My Voice Matters- Guest Writer Justin Wasson

Justin Wasson, 18, will be attending Ithaca College in the fall of 2017. He plans to study Theater or Psychology with a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies. Whatever he does, Justin is determined to help people find their voice.

I have endured 12 years of school.

Most of which was structured and orderly. We would sit in rows, learn about specific topics, learn some more, have a test and do it all over again. A new topic that was taught using the same repetitive process. However, this wasn’t the way I learned in English this year.

There were a lot of useful skills I learned in English this year. I learned how to fall asleep virtually anywhere, how to wait for the last minute to hand in all assignments (although I had some earlier experience in this department), and how to get into heated discussions about gender roles.

But the most valuable lesson I will take from this year’s English class isn’t a skill that most teachers focus on teaching. Rather than a specific skill or topic or lesson, the most important thing I learned this year was a realization about myself.

I learned that my voice matters.

Throughout English class we focused on storytelling. We focused on our own stories as well as the stories of others. Throughout all those stories I learned how to find, to tell my own story. I didn’t realize at first, probably because I was sleeping in the back corner, how other people’s stories taught me a lot about myself.

Maybe not in a profound, “Wow, I relate so much and my entire life’s purpose is changed now” type of way, but in a way that showed me everyone’s story matters. Including my own.

I grew up bullied.

Bullied in school, summer camps, even my own home. Those years of bullying taught me that if I shrink myself down and stay quiet, there’s less material for people to use to against me.

That’s how I lived my life for a long time. Quiet. Small. I believed what I had to say wasn’t important or was wrong. I denied the power that resided in me.

As I matured, I became more comfortable, but I still didn’t think that my story really mattered to anyone else. Before senior English I never really thought that everyone, including myself, has an important story that should be shared rather than festering inside.

Through the stories of others and the things I’ve learned this year, I realized my story isn’t something I just have to accept and move on with silently. My story is unique to me and it should be told because it absolutely matters. I see my story now as a vehicle that can help others navigate their own lives, their own struggles, just like the stories of others have helped me.

I have endured 12 years of school.

I forget most of what I have learned.

But I learned something that cannot be graded or found in a textbook.

I learned that I should not remain silent and hide my story.

I learned that my voice isn’t something insignificant.

I learned that my voice is powerful and fierce and harbors incredible potential.