Those who are somewhat close to me surely know two things about me.
Number one, I enjoy writing. Some would even say I’m a good writer. It is my job, and it’s something I’ve grown in and do quite a bit.
Number two, I don’t talk a whole lot.
I’ve always been pretty shy — throughout middle school and high school, I struggled at times to make conversation with others and speak up. I’ve gotten considerably better since then, but I still get really nervous sometimes when I have to speak semi-publicly. I’ve taken a public speaking class, and forced myself to speak more often, but it’s still a battle.
However, this is where it gets a bit complex. In the past few years, I’ve been a bit more vocal. Not only is this because I enjoy giving my opinions on things I’m passionate about, but some level of vocalness is required when you’re in a position of leadership.
In assessing myself, I’d say I do a fine job of speaking out loud.
That being said, there’s another thing I’ve noticed about myself: I do a lot better speaking out when I do so through writing. When I truly started to embrace my identity as a Black man, I expressed it through a letter from the editor. When I had an issue with the lack of media coverage of an important event, I took to writing a Twitter thread.
By itself, this isn’t an issue at all. Most times, writing is advantageous because it is my job, it helps me reach the most people and I can take time with what I want to say. However, there’s been times when I’ve used writing as a crutch of sorts — as a way of avoiding expressing things verbally to another person or group of people.
The things I’ve written have included details that I haven’t told pretty much anybody before. Of course, I’m not unleashing huge secrets in articles, but I’m giving smaller details about myself that I can struggle to be vulnerable with when talking with friends or family.
This doesn’t make much sense. Why would I be more comfortable talking about myself on a larger platform, where plenty of people I don’t know will read it, versus talking with someone close to me who I know cares?
I can’t fully explain it, but that’s just how it is sometimes. Part of the reason is that it’s terrifying to muster up the courage to talk to someone and seeing their reaction in real time.
I’d also say it has something to do with being too much of a perfectionist. When I have the chance to sit down and write my thoughts, I can go back, reword things, reorder ideas and take time with the language I’m using to express myself as clearly as possible.
That doesn’t exist in oral expression. As I should, I can take time with what I’m going to say, and reword things if I stumble (which happens often), but once I open my mouth and let various sounds come out of it, they’re out there for good. That can be really scary when you aren’t confident in using your voice.
This isn’t to say I can’t, or don’t, express myself imperfectly when I type things out. There’s been countless times where I’ve looked back on something I wrote and thought I could have expressed an idea clearer.
I’m trying to find a balance. There’s a significant gap between how confident I feel about expressing myself through writing versus orally. I’m attempting to close that. While I won’t stop feeling confident in my ability to write a wonderful article about myself, I’m trying to match that energy in my vocal expression.
To do that, I’ve had to learn to embrace the hard parts of speaking out loud as the most important parts. There’s something great about being able to communicate your emotions in the most raw way possible. Once again, it’s necessary to think about what you are saying before you do so, but it’s okay to talk out loud and not sound perfect. None of us do or ever will.
This is important to me as a Black man, too. Over the past year or so, there have been countless examples of racism that have angered me and made me emotional, and there’s power in being able to talk about those things out loud. While sometimes I don’t even know what to say, personally talking to people that either are going through the same things or are willing to listen is a really comforting and even freeing experience.
I guess it’s a bit ironic that I’m saying all this through yet another article. That being said, I’m looking forward to learning more about how to use my voice effectively and continuing to express myself in a way true to who I am.
Talk to you later,
Drake Keeler is the senior sports editor for The Daily Nebraskan. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.