I Found My Voice While Advocating For The Voiceless

I Found My Voice While Advocating For The Voiceless

I stopped being a "bossy girl" and started being a strong woman.

From the moment I was old enough to speak, I’ve had people calling me bossy. Maybe it’s because I’m an older sister. Maybe it’s because when my dad was deployed I felt like I needed to help my mom. Or maybe I really am just bossy.

During my senior year of high school, I had a conversation with my uncle about his then 4-year-old daughter — when he picked her up from school, her teacher told him that she was bossy. She was labeled with the B-word just like I always had been.

I was in middle school when the word really started to eat away at me. In classes, I still jumped at the opportunity to be a group leader, but when I thought about it later, I’d wish I had just stayed quiet. I should’ve let someone else volunteer. No one likes a bossy girl.

This continued into high school, and I found myself consistently making excuses to not try out for a play, not speak up about anything in my friend group, and to not try anything new. Thankfully, that didn’t last too long.

When I was 16, my psychology teacher approached me with the idea to start a Z Club at my high school. I was skeptical because number one I had no clue what a Z Club was and two I had no clue how to lead one, but I said yes anyway.

It turns out, Z Club ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me. The club advocates for women on a local, national, and global level. I was elected president and my best girlfriends were elected vice president, secretary, and treasurer. Together, the four of us organized events and volunteer opportunities for all the girls in the club.

During our first year as a chartered club, my school’s Z Club chapter participated in Operation Beautiful to increase self-love around our campus. We raised money for victims of rape in our area. We created a visual display in honor of every woman who died as a result of domestic violence the previous year in our state alone - there were 56 silhouettes covering the halls of our cafeteria. We volunteered at our local food bank. We participated in Sole Hope where we made the soles of shoes out of old tires and sent them to Uganda for women to complete for work, then the shoes were given to those who needed them.

During my two years as president of Z Club, I realized that I was the most empowered and the most confident that I’d ever been in my life when I was speaking and advocating for the voiceless.

That’s when it hit me. I’m not “bossy.” I’m a leader.

I learned that on a day to day basis, I don’t need anyone else’s permission to be myself, voice my opinions, or make myself heard.

I think about my strong, witty, and oh-so-loved 5-year-old cousin who already has a label that she’ll be unable to shake for years to come. I think about all of the other “bossy” little girls who just want to direct the class plays, be the line-leader, and read the story to the class. I can’t help but wonder, why are we discouraging this?

Why are we dismissing this attitude as if it’s something negative instead of teaching young girls how to redirect their skills and desires into something that is inclusive? Why aren’t we teaching our girls to be leaders?

Cover Image Credit: Leigh Anne Hardwick

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A Letter To The Tomboy I Used To Be

To that girl with the baseball hat, board shorts, and grass stains, thank you.

To the tomboy I used to be,

Thank you so much for making me the strong, beautiful, determined, and badass girl I am today. I am proud of who you've become. It is because of you that I can stand on my own two feet. It is because of you that I am not afraid to stand up for what I believe in. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

You were never easy to deal with. Mom and Dad had a lot to handle growing up. It was Dad who had to fight for you to be able to play boys' baseball. It was Mom who had to stand up to the boys that were mean to you for playing a boys' sport. It was both of them who had to cart you around to all of your games and practices, because playing one sport a season was just not enough. It was Mom who had to wash your clothes endless times, because the grass and dirt stains would never come out the first time. Don't ever forget who helped you become who you are.

Your attitude and thought process is very different from that of most girls. You grew up dealing with your problems through wrestling or fighting. Pettiness was not something you could deal with. Your anger came from losing a game, not drama with girls. You didn't understand why girls fought, or were so mean to each other, and to this day, you still don't understand it. You are different. You aren't like most girls by any means, which can be difficult for you, even now. You are so much tougher. You think differently. You are determined.

I love who you turned into. You are so strong; you handle everything with such passion and grit, that I can't help but thank you. Thank you for pushing yourself, and for not letting anything or anyone get in your way. The boys were mean sometimes, and the girls talked about you, but that never fazed you. That chip on your shoulder only made you strive even harder for greatness.

Thank you for making me unique. Thank you for making me extraordinary. Thank you for making me, me.



Cover Image Credit: tumblr

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I Found My Voice When I Was Diagnosed With Muscular Dystrophy

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I have always had a love and passion for writing since I was little. Probably as early as third grade. I would always write makeup stories about monsters and typical third-grade stuff. My third-grade teacher, Mrs. Strobbe saw my potential. Her class was hard but it pushed me to become a better writer. Rarely anyone got an A in her class and I had received an A in that class. Then as time went on, I pushed away from writing just because I didn't think I could make way with a career of writing - obviously I was wrong.

I began on the teaching path the rest of my elementary years. (Yes, I've had an idea of what I wanted to do when I was just in elementary, call me crazy.) In 6th grade, I still thought teaching was the way to go. At the time was going through a rough patch- getting spinal fusion and getting diagnosed with MD. It was a lot for a 12 or 13-year-old to handle. I had a lot of thoughts and feelings.

My mom had encouraged me to write again whether in a blog or writing in a journal. I had decided to write in a blog and it felt really good to write again. I only talked about my surgery because I wasn't quite ready to share the whole MD ordeal yet to the whole world. Close family knew but my friends had no clue.

I got into high school and students even teachers would ask me "Why are you riding the elevator?" Why this and that. I didn't really share much because I was afraid people would think differently of me. But I was tired of people asking me. I then wrote a piece on social media and put my story out there for the world and it felt amazing. I finally found my voice and I was loving writing more than ever. It was because I had the courage to speak up and stop hiding. I needed to share what I have been through and teach people to learn to embrace what they've got no matter who you are. I wanted to be the person to make a positive impact on people who have diseases and those who don't understand what it's like having a disability through the power of writing. I wanted to have the power to tell people's unique stories who may be afraid to speak up for themselves or share their story.

My goal when I write is to hopefully make a difference in someone's life or just someone that can be relatable. In high school, I am also highly involved in publications ie being Co-Editor-In-Chief for the Magazine for the last four years and it was a huge game changer as well, I never thought that I could make a living and realistically have a job In the journalism field. Being in publications was an eye-opener. It lead me to so many opportunities- writing for Newsboys, going to Mizzou for Journalism field trips etc. It made me fall in love with writing even more than I had. For me, writing is everything to me and I know I wouldn't be the same person or even the writer I am today without sharing my story.

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