The Right to Speak Up

“I am speechless, but I can’t keep quiet
And I am wordless, but I can’t stay silent”

-Lauren Daigle, “Wordless” on her album How Can It Be

Have you ever been so overcome with emotion that you were completely speechless?

We often put ourselves in others’ shoes, imagining what we would do if we were in their situation; but when it happens to us, somewhere between the realm of the hypothetical and reality, we lose our thoroughly-thought-out, immaculately articulated responses.

There will be times when, frankly, life will shut you up. Something so shocking, painful, or nerve-wracking will leave your lips locked and your tongue tied. Choosing to speak up will not be the easy, automatic thing to do, but you will know that it is the right thing to do.

Two weeks ago, in my blog post The Right to Remain Silent, I talked about how silence can be a constructive form of communication. On the flip side, there are times when keeping quiet hinders more than it helps. It is imperative to know when to break the silence. 

a broken brick wall exposing a partly cloudy sky

Getty Images (Vkyryl)

Speak Up against Injustice

Victims of injustice often have a hard time seeking justice on their own. The stigma, pain, and residual feelings of weakness stifle their attempts, and they remain silent because it seems to be the only reasonable option. This is especially the case for victims of sexual assault, violence, and harassment. Nevertheless, whether you are the victim or you know one personally, speaking up about it might be uncomfortable, but it is the only way to initiate change.

City Tech has taken a stand against crimes of that nature by providing mandatory When Yes Means Yes… Sexual Assault Training for Students and  Title IX Training for Employees. The goal is to make more people aware so that the excuse “I didn’t know” evaporates. Bringing the issue to the light affirms the victims, exposes the perpetrators, warns potential offenders and calls the bystanders to action.

Speak Up about Secret Struggles

If you are anything like me, the worse a problem gets, the less willing you are to tell people about it, especially if it is an internal problem. By internal I mean something going on inside of your mind, a struggle in which you are battling your own thoughts, emotions, or habits.

a man with his arms crossed in a pool of dark ink, refusing to receive help from the many hands reaching out to him

Art by Katherine Choi (NY Times)

To give one example, I am guilty of being too much of a perfectionist at times. If I am running late to school, I would much rather it be due to delays and packed subway cars, rather than my oversleeping or not being able to find my glasses. I end up red-faced and teary-eyed on the train platform, angry at myself for making the same mistake over and over, angry that I did not get to bed early enough so that I could wake up comfortably and early this morning, angry that the reason I stayed up is because it took me hours to complete an assignment that other people could do in just one… Next thing you know I’m angry at myself for being angry and making such a big deal over nothing.

It can be a simple character flaw or a clinically diagnosed disorder, but whatever inner struggles you are facing, I encourage you to speak about it. If you were able to handle things yourself, then you wouldn’t be battling yourself. So what will keeping it to yourself do, except make things worse? Reach out to counselors at school, a trusted friend, a professional, a spiritual leader, family member–any confidant can make all the difference. Sometimes you need to hear a voice other than your own, but first, someone has to hear yours. (Please check out my fellow blogger Samantha’s post on a similar topic, Virtues from Motherhood: Needing Help Will Never Make You Weak.)

Speak Up and Get “Greased”

Have you ever heard the saying, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”? This means that if you have a need, you should make it known. As a college student, and especially a transfer student, I have often felt lost in a sea of demands. I have had to fill out dozens of applications, and I did not always know if I was doing so correctly.

It can be very nerve-wracking to have to go to an office and ask questions, especially if you don’t even know where to start, or if the clerks appear to have a bad attitude. Even so, there are countless resources at your disposal, both on and off campus, to help you with whatever you might need (if you are a City Tech student, see our academics site and student services site). And all of those intimidating officers and professors, guess what? They are paid to help you. When I was at NYU and facing plenty of financial conflicts, one particularly helpful bursar officer gave me his card after an appointment, and repeatedly encouraged me to come back and ask more questions because that was why he was there in the first place. So please take my advice; as the song says, “For / no one can fill / those of your needs / that you won’t let show” (“Lean On Me” by Bill Withers).

Speak Up and Be Yourself

one red game chip among dozens of blue game chips

istockphoto.com

On a lighter note, it’s not always a matter of being in need. It is important to speak up just because you have the natural born right to do so. We are all entitled to have our own opinions and to express them freely (and respectfully).

We live in a time where the lines between fact and opinion are often blurred. Sometimes opinions are given even more importance than facts. People will think you’re crazier for saying “I think Trump makes a good president” rather than “the moon is not real, it’s man-made.”

What’s more, everyone goes around saying “be yourself,” but the fine print under that statement reads, “as long as ‘yourself’ fits into this mold, or is popular, or is politically correct.” You might feel pressured to keep quiet because you are afraid that people will disagree or look down on you. My response, in short, is so what?

As a reserved Christian, my opinion is almost always in the minority, but “minority” does not mean “negligible” or “does not exist.” If you think a certain way and have taken a firm stance on something, no one has the right to silence you.

I encourage you, reader, to do something different today. You can even start small, and work your way up. Raise your hand in class if you don’t understand what the professor just said, rather than nodding absentmindedly. If you think that the person next to you is wearing an awesome shirt, tell him so. Tell your sister that she really hurt your feelings, because she might have been totally oblivious. I dare you to break the silence, because you are most definitely worth hearing.

a microphone pointed at the reader

Shutterstock image

Virtues from Motherhood: The Mental Health Monsters

In August artist and Linkin Park front man Chester Bennington took his own life. He like many other immensely talented individuals, was not immune to their own minds and tragically Chester lost his battle, my condolences to him and all those who love him.

Mental health issues have been in the headlines for healthcare, judicial and medical reform for years; it is the animal that everyone can see but everyone is scared to address for fear of waking an untamable beast. Anyone who has gone through a point in their lives when they struggled with depression, anxiety, panic disorders, multiple personalities or any other mental health issue, knows that it is not just about winning a battle, it is a war you fight, in silence, in your own head, every day. Some are lucky, they are able to overcome the obstacle in their minds, they are able to seek help and find a way to manifest and overturn those heavy stones that make it almost impossible to move day in and day out. Others though, they aren’t so lucky and the disease wins, those who take their own lives don’t want to die, they just want to the pain to stop.

In high school, I had a classmate take his own life, he was such a great kid, he was always smiling and laughing and he always wanted to be friendly with everyone. Nobody could believe it when the school told us that he’d passed away. It was then that I realized that you could be trapped in your own mind, with what feels like no way out. I have anxiety, I imagine I’ve probably always had it. In high school, I saw a psychologist once a week, my parents sent me and at the time I just thought they were punishing me but looking back maybe they saw something I couldn’t maybe they knew they could help me by sending me there, I don’t know. At the time, I wasn’t making the best life choices, I was spiraling out of control and I couldn’t seem to get a handle on what I was feeling, I just reacted.

That doctor was the first person who ever suggested that maybe what I was feeling was anxiety, she asked me if I ever felt this way or that way, and a few of them resonated with me but I wasn’t sold on the idea. What could she know about me anyway? My parents hired her, she didn’t know me or what I was about, so I dismissed her and eventually stopped going.

Fast forward years later, I was now a young mother. I was now responsible for a whole other life, not just mine and every single thing I did not only affected me but her too. That was a whole lot of pressure, that I tried to carry in stride, but eventually the thoughts got to me and followed me around. What if I never finished school? What if I was stuck in my parents’ house, what if, what if, what if. The racing thoughts made my stomach drop, I felt like I’d eaten rocks and it drove me to act irrationally. I got academically dismissed because I couldn’t sit still or focus in classes and I missed my finals. It took me years to get my mind in a place where I could get through school, and even now there are days when I don’t want to walk into the classroom.

Today, I still have anxiety and some days it’s quite and other days it’s a roaring noise that deafens me. The weirdest things might trigger my anxiety and I’m not proud to say I’ve just gotten better at hiding it rather than dealing with it. What people don’t understand though, is that sometimes I seem really mean or disconnected with them or a situation and I seem angry, but I’m not and it’s just my anxiety manifesting itself that way. Sometimes a situation makes me anxious, sometimes there are too many people in a room or too many conversations happening at once and it overwhelms me. Some days I have a ridiculous fear that anxiety is just making worse and approaching me just triggers a nasty reaction that I don’t mean to give you. Anxiety is heavy, it’s random and sometimes it hangs around for a few days and makes me want to just lay in bed and avoid people and places. None of it means that I’m mad at anyone, that I’m antisocial or that I’m blowing you off it just means that today my mind got the best of me and I thought myself into a corner that I need space and time to get out of.

Mental health issues are not a joke, and you never know what the people around you are dealing with, so be kind, always. And let the people you love know that you love them because some days the battle they’re fighting might be too large for them to fight alone, they need you. Mental health issues are not a weakness, they are a disease and they are debilitating, so the next time someone asks you for help, listen.


If you, or someone you know is struggling here are some resources that can help. Never ignore the signs.

Suicide prevention hotline

Half of us

NYC Mental Health