We Are So Much More
Below is the text of Glory's C's recent TEDx speech.
At 9 years old, she was raped and bought off with an ice cream cone to keep it quiet that she had been alone with her cousin. She was pregnant by 14, and she gave birth to a chance to redeem herself from all the pain she had seen in the span of a decade. But two weeks later, that chance passed away along with her hopes of making something out of nothing to recover from her shame. Her name is Oprah Winfrey.
When he was two years old, he was estranged, by his dad with whom he shared the same name, and he could never avoid the insults at school because the colour of his skin and the size of his ears weren’t considered cool, and when he looked at himself it did not seem to get any clearer that there was something wrong with the man that he saw in in the mirror. But Barack Obama is his name.
When you look at all these times that have shown, that nothing is ever really set in stone, it’s hard not to wonder who ever thought that our past has to show any indication of our future? Because then Obama never would’ve become a sign for change and Oprah might still be hanging her head in shame, and I probably would not be up here today.
I was a shy kid growing up and I had stage fright. It’s kind of ironic, isn’t it? But from Kindergarten, my words were trapped inside my mouth handcuffed by thoughts that convicted me of a reality of mediocrity. I had formed the illusion inside my head that the things I said were unexciting at most. I was not ready to step out of my comfort zone; it was my home, the one place I knew I could always count on to keep me safe. Because forget sticks and stones, words can crush our dreams, and we can try put a bandaid over the bruise but the blood will just drip through the seams; nobody wants to hear that they can’t defy gravity.
Nobody wants to hear that they don’t have the key, that they don’t got what it takes, and even though our backgrounds create a collage of different shapes and sizes and compromises our imperfections and rejections leave us all trapped in the same box labelled “inadequate.” My comfort zone was my home. The place I knew I could go to avoid all the titles and labels, so I locked my voice into a box in which only I knew how to find the key, so I didn’t have to see the multitudes of ways people would use their voice to define mine.
Because sometimes, when we take a step out of the comforts of our own home, we step into a war-zone of judgement, putdowns and opinions, and sometimes, we’ll get shot straight in the chest and people will leave us with bruises and excuses as to why we could never be good enough, and most times, we can try and escape but our confidence is not in good enough shape to fight off all the words that stick in our brains. Unable. Unmotivated. Sub-par. My comfort zone way my home, and a lot of the time it just kinda went that way, because there are so many aspirations that have been broken, and thousands of dreams that people have left unspoken because flames of enthusiasm were put out with a splash of ridicule, and I never wanted to be the same. But when I think of Oprah, and how she recovered from here shame, and I think of Obama and all that he became, I have to ask: who says we can’t do the same?
We are all fighting on this battleground trying to defend ourselves from bullets aimed at our confidence, dying to live through attacks from people who shoot daggers into our aspirations, the people who leave us surrendering to standards and expectations, people who doubt that we will ever see it through, people who we will never hear say the words “I believe in you.” There have been so many aspirations that have been broken, and thousands of dreams that people have left unspoken, because people measure our capacities by what they’ve seen in the past: by our failures. But what they don’t see is the times when we get up early to push ourselves a little further, and what they don’t see is the times we died on the inside when they tell us try a little harder, and what they don’t see is the fire that burns inside of us to show that we are good enough, so prove them wrong.
We are all fighting on this battleground trying to defend ourselves from bullets aimed at our confidence, trying not to give in to the notions in our head that convince us to give up instead of pushing through to the end, trying not to give in to the impression that because we have tried and failed cried and broken down that our breakdowns indicate defeat, and defeat indicates retreat, but retreat leads us down a path to a destination where we know we are not supposed to be so prove them wrong.
We are all fighting on this battleground trying to defend ourselves from bullets aimed at our confidence, but taking a hit does not mean that it is over, because our battle scars are just bits and pieces of the masterpiece that all of our fears, our history and our struggles will one day create and it is going to be so great when we can look back and realize that there really was something in us that no artist could ever paint, and no sculptor could ever make.
But we have got to be willing to try, and that’s something that took me 14 years to realize. We can’t stay inside our comfort zones and hide, no, we have to have that drive. We have to know that ambition is going to be a lonely road that will always look like it’s leading us to nowhere, and we have to know that we will meet people along the way that will convince us to turn back, because the end of the road is just pitch-black, and that we are bound to drown in a sea of ordinary, but we have got to believe that there is something in us that caused us to go down that path in the first place, that there is something in us that nobody could ever erase, that there is something in us that is so much more than our circumstances, that is so much more than our failures, that is so much more than people’s opinions of us, so much more than our terror, than our fright, than the things that never ever seem to go right. We are so much more.
Once again, I refer back to Oprah. Oprah Winfrey has gone through so much more than the average human: she was raped, repeatedly molested by family members, she had a baby, lost her baby, lost her brother to AIDS, and lost her job for being too emotional, yet today, she is considered one of the most influential women of our time.
And then there’s Obama. Obama went from looking in a mirror and wondering if there was something wrong with the man he would see, to spending eight years of his life leading a country.
So what about you? What’s stopping you? I cannot stress enough that there are too many aspirations that have been broken, and millions of dreams that people leave unspoken, but we cannot be the same, because we are so much more, and it’s our responsibility to go after what we want so when the day comes for us to leave this earth, we will be able to look back and be satisfied. So get better, push further, fight longer, do all that you can to break down your walls and do all that you can to show those people who made you feel small, because our failures will never overtake us if our drive to succeed is strong enough, and our valleys will never be too deep if the mountain we want to climb is high enough, but most importantly, our race will never seem too long if the destination is worthy enough, and as we go along, we will encounter obstacle after obstacle and defeat after defeat, but if we push hard enough, if we fight long enough, and if we work hard enough, then we will never ever be defeated.
Glory C, Mackenzie ‘18