Teens talk. That’s a rule. Yet, ten of them remained silent for a school day.
With “I’m Silent Today” stickers on their shirts to alert the confused masses, these Speech students walked the din of South Fort Myers High School, and a new day began. Not only did they inventory the small talk, the gossip, the meaningless and the meaningful, for the first time, they could finally hear themselves.
Is Silence Peaceful?
I may have been quiet, but I wasn’t peaceful. Silence didn’t stop my internal monologue of worries and insecurities and regrets and grief and resentments and comparisons and to-do lists. It intensified them. Silence confronts me with me and my stuff. That’s good.
~ Alexis Henry
Helplessness Is Often a Choice
My questions aren’t always legit. Often, I think I’m helpless. I’m looking for someone to do my thinking for me because I forget my own resourcefulness. All the answers I need are usually at my fingertips from “Where’s the bathroom?” to “What’s the meaning of life?”
Irrelevance Is Relevant
Irrelevant conversations are ubiquitous and that makes them relevant. Relevance isn’t “out there.” Relevance is a choice. Sports, politics, religion, clothes, or the meaning of life? What I talk about makes it relevant, for better or for worse.
Speaking is Spectacle
How often do I speak because I just want to be seen and acknowledged? Speaking transforms me into a spectacle on a stage, a performer. What is my message under the spotlight? Am I a comedian, a tragedian, a teacher, a healer? In conversation, we all wear dramatic masks.
Many Conversations Start with Clickbait
No one wants to have the same conversation more than once, yet I’m having the same one over and over. I get duped by clickbait: “Did you hear…?” or “You won’t believe this, but…” or “Guess what I just heard!” I take the bait, click, and drown in the same pre-scripted chat with a different cast of characters.
Can You Silence Your Inner Critic?
Just because I’m silent doesn’t mean I’m passive. In the quiet, I was confronted with my own aggressive tendency to constantly criticize. I can’t be my highest self when I’m aggressive, so I must change my inner dialogue from critic to explorer.
Thinking is Deeper When Silent
Noise is the interference that prevents understanding, and my voice is part of that noise. There is no such thing as thinking aloud. If I’m talking, I’m not thinking. If I want to get deep, if I want insight, I have to close my mouth. I need to give me a chance to contemplate.
Why Do I Have to Stay the Same?
People have a vested interest in my staying the same. When I changed up my routine, I realized how often I exist to accommodate others’ needs. When I was silent for my own benefit, people, even friends, were resentful.
Silence Is Darkness
Going mute for a day is analogous to having an entire day with no light. With darkness or silence, we can feel the true horror of isolation, having nobody but ourselves to confront. Within these solitudes, we need to venture into that darkness of silence to discover our authentic selves.
We Are All Needed
Others cherish our presence, and even though that love is sometimes dysfunctional, it is still reassuring. Even though we are talking instead of connecting, others, including ourselves, still exist. We may not realize our impact, but we matter, even if we matter imperfectly.
All students are in Fundamentals of Speech, a course in the dual enrollment program with Florida SouthWestern State College and South Fort Myers High School.