If you’re reading this, what you have to say matters.
To say I struggled while writing this is an understatement. I began writing this seven different ways in the course of three days, trying to muster up something worthwhile, something that wouldn’t show how average I feel and wouldn’t waste someone’s time if they chose to click on my letter.
I’ve always seen myself as average – grade wise, family wise, experience wise. I grew up as a very shy child – to the point where people believed I was mute. Being sent to spend the first few years of my life in China with my grandparents has caused me to be very soft spoken, given that Mandarin and the Asian lifestyle were all I knew when I moved back to the U.S. When I did get back, I was very agreeable and I did not know how to stand up for myself, even when my dad tried to give me that bowl cut that I never wanted when I was six. I kept to myself a lot, and because other people made the decisions, my only job was to agree, which resulted in me being very doubtful of my ability to make choices or bring up my issues. Being indecisive led me to believe that if I couldn’t make a decision for myself, I would never be able to contribute something worthwhile to a discussion or have someone care for what I had to say.
Doubt sets in like a storm when I think about coming up with something to say. I find myself thinking, rethinking, overthinking – finally finding myself with something to say only when everyone else has already moved on. Oftentimes, I end up bottling it all up until I can’t handle it mentally and break down. This has become almost routine.
This is something I’m still working on, to move past the idea that what I have to say has to matter to everyone.
The truth is that it doesn’t – not everyone will be interested in what you say but there are people that care. Whether it’s a dad joke that might get few appreciative laughs or it’s your anxieties, there is always someone who will listen. It does take time to find the right crowd, but they are out there. Heck, it could be me.
I would just like to point out that this is the most I’ve written out of the seven times that I’ve started this letter without restarting.
I’ve failed in my attempts to speak out on more occasions than I could count, from elementary school to high school. Even as vice president of my class, I struggle to express my concerns to the council. The constant seeking of validation is my shadow and I’m worried about how people will take my ideas, worried that I’m telling them something they already know or providing inarticulate, unintellectual information that no one would understand in the first place. If I couldn’t contribute to a classroom discussion, how could I present an idea that would be appreciated by a class of almost 4,000?
The truth is that I can do it, whether it’s a preliminary idea to act as a starting point for a class event or telling my family that I’m struggling with almost every aspect of my life – which is the truth – I’ve come to the realization that sharing is better than not telling anyone. I’m still skeptical if this is what I want to put in this letter but if you’re reading this, you’ve helped me get this far, and I’m so thankful for you and know that I’m here to listen to what you need to say.
Jennifer L., University of Virginia ‘22