On my list of thirty things to do before I turn 30, #15 says: find my voice and stand up for what I know is right.
A couple of months ago I was standing outside on a bitter cold winter evening. The snow covered mountains were my surroundings and the chilling wind was my enemy. I was with a group of about 12 friends and we were standing around a fire. Our purpose for standing out in the cold for hours after the sun went down: to walk across burning hot coals in our bare feet. As we built up the fire and then waited for it to burn down to just coals we had the chance to just hang out and look across the sky that was full of bright stars. Despite the cold, it was a perfect night. I was breathing fresh air, I felt more alive being out in the mountains and I was shivering both from the cold and from the anticipation for walking across hot coals.
When the wood was finally finished burning it was time to take off my shoes and socks. My toes instantly turned into icicles. I stood up and look at the burning coals. They were dancing. It was mesmerizing. I watched the orange heat moving around and I thought about why I was there. What was I doing walking across burning hot coals in my bare feet? I took a deep breath and looked across to the other side of the coals. What was on the other side? What was I willing to walk on hot coals for? I knew right away what my purpose was in that moment.
On the other side of those hot coals was my voice. It is something I have been searching for my whole life but have never quite found it. I have had experiences in my life where I knew if I just opened my mouth it would make a difference, but I’ve chosen to remain quiet. At some point in my life I had silenced my inner voice, afraid of rejection and being misunderstood. I figured staying quiet was my way of playing peacemaker. But instead, I was playing small.
When I looked across those coals and saw my voice I felt my heart come back to life. Excitement filled my whole being as I realized that my voice is still there, waiting for me to let it be heard. My mind was suddenly racing with ideas that I had always been afraid to tell anyone and with words of kindness I had always wanted to speak to those I love most. I know that if I say what I really want to say I can make a difference in this world. I just have to let it out!
In this moment of clarity I felt strength and determination. My focus was on my voice and I took a step forward and walked across those burning hot coals. It was a powerful experience. I felt powerful. I craved to have my voice back. My heart hungered to be heard. I made it across those dancing hot coals and my feet remained in perfect condition. I was alive. I am alive! My voice is back and I CHOOSE TO BE HEARD!
Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.
~ Barbara Kingsolver