Eye-Opening Moments are real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives intertwined. In this episode you will hear about Speak and Be Heard and Just Like Miss Rumphius.
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Hello and welcome to episode #65 of Eye-Opening Moments where you’ll hear real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives intertwined. They are moments that can lift your spirits, give you some food for thought, or move you. For the introspective mind that likes to reflect, discover, and find solutions or meaning in a complex life, this is for you. I’m your host Emily Kay Tan. In this episode, you will hear about Speak and Be Heard and Just Like Miss Rumphius.
Speak and be Heard
If you are afraid of public speaking, nervous, or uncomfortable about it, hear my story. Maybe you will change your mind or overcome your fear when you look through my lenses and catch a glimpse of how I see it.
Sitting in a meeting with a group of five people, I was to give suggestions and feedback while designing a workbook. Whenever I gave a suggestion, the lead person of the meeting, Belinda, would ignore it like she didn't hear it or ask Amelia if she agreed with my idea or suggestion. If she agreed, then it was accepted. This happened often, and I fumed inside. It was a slow-burning fume that got hotter and hotter. Not only was my voice unheard, but I felt humiliated. My years of experience and knowledge were more than Amelia's; my expertise exceeds the years she has been alive. The other two participants didn't get much of a say, too. It seemed like Belinda was running the show and only cared for Amelia's comments. The rest of us were robots. Being unheard, I spoke louder, and Belinda still ignored me. I said, "You don't listen to what I say." Belinda dismissed my words some more. I got so angry that I shut down. I stopped talking and became a wallflower.
Sitting like a wallflower brought me back to a picnic scene when I was nine. Auntie Cassie was preparing for a summer picnic; Auntie Tessa, Grandma Sandy, and I gathered around the kitchen table to discuss it. I suggested having chicken wings, a fruit salad in a watermelon basket, and fat white noodles. I said we could bring games like Candyland and Operation. Nobody responded to my ideas. I said it again and then again. Then Auntie Cassie said, "Shhhh!" She told me to be quiet as they had to hurry and decide what to buy before the supermarket closed. Auntie Cassie shushed me; I was hurt, and I shut down. My ideas were ignored and didn't matter. If they didn't matter, I didn't matter either. I became a quiet person and lost my voice.
Back to the meeting with Belinda and company: I spoke aloud but was still unheard. The nine-year-old me didn't know what to do. The adult me has been subjected to that kind of treatment a number of times, but I now say, "Enough is enough! I will tolerate it no longer!" Rather than continuing to endure and tolerate being ignored and humiliated, I removed myself from the group of five. Brenda, another participant, did, too. By leaving, I was saying that I would not put up with being ignored any longer. I have a voice, and I want to be heard.
"Where can I find comfort? Where can my voice be heard?" I asked myself. The little girl in me didn't know the answer. The adult me dreamed of becoming a professional public speaker but had no idea how to become one. I could only dream. I dreamed of speaking before a crowd of people, and thousands of eyes would focus on listening to what I had to say. It would be the most incredible dream come true if that were to happen.
The mature me found myself on stage before an audience of two hundred. I know I was nervous because I was trembling a bit. I could feel my insides vibrate, and my hands were shaking slightly. Though it seemed like I was shivering from cold temperatures when it was not cold, I was simultaneously excited to give a speech. My eyes gleamed with joy; I was thrilled. Though I was nervous and afraid I might forget all the words in my prepared speech, I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to demonstrate full self-expression.
It was my first area speech competition in Toastmasters International, a public speaking platform. I joined six months before the contest and got qualified to compete. I found myself trembling as I stood before the audience, so I paused, looked at the audience, and moved my head from right to left. They were silent, and all were looking at me. Hurray! I have their attention, and I haven't even said anything yet! Someone offered me a microphone, and I shook my head to suggest that I didn't need it. I have a voice; I can project it because I want to be heard. I am tired of thoughts and ideas stuck inside my head where no one can hear them. I am tired of being ignored when I have a voice that wants to be heard. I was ready to step up.
As I began speaking, my voice trembled a bit, and soon it was steady. As if I was an actor, I immersed myself in my character. The story was about me. I moved from a child to a teenager, a college student, a teacher, and a businesswoman. I reflected and felt a child's ideas and feelings unheard in my picnic scene. As a teenager in college, I remember when my professor asked for my opinion. As a teacher, in front of students, I felt comfortable and at home with them. I began giving presentations and training in business and felt satisfaction and fulfillment like never before. My speech was entitled I Have a Voice.
I was ignored when I shared my excitement to picnic with family members by suggesting what foods and games to bring. I repeated myself to no avail. Auntie Cassie shushed me when she said they had to hurry and decide what to buy before the grocery store closed. I was silenced, and my ideas were ignored. Remembering the pain of being silenced, I was on the verge of tears and paused a moment before continuing to speak with a trembling voice.
In the next moment, I carried on with hope in my voice as a professor asked for my thoughts and opinions about ideas related to child psychology. Soon I was smiling with words about myself as a teacher who loved working with children. I felt at home with them. As a businesswoman, my voice began to show strength and confidence. I was a determined mature woman. By the end of my speech, the applause was just noise to me. What mattered wasn't if I did a good speech; it was that I had the chance to fully self-express and be heard.
After all the contestants gave their speeches, awards were next. Pleasantly surprised; I won first place in the competition! Soon people were out of their seats to leave. To my astonishment, many people came to me to tell me that I had moved and inspired them. Most unexpected were the comments that they identified with my feelings of having an unheard voice. I thought I was the only person with an unheard voice. The reactions had me realize for the first time that I was not alone in wanting to be heard. My feelings and thoughts were not unique, and it was comforting to know that I am like other human beings. Had I not given the speech, I would still be in the dark!
Back at the kitchen table where my family was planning for a summer picnic, I had ideas to contribute, but no one listened. Told to shut up, I shut down and lost my voice at an early age. At only eight, I didn't have a voice that mattered. If my voice didn't matter, then my existence didn't seem to matter either. Without a voice, I longed to have one. I had many ideas and nowhere to send them.
If your voice was ever silenced, I believe you would want someone to hear you. If you ever wanted to express something but never did, you could appreciate the opportunity to speak your voice.
Have you ever said something, and no one paid attention to it? What if they heard it and chose to ignore it or deem it unimportant? It was horrifying as a child, and as an adult, it is unnerving to me! If I talk, I want to be heard, don't you? Look through my window and see that public speaking is one place others can hear you. Publishing your writing and podcasting are also places to have your voice heard.
Being silenced as a child was like being in jail; being trapped in a place you couldn't get out of was no picnic. Expressing my voice through public speaking, writing, and podcasting is like a bird in a cage set free. And the bird always had the power to unlock the door but didn't know it. Now I know I can open the door to freedom and soar like never before.
You, too, have a voice. You have a hidden voice, an unspoken voice, an unheard voice, and an inner voice that need to be heard. Speak and be heard!
Just like Miss Rumphius
As a teacher, I have read many stories to children, but one story has stayed with me. It’s a beautiful story called Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. I am not the little girl in the story, but I feel like I could be that little girl sitting on her grandpa’s lap. Strangely, it is like I am connected to her or can identify with her. We only have a few things in common. Why does the character resonate with me? I wondered and pondered. Finally, I discovered our connection.
The story is about a little girl sitting on her grandpa’s lap. He shares some of his life stories with her, and little Alice tells her grandpa that she too would travel the world when she grew up, and when she turned old, she would live by the sea just like her grandpa.
When I moved abroad, I caught the travel bug and began to travel all over Asia. I climbed Tiger’s Nest and saw the eastern part of the Himalayan Mountains from Bhutan. On a camel ride, I saw the longest sparkling gold bar, the Gobi Desert in Mongolia. In Cambodia, I saw the sunrise behind Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world. China’s Great Wall, the Terracotta Soldiers, Confucius Cemetery, Shangri-la, the Yangtze River, the Yellow River, the ice castles of Harbin, Hangzhou, Suzhou, Guilin, Kunming, and many more historical sites and views in China were breathtaking.
Sitting on a boat paddled with feet instead of hands was new to me, and the incredible scenery of Ha Long Bay in Vietnam was magnificent. Ladies balancing large baskets of fruit and vegetables on their heads while walking home from the market were amazing to see in Indonesia. The clear blue waters of the Philippine islands and Thailand astonished me. Japan, Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Sri Lanka each had unique landmarks and scenery. Never had I traveled to so many places within six years.
Whenever I sit on a tour bus, train, or airplane, I remember little Alice in the story Miss Rumphius. I don’t think I thought about traveling when I was a little girl, but I felt as if I was like little Alice, who dreamed of going places. Thinking, I smiled, and my inner voice said, “I did what Alice did when she became an adult. She traveled the world, and so did I, at least in Asia and North America thus far.
Alice grew up to be a teacher; so did I. She had immigrant grandparents, and I did too. That was all we had in common, I thought. She grew old and lived by the sea. I have yet to do that and want to do that!
Grandpa also told little Alice to do a third thing: Make the world more beautiful. She didn’t know what she could do, but when Alice grew up and fell off a camel during one of her travels, she returned home to rest. During that time, Alice discovered how she could make the world more beautiful. She planted lupines everywhere. The picture of lupines everywhere was stunning. The image remains with me.
Before I began my many travels across Asia, my aunt-in-law came for a visit as a tourist. I showed her some sights and went to a few gardens on the west coast of the USA. One garden had a whole section of lupines. When I saw the lupines, I could not help but feel happy. I had to share the story of Miss Rumphius. My heart warmed remembering little Alice and what she did. She traveled the world, lived by the sea, and did something to make the world more beautiful.
Though the story warms my heart each time I remember it, it also leaves me with a nagging feeling that won’t go away. I wondered and wondered what I could do to make the world a more beautiful place. I had no answer for many, many years. Perhaps the story stuck with me because I still wondered what I could do to make the world more beautiful. Little Alice found a way after all her travels. When she was stuck in bed to recuperate from her fall, she discovered that planting lupines could help spread beauty in the world.
My connection to Alice was that I, too, want to do something to make a difference in the world. With travel bans and restrictions in going out the door because of the global pandemic, I stayed home. Homebound, I got the idea to take some classes online. I was always interested in learning new things. I decided to take several writing courses. Expressing myself through writing felt close to my heart. It was a way for my unseen and unheard inner voice to come outside of me and show up in print. I was fascinated by having a voice from the inside that could come out to be seen on paper. It was magical.
As I wrote some stories, I shared them aloud with friends and acquaintances. They were my personal stories that I thought were unique. They were in that they were mine, but my listeners also identified and connected with my struggles, challenges, pain, and other feelings. To my great surprise, those who heard my stories were moved, touched, and inspired.
When I wrote more personal stories, I learned lessons, gained insights, and had eye-opening moments. Writing started as an outlet for self-expression, but sharing my stories unexpectedly led me to give others hope, new perspectives, and inspiration.
At last, as a writer and podcaster, I am doing something to make a difference in the world. Hope, uplifting perspectives, and inspiration shall spread like Miss Rumphius’s beautiful lupine flowers.
Key Takeaways: Though public speaking could be a scary thing, it is one way to have your voice heard, so utilize it to express yourself.
Though I didn’t know what I could do to make the world more beautiful, a children’s story gave me some food for thought and helped me discover that my written words or voice could give others hope, new perspectives, and inspiration.
Next week, you will hear two new real-life stories called The Word Impossible and Pulled Out From My Utopia. If you enjoyed this episode of Eye-Opening Moments, please share it with others, subscribe, support the show by clicking on the link in the description, or go to www.inspiremereads.com and leave a message. Thank you for listening!