An LDS college student tries to figure out how to open up her soul and let her real voice emerge.

First moment on earth, you take in a great gulp of air, instantaneously making the transition from amphibian to air-breathing mammal. While in the womb, we received our nutrition through fluids, no air passing through our vocal folds and so, we are unable to vocalize. But now, from this first, fresh swallow of a new atmosphere onward, though we do not yet know the language of this strange world we’ve entered, we can speak.

As an infant, life is pretty cut and dry. You feel acutely a need and at that exact moment voice it and continue to do so until the need is answered. You, the helpless little thing you are, have no tolerance for the pangs that come with a need so acute and so, you will not put up with them very long before you demand assistance. I wonder at what point I grew out of that. That idea that, not only is it ok to ask for help, but it is the only way to get just what you need. Twenty years later, and I sometimes don’t even recognize my needs anymore. They’ve become elusive and almost shameful to have, and so I’ve habitually tucked them where no one could find them, and now I don’t even remember where I put them.

It’s not just needs that I’ve tucked away, it’s my wants too (perhaps in the same clever hiding place). But now, I’ve reached this wall in my life where I’m no longer satisfied to just settle down and make camp, I want to climb it. I want to see what’s on the other side and I want to get to know the person that I’ll be when I get there. I want all of that and I don’t want to wait another minute to get it.

Somewhere between that first breath of air passing over my vocal chords and this moment, the ashamed, insecure and uncertain pieces of me convinced the noble and great pieces to keep my mouth shut. I’ve been holding back the things that I thought would be unpopular, and have become satisfied with mediocrity because it seemed safe. I have a roommate whose boyfriend is so worried that what he says will seem boring, that he just never speaks, and when I try and consider what I know about him, he does seem pretty boring—not because he’s a failed conversationalist, but because I don’t know a thing about him.

I think I’ve become the same way (only worse because it’s on a larger scale). I have lots of wonderful things inside me that I want to share and explore and draw freely from, but some subconscious, terrified part of me has actually sustained every hit and rejection I’ve received in my life with or without conscious disappointment, has concluded it’d be better not to proceed. It’s easier and less painful to just sit tight and wait for life to carry me somewhere at least mildly amusing, so I can live out an ordinary existence, carefully stifling my extraordinary qualities. 

When it was time to turn in the finished tracks for his newest album, Michael Jackson said that Thriller sounded so bad to him that it brought him to tears, but they were up against a deadline and CBS was ready to finish putting the album together and release it. Under that sort of pressure, I probably would have just left well enough alone and thought “I’ll just do better next time,” but despite huge complaints from the record company, he decided to pull it back and do it until he got it right, no matter the consequences. That album later became, and still is, the best-selling album of all time.

I don’t know if some lazy, lethargic part of me is afraid of the responsibility that would come with my releasing great power, but frankly I don’t care. I’m ready to be powerful and empowered and capable and I don’t care who knows it. I would like to be the kind of person who isn’t satisfied with sub-par when I know I could produce something better and be something more. I’m ready to free what I’ve really got in me and most of all, I’m ready to remind my underused vocal folds (that were, in there infantile state, so eager for usage) that I have something worth saying, and now is the time to say it.

Mariah Proctor is a junior at Brigham Young University and writes regularly for Meridian Magazine.