Yesterday, I came across this Kenyon confession, and it upset me. It upset me because I disagreed, and I didn’t think I could find the words to say why.
So I tried to come up with a few. I drafted some sentences. I swapped simple descriptors for powerful ones, added and then took away commas, threw in some capital letters for emphasis. I deleted, then typed, then deleted again. All in all, I puzzled over one Facebook comment for about fifteen to twenty minutes.
Finally, I deemed the comment an acceptable representation of myself. I pressed the enter key. I closed my laptop.
I’ve always felt silenced by the power of words, unable to say how I felt because I knew, somehow, my thoughts would come out jumbled and misshapen. I speak my mind in front of my friends, but every time some “unreachably articulate” acquaintance I have a serious discussion, I feel unqualified to participate. Have I read enough about this subject? Do I have my adjectives in order? Am I going to offend someone? Have I considered all viewpoints on the topic in question? My insecurity answers “no” to each question before I can say anything. I shrink into the background of the conversation.
The comment I posted yesterday was far from perfect. The sentence structure was abhorrent, the main points were disorganized, and I used the word “absolutely,” like, a million times. But so far, over fifty people have liked it.
More comments came in, too. They got as much attention as mine did. A dialogue was started, perfection of expression notwithstanding, People from all sides of the issue spoke directly and respectfully with one another. Each was heard, and each had supporters.
I think I speak for everyone who participated in this discussion when I say thank you, Kenyon. Thank you for making us feel like our opinions are worth hearing despite their flaws. Even though a few likes on Facebook is a small feat in this big world, they have, at the very least, made me (and I suspect others) feel much more able to say what’s on my mind, no matter how great the scope of the topic.
The Respectful Difference Facebook page encourages us as Kenyon students to “own our opinions and listen carefully to responses.” We shouldn’t feel ashamed and berated, like the commenter above was attempting to make us feel, but accepted, no matter how inarticulate our thoughts are. As long as we make an effort to listen, we should be listened to.
So, thanks for listening. I really, really appreciate it.