*Editor’s Note: This piece is part of a series—lucky you. Head to the author’s profile to continue reading or click here for chapter 2.
I didn’t know what I was signing up for. A common theme in my life. Here I am in Elephant Academy for the second time. I thought it would be like the first. I paid little attention to, “Write a book with us!” What caught me was, “Find your voice.”
Stepping into the unknown is like stepping into black. It’s being willing to be okay with not knowing where you are going. What is unknown in this case? My voice. According to Waylon Lewis, founder of Elephant Journal, a person cannot find their voice for keeps. It is a constant search. “WTF, Waylon? How can you find something that always moves?”
I have a voice. It’s mostly quiet unless I’m comfortable with who I’m with or when I’m in my professional role. I’m with me right now. Am I comfortable with me? Can I write with my voice when I’m hanging out with only me? The answer here came immediately, “Of course, I can! I know me better than anyone!” But do I?
Like many moms with children and a career, I don’t seem to spend a lot of time on my own. When I am on my own, I’m plagued with the same nagging feeling I’ve almost always been plagued with. “Am I doing this right? Am I living my life well? In a way I won’t regret? Am I playing it safe or is this who I really am? Do I even know myself well enough to answer these questions?”
I read books. Countless books. Usually multiple at the same time like a frantic search for a truth of how and who I should be. It’s like I’m searching for words that are in the right order to treat my ailment of not knowing how to live as me. I read until my head is so full of words from respected authors that I can no longer hear myself think. Voices. All talking at once. Like a crowded room full of truth bombs and philosophy.
I walk out of that room sometimes. Like most introverts, a crowded room is fun until it’s not. At first I only hear the remnants of the authors’ voices. Quieter, but still there. As I continue to move and walk, I wake up to what’s around me. My life as I know it. My family. My friends. My coworkers. They all have voices, too. These voices are different. They expect things from me. They expect me to move in a certain way that sometimes feels natural, but sometimes does not. We all know these voices. Most are voices of love and friendliness. They mean well. I could let myself be carried on these voices for all of my life if I wanted to. The voice of a loved one can cause us to move in a way that takes care of them and feeds part of us as well. I could drift away on these voices forever, until I realize I have drifted away.
It’s 6:00 a.m. I’m not reading. No one is talking to me. It’s quiet. I close my eyes. It’s black here. I move in my mind and begin walking down a dark black corridor. I’m feeling along the walls. The quiet is deafening. I reach a door and feel for the handle. It’s locked. I sit down against the door and begin to breathe consciously.
“It’s been awhile.” I hear myself say. I smile slightly and tell myself, “Hello.”
We sit together like that for some time. Myself and me. I tell myself I have a project to work on that requires using my voice and I’m going to need my help.
My voice smiles. “Well, you know where to find me,” as it fades away to the other side of the locked door.
“Wait!” I say. We haven’t even started, yet!” It’s quiet again. The black fades away and I’m back in my life typing away at this computer screen. How will I get inside that door? What if I get in and it moves again?
I take a deep breath. I guess this is what I signed up for.
Elephant Academy Fall 2019 “Find Your Voice.”