Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Express Yourself (cont.)
The other day I wrote about Malcolm X's experience as he learned to express himself in more than one way. In class, I ask students to write about a time when they had trouble expressing themselves; how did they deal with it?
Me, I was immediately taken back to my first day of fourth grade. Even though I was in the same house as the year before, I had a new bus route. I wasn't supposed to ride the 113 anymore. Unsure of what bus I was supposed to ride--and too shy to ask--I stood, paralyzed, until I was approached by the vice principal.
"Do you know which bus to ride?"
"The 117, I think."
She turned to another teacher: "Does that sound right?" She turned back to me and asked which bus I rode last year.
She ushered me onto the bus, number 113. I saw some familiar faces, but only a couple, and none of the kids who got off at the same stop or in the same neighborhood as me. I had never ridden a bus with all white people before.
I knew I was on the wrong bus, but I didn't know how to say it. Instead, I took my seat. The bus took an unfamiliar path, and I got off at the first stop and began walking.
My shyness never went away. Every day, words choke in my throat. I am unable to say exactly what I want to. Whether standing in front of a room full of students or being introduced to a group of would-be friends, I feel a disconnect between my thoughts and speech.
But I am still able to express myself. The words that don't come out of my mouth come pouring through my arms and fingertips and to the keyboard and onto the screen. With a push of a button, those words are sent across the United States, to Scotland, and to Kenya. I am able to share my thoughts and feelings with a much larger audience.
Simultaneously, a strange thing has happened: the more I write, the less of a disconnect I feel between what I think and what comes out of my mouth. The fear will never go away--in some ways, it drives me!--but saying what I want when I want is a good thing, in whatever medium it takes.