“Most of the frustration I experience as a writer is a fight with identity. It takes a long time to figure out what your REAL voice is.” – Donald Miller.
There’s this one memory I have from college, one that will probably always be engrained somewhere in the fibers of who I’m in this constant process of becoming.
It was my senior year of college, and I was a music major. A great friend of mine was working on a 20th century piece, utilizing the sounds of various people screaming. To help him with the piece, he asked some of us to volunteer to come in and be recorded screaming. This only really makes sense if you’ve ever been a music major taking Music Theory IV, I realize. But we did it, much to the dismay of our voice studio and choir professors. And it was a truly hilarious endeavor, as everyone laughed about what everyone else sounded like screaming. Boys screaming like girls, girls screaming like they were in a low-budget horror film.
I remember walking into that room, and standing in front of the microphone. Waiting for Caleb to give me the go-ahead. Seeing him nod, and screaming…bloody…murder.
I remember hearing that sound come out of my throat, and not even recognizing it as my own voice. It was this absolutely agonizing sound, low and throaty and barely hanging on the edge of a sob. I remember seeing Caleb’s eyes widen a little bit. Walking out of that room without looking at anyone, curling up on the floor in a quit corner of the building and crying like a child.
In the middle of the hardest year of my life, that scream was the sound of an intended life crumbling, of dreams dying slowly and painfully, of a spirit being caught in the rubble. That scream was the sound of loss and hurt and anger and betrayal and a person becoming real. The sound of a girl who had staked her whole life on a pretty voice, on an appealing character, on being the one who was never needy or demanding or too much, on being the girl who never became real enough to make anyone around her feel uncomfortable.
That scream was the first moment that I stopped caring what my voice sounded like.
And to this day, that process is still in motion, though in a far less literal way. I still struggle with the need for approval, for my voice to be one that is universally appealing. Slowly but surely, God is breaking down that compulsion, and teaching me that the world is far more in need of another voice that speaks truth boldly and fearlessly than it is of another voice that speaks what everyone wants to hear.