Hi friends, welcome back to Absolutely Azanique. The past two weeks or so have been INSANE to say the least. In the midst of such a busy time of the year, conference after forum after summit after meetings, while connecting with many strong, successful, women professionals, I found myself wondering “When was it that I found my voice?” So many times we hear the successful women & men we look up to say they found their voice once they wrote book or taught their first college class or landed a huge job in D.C. – but what about me?
For us normal people, meaning not super famous or successful yet, it may be hard to think about finding your voice or why your voice matters when you can’t reach millions of Twitter followers, get hundreds of views on your Instagram videos or thousands of screenshots on your Snapchat stories. But the truth is, the earlier you find your voice, the better it will be for yourself and your future influencers. I wondered, how can I help someone find their voice now, when they are yearning to be heard and yearning to be acknowledged and yearning to be understood.
So, back to this title. How I found my voice as a ___________________.Why I left the last word out was for a few reasons. 1 – I am more than just one thing (obvi) Yes, I am a student but I am also a woman, a friend, a mentor, an employee, a college professional, an extern, a campus leader and now, a College Lifestyle Blogger. 2 – I want you to add your own title to that blank space. For some of my sorority friends, they think people won’t listen to them because they are just a sorority girl. They fail to miss the point that on lots of campuses, being a sorority girl (Black, White, Latina, Honors, Professional or Service) gives you an additional platform to stand upon to raise your voice. Or maybe you think, I’m just a college student. Hm, I dare you to try and find out how many people are just college students. Those college students just like you, are your audience. Those are the people you can stand up for. Those are the people who will believe in you because they are just like you facing the same troubles, trials & difficult times, just like you.
How I found my voice as a student – When I first started college, I felt like a baby tiger in a cage of walruses, giraffes, chickens and zebras. I knew I had fire, passion and strength inside of me, but I felt like a outsider. I felt foreign to this new world of bigger and stronger animals. I felt lost in the mix of 28,000+ students. After the first 2 years, I gave up on all the pointless clubs & activities because I want to only join student organizations that had a true vision or dedication to helping others or were honors related to my major(s). In January 2015, a new organization, She’s The First, was started on my campus and I instantly found my niche. She’s The First is non-profit organization that sponsors girls education in low income countries by having campus chapters do various fundraisers. Not only were we giving back, but also we were speaking up on behalf of our scholars and the global organization, saying that educating a girl is important and should be happening all over the world. There are 62+ million girls around the world who are not in primary or secondary school. That just doesn’t sit well with me.
During my time with this organization, I was elected Global Awareness Program Chair, which meant that I would engage in conversation (via the internet) with other GAP chairs in the nation to discuss multiple issues girls & women face in any given country. I would then find a creative way to bring the information I learned back to my campus group to educate them and figure out how we could help on our part, as well as spread awareness. I knew this would be how I found my voice on my campus. Not only did my members make me feel appreciated, they brought their ideas to the table every time, shared honest emotions with me, forwarded me more information that they found on their own, brainstormed with me on ideas to make my GAP discussions better – I couldn’t have been happier. I thought “Wow, this could not get any better” – But then it did.
This weekend, 6 of our board members attended the 5th Annual She’s The First Leadership Summit in New York City. We attended various workshops, group discussions, brainstorming activities, professional development groups and an award ceremony. I knew in my heart that our group was special and so did we, but I could have never imagined what would happen at the award ceremony. Out of 200 chapters, 5 awards were giving out. As they discussed the 4th award winner, their techniques for GAP discussions, their marvelous activities & their willingness to contribute to the overall group & vision of She’s The First, I thought “Wow, I have got to meet this girl/guy! I would love to learn from them.” Just then, they announced my campus chapter.
For a second, the whole world stopped and it was only me in the room. I was filled with anxiety and confusion because there was no way I could have won that. I thought, I don’t nearly work hard enough or am smart enough or creative enough with new bold content & ideas. But when it finally hit me, I realized that all times I felt helpless, like a baby tiger in a cage of vicious animals; All the times I felt like the most unintelligent person in the room with my honor society friends; All those times just didn’t matter anymore. To me, this was more than an award in a beautiful frame, more than a time to stand amongst my peers, more than just a picture to take with a fancy back drop – it was validation. Validation that staying up until 2 am planning group activities was worth it. Embarrassing myself in front of peers was worth it. And that giving up on all the negative things from before were worth it. All this time, I had been searching and yearning for a voice on campus. Little did I know, my voice was already there. I just needed the perfect platform to use it and now I am thankful to have found it.
I say all this because maybe you think that only being a sorority girl, you have no voice. Or that only being a freshman, you have no voice. Or only being a second-string athlete, you have no voice. But honestly – that couldn’t be further from the truth. You do have a voice. You have an amazing & inspiring voice that you can use to change world. Your voice, your story, your past, your problems, your downfalls, your shortcomings, your mistakes – they will help change someone else’s life. They will help someone else learn about your amazing organization, sisterhood, philanthropy, addiction, journey, love of God, favorite ice cream or whatever you are passionate about. In a campus with 400+ student organizations, there is somewhere you fit in. With 15+ club sports, there is somewhere you fit in. With 100+ majors, there is somewhere you fit in. & if you can’t find that space, create it.
So I’ll leave you with this: Just because your voice isn’t the loudest in the room, does not mean that it doesn’t matter.
As for me, I’m still finding my voice as a part-time student employee, where all my colleagues are full-time, educated professionals. I’m still finding my voice as a woman. I’m still finding my voice as a blogger and content creator. But I am excited because I know, once I find it – I will be a force to be reckoned with and I will not, not ever, let anyone take that away from me.
As always guys, feel free to email or tweet or message or DM or Snapchat me if you have questions, comments or concerns. I hope that you are able to find your voice and use it for empowerment in the near future!