Anyone who’s ever talked to me or listened to one of my audio interviews over at The Christian Manifesto knows that I have a unique voice. While my mom thinks my voice is quite lovely and those who know me appreciate its quirkiness, it hasn’t always been a gift. In fact, there was a time I didn’t want to talk at all because I hated my voice. Plus, I felt like I had nothing worthwhile to say anyway.
It all started in middle school with this kid named Jeremy (I should out him by giving you his full name. That would be mean and self-serving. Besides, this is my confession, not his). He was short blond kid with a bowl haircut and eyes that slanted with malicious intent. He wasn’t popular and he wasn’t unpopular—he was middle-of-the-road mediocre. The popular kids made fun of him, so to impress them, he made fun of me. Why he wanted to impress kids who mocked him is beyond me. You’d think a kid in the gifted program would have a little more sense. I was one of his favorite targets. Besides being a chubby nerd with the self-esteem of a banana, I had a funny voice, too.
He called me Squeaker and I hated it.
And I just about hated him for it. I know we Christians aren’t supposed to hate, but this was middle school and as you know, middle school is war. Plus, I said “just about,” which means I didn’t really hate him; I almost did. Jeremy is still one of the meanest kids I’ve ever met. Not only did he call me Squeaker, he got other kids to do it, too.
Every day during environmental science, he would taunt me from his seat ahead of mine. No matter what I said he would imitate me, even if I was answering a question in class! Plus, I sat one seat away from my first real crush, Tim-something-or-other (Notice I can’t remember his last name. It started with a “W” though). It was day after day of humiliation. A few times Tim, my prepubescent knight in MC Hammer-like pants, told him to knock it off and Tim was popular enough to be taken seriously. But Jeremy was relentless, like a collection agent that keeps calling your apartment for someone who doesn’t live there.
Jeremy was one of the reasons I was grateful to go to Christian high school. I sit here at 29 years of age and still wonder how one young boy could be so cruel. It wasn’t just calling me Squeaker—that was just the worst thing he did. It shattered me—because the other kids joined in, because I believed it, and because I still believe it sometimes. I hate that it happened half my life ago and it still hurts me.
But it’s also empowered me. Despite my squeaky voice, I decided to go into communications, primarily for writing. Still I found I loved our ghetto college radio station and video production. It’s still my dream to host my own radio program (or podcast) and I’d love to do voiceover work, especially cartoon voices (seriously, that would be the coolest thing—EVER!) What was once my weakness, God used as a strength—to teach youth, to lead Bible studies, to do interviews, and to talk non-stop even when people want me to shut up. Jeremy called me Squeaker and he meant it for evil, yet God used it for good. By the way, Jeremy, I forgive you, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget you.