Finding My True Voice
There I was, standing on the bright lit stage, alone and staring out into blackness.
A voice spoke from the dark, “Okay, you can start.”
I jumped up in the air, “Boolah boolah, boolah boolah, Holy Mackel I, West Seattle High!”
I heard a voice inside my head, “What are you doing here?”
It kept going, “Why are you , Steve the Shy Guy, trying out for yell leader?”
I heard another voice answer back, “Because it’s the cool thing to be. Because my friends are trying out. Because maybe the girls will like me if I’m a yell leader.”
I finished the routine and stopped jumping. The voice from the dark said, “Thanks, we’ll let you know.”
Standing in the hallway with the other hopefuls, I already knew the answer, I was not a yell leader. This was soon confirmed by the posted list of new jumping jacks. My name was conspicuously absent.
In the continuing search for my authentic self I’ve discovered three ways to find my true voice.
First, discover what I’m not. The yell leader tryouts was an example of this. Yell leading was simply not my personality.
Number two on my list of finding my true voice is paying attention to what I really miss.
Last, find my bliss, what are those experiences that so stir my soul that I’m lost in ecstasy?
As a young boy, I was given a violin and told I was going to learn how to play it. I tried, but the resulting screeches drove even the dog mad. Is there any sound worse than a poorly violin? To the relief of many, I left the violin for the guitar which I found much easier to make melodious sounds. But after a time I realized that I was playing too much melancholy music. It was bringing me down. Yes, it was the sixties and there was lots of melodrama around. Then I was given a banjo.
The musical clouds parted and I was in a world where it seems no sad songs were possible. Really, have you ever heard a sombre song on a banjo?
I took the banjo everywhere, played it on lunch breaks on construction jobs, played bluegrass at a redneck bar in nowhere, Wyoming, my banjo was my constant companion.
Then, one day in Baker City, Oregon, one of many small towns I’ve bounced through in my mobile life, it was time to move again. Time to let everything go. We had a moving sale and the house was flooded with curious treasure seekers. I noticed a young family standing in the corner admiring my banjo. I walked over and said, “Hello.” I listened to their story. The father, not even thirty, was bald yet smiling radiantly. It seems he had just beaten cancer and suddenly the family could see the wonders of life again. He told me he’d always wanted to play the banjo. The banjo wasn’t for sale, so I simply gave it to him and wished them a full and happy life.
Many miles and months later I realized I needed a banjo in my life. It was my connection to an inner joy that fed my soul. I walked into a Portland, Oregon music store and found a used banjo had just been left for resale. It became my new banjo buddy.
Yes, sometimes we don’t know how important something is until it’s gone.
My last suggestion on finding our true voice is paying attention to what fills us with bliss, what are those experiences, those encounters that stir our souls and catapult us into worlds of peace and passion?
In younger years, I was plagued with the question, what shall I do with my life? Obviously, I wasn’t going to be a yell leader. I went to college and decided to be a dentist, that seemed like a helpful profession. Then it occurred to me I could be even more helpful as a doctor and followed that path. One day I found myself sitting in a crowded room taking the med school entrance test and I heard that voice again, “Why are you here?
I looked around, but no one was obviously talking to me. The voice again, “You don’t really want to be a doctor.”
A weak voice answered, “No.”
“You can’t stand the thought of spending more years with this bunch of zealous overachievers can you?”
A feeble reply, “No.”
I walked out and became a social worker, then a YMCA director. None of this work felt right, but it didn’t feel wrong, until I discovered architecture. By chance I applied to architecture school and was accepted. From the first moment I entered that world, I knew I was home. Architecture was my bliss. Architecture was truly my voice.
And so my life has revealed itself, I’ve found my path by discovering what I’m not, paying attention to what I’m missing, and done my best to follow my bliss. This is how I’ve found my authentic self
The epilogue to this story is that two years ago I lost my sight and with it my connection to the visual world of architecture I so long enjoyed. Admittedly, I was lost for a long time. Eventually, I began to consider the things that had guided me in life, to what had led me to my true voice, and realized I needed to start over again. I rejoined Toastmasters to surround myself with loving support and positive attitudes. There is no better place to explore one’s authenticity than in the fellowship of a Toastmasters meeting. In Toastmasters, the ultimate group to explore our authenticity.