In years past, I’ve had the experience of being mother to a newborn. I spoke to my baby on a regular basis. I spoke to my husband on a regular basis. I did not speak to my child the same way I spoke to my husband. And yet each voice was truly, authentically me.
In eighth grade, I was laughing about something with my classmates. I said some word—I don’t remember what it was anymore. It started with an o. Probably obstinate or obnoxious or oblivious. My friend said with a touch of both humor and frustration, “Speak English!” It startled me that I hadn’t hit my mark when it came to conversation. It was a turning point in the way I thought about what I say when and where. I didn’t feel guilty for knowing whatever that word was, and I wasn’t about to pretend I didn’t know it. But it made me think about communication and consideration in new ways.
In graduate studies, my degree brought me into the classrooms of (to simplify) three different departments. To simplify even more, most of my professors came from two different schools of thought when it came to writing essays and the like. Style, subject, and even syntax varied when it came to professor expectations. When I accidentally wrote in one way for the other school of thought, it was instantly apparent in the feedback I received. By the time I was ready to graduate, one of my biggest successes, in my mind, was that I finally learned to navigate how to write in each case. This came up in a class discussion, where we were asked which style was more “real.” I made a point to say that I claimed both as my own. I am still myself writing in either way. They were two voices for the same person.
So in case you were wondering about this blog post title . . . yes. It was intentional to make “voice” plural. While the term “voice” has countless meanings and connotations in our world today, there is a huge emphasis on finding your voice. I agree that this is important, but I challenge us all to make sure that as we discover what makes our voice distinct, we don’t limit ourselves to just one voice. We can use multiple voices, and they can all be true and authentic in their own way.
What affects which voice I use when? In addition to the hints above, I’ll be writing about that next.