politics

Why Finding Your Own Voice Can Help Everyone

Not too long ago, I did a thorough cleaning of my house in which I gave away things I didn’t use, threw away things that were broken, and, more than anything, found things I forgot I had. One such thing was a book called “Music Listography,” which I’m pretty sure I impulse bought from Target, and seeing as its copyright is from 2009, it’s safe to say I bought it a while ago.

The point of the book is to flip through the pages and fill in the music related prompts with lists of songs, bands, concerts, albums, etc, until you have a kind of music autobiography (or listography) of your life. It’s a cool idea, and the creator, Lisa Nola, has a whole series of “listography” books to help you create a simplified, listified story of your life.

Looking at it now, I have no doubt why I bought. And to be honest, there is a part of me tempted to add the rest of the series to my Amazon cart as I write this. For as a writer, it is not only important, but vital to me to constantly get to know myself—what I like, what I dislike, what I’m working towards, and what I believe in—because it helps me continue to write, which in turn helps me understand myself, the world around me, and where I fit in it.

Perhaps one of the most important things we can do with our lives is understand it. Not understand the who’s and how’s of everything and everyone around us, but the what’s and why’s of our own personalities, beliefs, behaviors, and dreams. It is important to know where we stand, and to discern and feel confident about our opinions, from music to politics to religion, and everywhere in between.

We are all born into different families and different circumstances, in different environments with different obstacles. That gives us each a unique perspective. We all have our own reasons to believe in what we believe in, and different motivations to fight for what we fight for. So it is crucial to get to know ourselves and accept ourselves, so that we may be better equipped to know and accept others. In knowing where we stand and what we believe, we are given the opportunity to talk to other people from a place of confidence and grace, rather than fear and defensiveness. It also gives us the opportunity to see a new side of things, to explore a new avenue of thinking, and perhaps even change our mind.

So as our world continues to demand change, I have made it a mission of mine to learn all that I can about the world I live in, about all the sides of it that I know and all the sides I don’t. I’m looking at different perspectives, listening to different stories, and hearing different voices. In doing so, I am getting a better idea of who I am, what I believe and how my unique voice can help advocate for this much needed change.

The day I bought that “Music Listography” book I know it was from a place of longing. I wanted to fill the book out, but I wanted to do it in a way that would be impressive to others. While I was curious about “who I was” I was more concerned with whether that person was cool. Today, as I flip through the pages, I have a much clearer idea of how I would actually fill them out, and I might even go through and cross out the answers that were so clearly reaching. For now I know the music that moves me, and I know the reasons why. And though a small part of me will always want to be “cool” I don’t want it at the expense of being honest—not just in the context of this book but in every aspect of my life.

I truly want to know and be known, so I will keep learning, keep growing, and keep listening. I will keep asking questions, not only to get an answer, but to hear the many answers until I find one that aligns with who I am and what I believe in. I will share the things that give me comfort in the hopes it can comfort others, and I will share the things that make me uncomfortable to find out why, and to see if I can help change them.

I also think it’s important to note that we all fight on different stages and at different volumes. So as we work to figure out who we are and where we stand, let us also discover how we were made to stand. It might not be in the same place, in the same spotlight, or in the same style as those we know—even those we share beliefs with. And that is okay. We all have a unique voice and a unique way to share it, and so long as we keep working to find that voice, find the honesty in it, the fight behind it, and how we can best use it, we will find our way to not only stand, but create lasting change.

Oreos & the Political Climate

A few weeks ago my sister and I were browsing the Target snack aisles when we came across the beloved wall of Oreos. Now, I don’t know if this is standard snack architecture in all Targets, or if it’s unique to ours, but we rarely make a trip without marveling at its wonder.

On this particular trip, we forewent responsibility, self-control, and health conscious spending, and grabbed a package of the newly released, highly enticing flavor known as “Cinnamon Bun.” It was within an instant of seeing them that we shared a glance a.k.a an unspoken agreement that addressed the necessity to purchase, so we threw the package in the cart, and the rest was history. And by “the rest”, I mean “all the cookies” in under 2 days.

Our stance on the matter was clear:

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About a week later, a friend of ours brought a package of the aforementioned gifts to the Thursday night bowling league my family plays in.

“I heard these were pretty good,” he said to me with a smile, hinting at my social media post. I smiled back and then opened the package, offering him first taste. He obliged, giving the cookie a nod and an overall look of satisfaction, one that assuredly suggested he would not say no to another one, or two, or three.

For the remainder of the night, we passed around the cookies to friends, many of whom had also seen my affirming proclamation. But while they knew me and understood my undeniable appreciation for what I was dubbing, “a cookie for the ages”, they also knew themselves and understood their own taste buds. So, as they made their way through the cookie, twisting it apart or breaking it in half or consuming it all in one bite, they calculated their opinion.

Some were positive, some were in total agreement with me, some even more so; others tilted their head, shrugged, or remained indifferent; and others shook their head, twisted their mouths, and offered a brief, “it’s not for me.”

I obviously stood on a specific side of the argument, and was unafraid to express it lovingly, which is ultimately what had brought the argument in front of so many around me. It had sparked curiosity and the need for research to see which side was right for them. It had got them thinking. And while those who ended up on the opposite side as me will ultimately always hold an opinion that may not make sense to me, it doesn’t make me doubt that it makes sense to them. It doesn’t make me doubt that it’s what they believe. Why? Because from their point of view, I stand on similarly unfamiliar ground. Why can’t I understand their side of it? Why can’t I see that Cinnamon Bun Oreos are actually horrible?

Simply put: Because I don’t believe they are.

Does this mean we should hate each other? Does this mean I should consider them a lesser person? Does this mean we can no longer see eye to eye on anything?

Of course not. Because there’s always Swedish Fish Oreos that we can collectively agree are disgusting.

What’s that?

You like Swedish Fish Oreos?

Oh.

Well, okay then. I can respect that.

Agree to disagree.

The Election & What to do Now

When I woke up this past Tuesday, I had a knot in my stomach. For weeks it had seemed as though Election Day was always just out of sight, but suddenly I was awake in its hours, knowing my country would be different before I went to bed.

I brushed my teeth, ate breakfast, and read through my ballot book again, ensuring I was ready to vote later that afternoon, then I got in my car and went to work, just like any other day.

In the weeks leading up to Election Day, I’d seen celebrities and social media personalities alike sharing their voice and reminding everyone how important it was to vote. This is one thing I’ve always admired about election season, for even amongst all the phone calls and mail and lengthy commercials that come with the arrival of that second Tuesday in November, so to do we get an influx of reminders: Reminders that we have the right to vote. Reminders that we all need to stand together. Reminders that we can all be different. Reminders that we are all free to share our voices and that they will be heard.

On Tuesday night, as I sat in my favorite chair, staring at the television screen that glowed red, I again found that knot in my stomach, though it was farther removed from the results than one might think. I nodded my head, walked up the stairs to my room and fell asleep, anxious for what my world would be like in the morning. And when I woke up, it was even more disappointing than I could have imagined.

Venom. That’s the only word I can think of to describe what I saw and heard. Venom in the words spit by person after person and venom injected into those they were aimed at. And while I understood the disappointment, the fear, the hurt, I couldn’t fathom how any of this was helping.

These attacks aimed from American to American, brother to sister, what were they doing to heal the wounds of those who felt wounded? What good had it been to encourage people to vote, if persecution awaited them if that vote wasn’t “correct”? And how, after months of marrying the words of someone who has now become the new President with hate and malice and disgust, how did we seek to redeem those words by using them ourselves on one another?

When the results came through, I saw a lot of people claim our country was divided, now more than ever. And while I think the cracks in our unity shine through during every election season, as tensions are high and opinions are loud, it is not the results that are doing the dividing, it is what we are doing with them. Have we forgotten that we are not the opinions of one man or woman? We have never been the product of the actions of one single person. We have always been and always will be a collection of voices, actions, and opinions that make up one great nation. But if we continue let the fear of the presence of hate nourish the growth of it inside each of us, we risk uniting under the single thing that can destroy us.

So as we take our first few steps in the wake of these results, let us not forget that we are not strangers that need to walk silently and stiffly in avoidance of those who are different than us. For it is our differences that make us strong. It is our differences that make us great. And it is in times like these that we need those differences in order to find balance and unity, compromise and compassion. So no matter who you voted for, take time to find encouragement in the words from both parties, as they both have come forward to ignite hope and offer support, both for one another and our country as a whole, and we would do well to follow their example. For America is already great, but it can be greater. We are strong, but we are stronger together. And if we can find a way to unite, we can do anything.

From Senator Hillary Clinton:

“I still believe in America and I always will….And — and to all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.”

From President-Elect Donald Trump:

“Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division…To all Republicans and Democrats and Independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people.”

And from President Barack Obama:

“We’re not Democrats first, we’re not Republicans first. We’re Americans first. We’re patriots first.”