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To Speak Or Not To Speak

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					                   To Speak Or Not To Speak? (At least that was my question)

       It came down to pregnancy or mutism. My final project in my AP psychology course

was to choose a certain aspect of my life that I could alter for two weeks, and then record how it

had affected my life. I was in the midst of a 4 year relationship and thought it would be so

interesting to see how people would actually respond to me walking around hand in hand with

my boyfriend, as a pregnant teen. I also though, knew that this idea would be kind of hard to pull

off because of the way our parents thought of our relationship. (I mean even his mom had asked

me, during a two hour trip to the last football game of the year, “If you‟re not having sex, then

why would you pretend you‟re pregnant?”)

       Another aspect of my life that I thought would be interesting to change was my almost

obsession and compulsion to ALWAYS, have to TALK. I love telling stories, rambling on and

on about my life, the places I’ve been, cool things I’ve heard on the radio or TV, talking about

the meaning of life, my favorite music; basically, I just love to talk. I honestly could talk for

hours and hours. Anyways, I ended up talking to my Psychology teacher, Mrs. Richards (who

was the most amazing teacher ever and she even let us have „Cake Fridays‟ where we would

each bring in a cake and spend the entire class time just talking about the most random things

like this intense movie we saw called The Three Faces of Eve which was about this woman who

had multiple personalities. It was set in the 1950‟s and it was just this ridiculously outlandish

movie!), who gave me the idea of not speaking for two weeks to emulate what someone with

mutism has to deal with. Essentially, there are thousands of kids in the world who for some

reason cannot or refuse to speak and are diagnosed with mutism. These children are ultimately

sent to therapists that coerce the child into being comfortable enough to speak in front of other.

(Sort of like when I was five and my mother enrolled me in speech therapy because I had a really
bad lisp and so I wouldn‟t talk to any of the kids in my pre-kindergarten class and the therapist

just got me comfortable with saying my „s‟s and then I just started talking and never really

stopped!). Finally I decided on my final project; I was going to be spending two weeks

pretending that I had developed mutism and just had never gone to see a therapist for it, I would

be spending two weeks in complete silence.


        I began on a random Sunday, in the middle of December (I only remember the date

because people started off the school week telling me that I had cheated by starting on the

weekend). The rules were quite simple (and nobody was going to be monitoring us but ourselves,

whatever rules you made you lived by but if you broke one nobody would have ever known) and

basically just consisted of me not speaking and having to write my feelings down in a journal

every night. At first, my project and I guess my silence was almost a huge joke with everyone I

know, many of whom started off the week making bets on how long it was going to be until I

spoke. I knew that I had to prove to myself and my boyfriend (who secretly, but I guess not so

secretly because I ended up finding out, was taking bets, from all his friends on how quickly he

was going to be able to make me talk) that I could chose to do something like this and see it

through till the end.


       I spent the next two weeks with a whiteboard on hand trying to keep up with like

everyone else’s conversation but it was really hard because by the time I wrote anything down

the conversation had already moved on. ( I honestly felt like this guy that I saw on some reality

show the guy was deaf and always felt behind on every conversation because his mom was the

only person in his family that knew sign language so he invented this little machine that could

easily translate sounds into words written on a screen so that he could keep up with the

conversation.) Although it was hard to hold my thoughts in during heated debates and to not
speak my mind during conversations, the project was turning out to be a lot easier than I had

imagined.

       Everything changed though the first Friday night of my two weeks of silence. I was at a

basketball game with a ton of friends and all I had to like speak to them was my whiteboard. So

the game starts and I’m writing messages to people and all of a sudden a police officer at the

game comes up to me and without saying a word snatches my board away from me and walks

away. (I must say though, signs were actually like prohibited at any of the games but, the athletic

director, who I knew very well, had said that there could be an exception for me.) The minute the

policeman walked away I started to freak out because I had no other way to communicate with

anyone at all. My boyfriend looked over at me, saw how I had gotten upset immediately, and

walked over to the police officer to talk to him. I also started trying to look for a piece of paper

and a pen so that I could write a note to the officer explaining the situation. I first went to the

concession stand where I found my old middle school gym teacher Coach Stewart (Stewie for

short, who by the way had the most enormous legs in the entire freaking world) working, selling

popcorn and soda. I motioned to him that I needed something to write on and he gave me an old

program. As I left him he just looked at me laughing saying that I was one of the craziest girls he

had ever met. I found a pen at the ticket stand and proceeded to write a page long explanation to

the officer about why I SO needed my blackboard back. I was just beyond frustrated by this

point, with the fact that nobody could understand what I was truly feeling and I had all these pent

up emotions in me that I could not express to anyone. After talking to the ignorant cop (who, by

the way, assured me that I was just „playing dumb‟ and being a „typical teenager‟) I left the

game in a flood of tears. I couldn’t believe that one man would basically take my one form of

communication and show no regard for my feelings. He was just a huge jerk (I actually saw him
at a later game and he had the freakin‟ audacity to ask me where my board was in some

sarcastic voice).

       I spent the next week (honestly almost like in voluntary solitary confinement like all those

criminals in really serious prisons) not wanting to spend time with anyone and almost looking

forward to a week of solitude where I could just soak in all my problems and deal with them

myself. I started to keep a journal and that was when I realized that letting go of all of my

emotions was the one way that I could release all the feeling I had pent up inside of me. I would

open up my journal everyday and let everything out. I would write about the tests I took, about

the people I went to lunch with, about my constant search for scholarships. I would jot down

ideas for scrapbooking pages, quotes that friends had said that made me laugh, or great recopies

that my mother had made that I wanted to remember forever. I realized that my journal could be

a part of me, allowing everything that was racing through my head out, into the ‘real’ world, no

longer trapped inside my mind. I could write about my hopes and desires, about what I thought

college was going to be like, or more realistically what scared me the most about college. All

these thoughts were things that were constantly coursing through my mind yet perhaps because

of the friends I had, the way I had been raised, or maybe even because of my independent

attitude I never let anyone know that these things affected me, either in a good way or bad.

       I also realized that I could use journaling to admit to myself things about relationships

that I was willingly blind to. After four years in a relationship with my boyfriend, I was in the

most comfortable place I had ever been in any relationship. Even after putting 150% into the

relationship time after time my boyfriend would continuously let me down (I mean he seriously

missed my birthday party with my family, the winter dance the day before my birthday which I

had been planning and really wanted him to go to, and my actual birthday-all three things he
had told me he was “positive” he could go to) I, for the first time, with all the problems with

communication we were having, looked at my relationship with my now ex-boyfriend and

realized that I had let our past and the comfort of our relationship blind me into thinking that it

we were an awesome couple completely in sync with one another. I mean during my vow of

silence, I had devised this hilarious plan for a way for me and him to ‘talk’ on the phone. He

would call me and then he would ask me a yes or no question. I would answer him with beeps-

one beep meant yes, two beeps meant no, three meant I love you, and when I would get

frustrated I would just mash all the freaking buttons. I would want him to somehow

telepathically know what I wanted to do. If let’s say we had made plans to hang out one

afternoon or something, he would call wanting to see at what time I wanted to hang out but there

would be no way for me to even tell him because obviously times and numbers are not ‘yes’ or

‘no’ questions. So he just would call and guess like at what time I wanted to meet up and

according to my beeps he would guess what I wanted. Almost every time without fail though, he

would just get so frustrated that instead of trying to understand what it was I was trying to say, he

would just hang up the phone and once again, give up on the situation. It became obvious

through my experiment and through the journaling that I would daily do about my relationship

update that he and I were maybe more different now than we had ever been. Maybe it was our

diverging interest or maybe we had never been that close in the first place but there was

something missing and my journaling helped me to see that I couldn’t keep searching for that

missing piece because, maybe, just maybe I was never gonna find it.

       My project and my subsequent journaling also impacted the relationship I have with my

parents and the dynamics of my family life. For once, I couldn’t be the forceful daughter, always

interrupting my parents to say what I thought, always toeing the ‘line’ that I was told I couldn’t
cross. I had to be complacent; I couldn’t respond to their long lectures and their thoughts on my

relationships with my friends. I mean I could still walk out when their talks got annoying but

with no way to respond, for once in my life I couldn’t tell my dad that he actually wasn’t always

right and that he really didn’t know the answers to every question (that has got to be the most

annoying thing he does- he ALWAYS has to have something to say about anything. I mean I

could be talking about „women problems‟ and he thinks he knows the answer!). I also had to

start dealing with my mom’s constant nagging (which she usually starts to do when you‟re only

halfway into a story and haven‟t even finished a complete thought and then suddenly she starts

freaking out even though she doesn‟t know what you‟re talking about) and learning how to let

her know that I really was listening to what she was saying but that sometimes people just

disagree. Journaling for once allowed me to position myself in the shoes of my parents and to try

and see the perspective that they had on me and my life choices. I could use my journal to

explore the lives of my mom and dad and to see how alike we all truly were. We may have lived

in different time periods but all our values were still the same; they had instilled in me basic

character traits that had translated across the different cultures in which we had been raised in.

       Journaling has allowed for me to grow as a person. I can read back on the experiences I

went through years, or months ago and recognize the bad decisions, the good choices, the events

I regret. I can use my journals to help me through hard times, to give advice to friends when

they’re going through difficult situation and at times to just have a good laugh. They let me look

back at good times without having to let go of the present. Honestly, my journals are everything

to me; they hold pieces of me that I’ve never shared with anyone.



                                                 (Not even in one of my famous rambling talks.)

				
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