved.

I don’t want my words to be misconstrued or misunderstood. I am terrified of being perceived as entitled; it’s a fear that follows me. 

Words feel locked behind a steel wall in my head. I want to “earn” the right to use them, but sometimes you have to use your voice without waiting for someone to permit it. 

When I was in middle school, I decided I wanted to learn American Sign Language (ASL). 

My school district did not offer ASL classes, so everyone told me to take Spanish instead. It was easier, planned and predictable, but I still wanted to learn ASL.

I ended up turning to my local community college. It took a lot of fancy signatures and persuading, but I was eventually able to take ASL-101 night classes during my sophomore year of high school. 

It was terrifying, but it made me realize that there is almost always a way to work for what you want. No one was going to stick up or speak up for me. I did it for myself and didn’t have to settle. 

That was my epiphany. 

I started involving myself in my community by signing up for extracurriculars, volunteering and interviewing for jobs. I took up several leadership positions and started using my voice. I did what I wanted and enjoyed it. 

Before, I felt like I wasn’t allowed to take up space, and by getting involved I was selfishly seeking attention. 

I still struggle with that feeling and don’t think it will ever fully go away. 

At the end of the day, my life has been enriched by the experiences I have been brave enough to speak up for and act upon. 

Involve yourself in life. Your voice is powerful, so go use it. 

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