“Write the tale that scares you. That makes you feel uncertain. That isn’t comfortable. I dare you.” — Michaela Coel with a speech I’ll remember for a long time. And for proving you can read from a piece of paper and make it feel urgent and powerful. #Emmys pic.twitter.com/tdqXZoWhJU
— Chris Gardner (@chrissgardner) September 20, 2021
I used to be a television-watching addict.
Each September I’d make a detailed schedule of the new shows that would be debuting in the fall TV lineup and the returning shows that I couldn’t wait to get back to.
This schedule was serious business and I would often adjust plans to accommodate my bizarre addiction.
But times change and streaming services arrived and my life became busier and more full and slowly I became the person who could barely remember that the new TV season was starting and spent more time re-watching older shows that I knew would bring me comfort (because, anxiety).
I also became the person who had a running list in my head of the shows that sounded amazing that I eventually wanted to get around to watching, one day.
On that list is “I May Destroy You.” The 12-part limited series, written by and starring Michaela Coel, follows the story of Arabella, “an aspiring writer from London who is seeking to remember the events of the night when she was sexually assaulted and to rebuild her life.” The show was inspired by Coel’s own experience as a victim of sexual assault.
I watched the first episode a few months back and loved the vibe immediately. Coel’s writing is sharp and honest and I could already feel myself caring about Arabella and her group of friends. It’s still on my list of shows to finish, especially after catching a clip of Coel’s recent Emmys’ speech.
This past weekend, Coel became the first Black woman to take home the award for Outstanding Writing for a Limited or Anthology series or Movie. The first Black woman to win it in the Emmy’s 72-year history. Think about that. And along with this honor, she dedicated her award to every survivor of sexual assault.
But these weren’t the only things that made Coel’s speech memorable. Her words themselves serve as the kind of bold, brilliant advice that can make an actual difference in how we live our lives:
“Write the tale that scares you, that makes you feel uncertain, that is uncomfortable. I dare you. In a world that entices us to browse through the lives of others to help us better determine how we feel about ourselves, and to, in turn, feel the need to be constantly visible, for visibility these days seems to somehow equate to success, do not be afraid to disappear, from it, from us, for a while, and see what comes to you in the silence.”
Those last eight words are everything I’ve needed to hear for a while now.
See what comes to you in the silence.
We live in a world that can be loud and aggressive and always “on.” We spend our lives watching a small screen full of other people’s lives, other people’s moments, and constantly wondering how our moments measure up. Or we spend our lives watching a big screen to escape, to avoid, to live in fantasy, even if just momentarily.
But consider what we could accomplish if we stepped into the silence. If we chose to disappear for a bit. If we chose to write about, or live, a life that scared us, even just a little.
When I get bogged down with my life, with feeling like I have no time or energy left, with feeling like I’m supposed to be “on” and visible in order to be successful, I will remember Coel’s words. I will see what comes to me in the silence.
Just as soon as I finish watching her award-winning show.