Hello! My name is Amber, I’m an intern at The Practice Space, and today I’m going to tell a story about retaining your voice during times of your life where you are challenged, afraid, or feel unsupported. Advocacy takes two forms, and both are enabled by the other. The first is speaking out for big issues and high stakes to a large audience. The second is speaking out for yourself about your experience, struggles, and emotions to the people you care about. They are both hard, and they are both important. This is the last blog post of my summer series, and I wanted to connect back to my experience as a young person living and learning to advocate in the face of all of the issues that loom over our future. If you are a young person, I commend you. It’s hard. Keep going.
I was born in a place where it was cool in the fall, with crisp leaves that fell from stoic trees and cloudy gray skies yielding to rain and snow as the months progressed. The summers were hot and dry, but breezes abounded, and it was a time for adventure and popsicles and crunchy summer grasses. I was there for ten years, and then I was still there, but I lived somewhere else.
I came back frequently, transitory, inhabiting the room I grew up in. I saw as the winters grew warmer and the clouds became empty of water, and in the new place I lived the summers were stuffy with baked heat and dread. It was then that I found my voice. I spoke to my family, my friends, our community. Did they see what was happening? Some did. Did they want to do anything about it? Yes, they said. I said, “me too”.
I began speaking to people I didn’t know, finding passion and conviction and power radiating from a little spot in my torso. They sensed the passion, and they responded with empathy and electricity, caring and supporting my voice. I felt empowered. I kept speaking.
A few years later, from that same little spot in my torso, I felt a knot. I was moving again, to an unfamiliar place that slyly beaconed struggle and discomfort. The knot grew, it consumed my stomach and my liver and twisted my intestines. It beckoned to its friend, a hive of bees, that made its home in my brain. I thought I had lost my voice. I felt guilty for not speaking, for feeling lost in a situation I couldn’t change. The bees and the knot conspired.
I searched for solutions and for help, and finally I learned some names for my insect and my piece of rope. I learned how to speak, but in a different way; to stand up for myself for things that are small but important. I am not yet fine, but I am almost there.
So now, I go back to my home, and I see flames. The growing heat of the summer has caught up to the trees, like it has for every year I’ve been away, but this August I am faced with the threat of change. I am worried for my father and his cat, and the house I grew up in, and the rosemary field and the small pond. The fires have almost reached my childhood bedroom.
I know what I will do. I have learned to take care of others, to advocate for the needs of the many, and fight for my future. This ability was once held aloft by the support of others, but now it is grounded in my care for myself. I have learned to know what I feel, and to tell my needs to others. This ability will help me understand the pain of loss, it will help me appreciate what I have and who I know. I will continue forward when they’re gone.
I was worried that I had lost my voice. I grew, and my needs shifted; but my voice was still there. It was hard to accept that my role as a speaker might have changed, but I embrace the fact that, no matter what, I am still a speaker. I still advocate, and I care. Someday soon, I will take back the stage and demonstrate how my new advocacy empowers my old forms of speaking. But for now, I am telling my story to show you that it’s okay to take a break from speaking to an audience to advocate for yourself. You are still a speaker and a leader, and we are proud of who you are.