Telling someone how to find their voice is like telling someone the exact moment they will feel comfortable in their skin. It just doesn’t work that way. Both journeys are piece by piece, a windy path of learning to care about yourself, what you think and say, which will in turn make you want to honor the voices and thoughts of those around you.
I started performing poetry when I was 17 years old, my last year of high school, after I watched the movie Love Jones. This year means I’ve been performing for half my life. What started out as hip hop-inspired free verse, mixed with the formal poetry I studied in college, has transformed into the mix of spoken word and monologue that I perform today.
Sometimes I have begrudged my voice, wished it were more edgy, wished my rhyme scheme were as tightly written as hip hop taught me it should be, wished I had something more shocking or controversial to say. But the words that come to me, are about soul, soil, goofy things I’ve realized over the years, a small attempt to describe a big God. They are stories told by generations before me, snippets of eavesdropped conversations, they are the sounds I hear when I write poetry.
I want to speak with confidence that the only reason I stand here is because of the God who called me, gave me this gift, and sent me here. I want to stand strongly, speak boldly, as so many women and men before me have done. I want to feel no need to apologize for who I am, what my story is or where I come from, because all those things have created this loved, insecure, woman I am today.
At this point in my life there is a settling in me. I hate the word settle as in settling for second best or settling for less. But this is a different kind of settling. It’s a settling that brings rest. It’s not the kind of comfort that keeps us resistant to change, it’s the kind of comfort we find in someone’s eyes when we know we are loved.
Finding your voice takes time. It takes realizing that everything: history, your own past, your family, the sound of the drive to your grandma’s house, the smell of you dad’s cologne, your college roommate’s favorite song, your first heartbreak, your dreams, hopes, future, all of this is a constant, churning stew that is at all times creating your voice.
And even the voice I’ve found so far could be so different ten years from now. Wherever I am in life I want to accept where my voice is and know that we are on a journey together with the words written to remind us where we’ve been and where we’re headed.