As Personal as Speeches Go

Below is a transcript of a personal speech I wrote for one of my classes this semester in speech communication. I wanted it to be one of the first things I shared in this page because it says a lot about me, as a person, a BA student, and an advocate of the arts

Note: Words and phrases indicating where I am and study specifically have been edited out. What I can tell you about my degree program, however, is that it centers heavily on the arts, humanities, and literature.

I know I won’t be the first one to tell this tale and I know I won’t be the last one either. First of all, I’m not a stranger to discrimination. As a woman. a member of the LGBT community, and a Bachelor of Arts student, discrimination is a lot like the fourth sugar cube in my morning coffee: unnecessary, but somehow always still there. So insensitive, prejudiced, and ignorant statements usually just roll off my back pretty easily. But a few days ago, I had been shaken to my core by an overheard conversation of three students, all younger than me.

It was as if my morning coffee had spilled all over me and the fourth sugar cube hit me in the face as I sat there in front of them in our Math class, and this was how their conversation transpired. As we were waiting for the class to settle down, my classmates were chattering amongst themselves and their turn of conversation suddenly piqued my attention.

Student number 1 had asked his two friends: “What’s the easiest course in [our university]?”

And student number 2, the only girl, replied by saying: “[my degree program]!” with such unapologetic vigor, in a voice that seemed to have tried very hard to keep the, “Duh!” out of that sentence.

And they continued to go on and on about how easy it was until I couldn’t help but turn around, and say with the calmest, kindest voice I could muster: “It’s not easy. I’m a [my degree program] student.”

And the girl, with the dripping Duh in her voice, does it again as she says: “I know.”

I couldn’t understand their prejudice, how they could talk about something so easily with such little basis, or their nerve to talk about it so loudly when I was seated right in front of them. Did their course earn a start every time they ranked it above another? Did they feel smarter and better about themselves knowing that they didn’t get the “easiest” course available? Was the belief that BA [my degree program] was the “easiest” course the comfort they needed in order to get through another take on Math? If they could only see past their self-serving bias and stop to think, then maybe they would actually be able to form a logical argument.

It irked me so much that I didn’t know what to do.  Should I tell them of all the sleepless nights I’ve endured trying to understand each line Aristotle wrote? Should I tell them of how heavy your shoes could feel every time you had to walk up in front of class to deliver a speech and hope that you’ll say something that won’t make you hate yourself for the rest of the day? Should I tell them of all the essays and all the papers and all the critiques that have rendered me mirthless and drained at the end of every semester?

Maybe I should have. But I didn’t. Partly because I didn’t want to start a scene in class and partly because I knew it would be futile, given the context. Even if I told them, how could they possibly understand? They, who had no appreciation for the arts or for Machiavelli or Shakespeare, how could I expect them to even begin to understand?

How could they understand the wonder in being able to grasp what art means to one of the most important personalities in history? How could they understand the exhilaration of being able to make your audience laugh or cry? How could they understand the feeling even I have no words for when you’re actually able to write a paper that you can 100% be proud of?

So I ignored them, pushed them to the back of my mind, throwing their words like gasoline into a fire for when I need something to keep me going on those cold sleepless nights spent on papers and readings. I am by no means conceding, nor am I accepting that the humanities and the arts are as meager as they believe them to be. I ignored them because they mattered very little to me. And they should matter very little to you. They mattered very little to my passions and dreams. I ignored them because I’ve got bigger problems to solve with Marx and Nietzsche than the few who won’t even take the time to form valid arguments that aren’t designed to uplift themselves. I ignored them because no matter how many more insensitive statements they throw at me, I’m still going to be a BA [Insert undergraduate degree here] student, and proudly so.

To the people I mentioned in my speech and somehow stumbled upon this, hello. I do not see any of you as bad people and do not mean to malign or offend you (even if you had done so to me) but I do stand firm with the things I’ve said here. I hope that one day you’ll stand witness to the beauty and wonders of the humanities and arts, and come to respect them as they should be.

I won’t add anything else because I kind of want my speech to just speak for itself (and because I’ll most likely write a separate entry on this subject further) but I hope that before people open their mouths, they realize who and what they’re putting down with their words, and for such meager reasons too.

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Reaching Far and Backwards

In my English play writing class, our first assignment for the semester was to write about any person in our life that has, at some point, caused us to feel great hatred or love due to something he or she had done to us. At the time, I had nobody in mind because it had been so long since I felt greatly wronged by anybody else. It took me a long time to write this despite it being just a one-page paper because of how difficult it had been for me to reminisce and place myself back in the mindset of when I was still in high school where I still felt that feeling, at least enough to write about it.

Having said that, I no longer feel anything towards the person I chose to write about and anybody else mentioned in this entry so I hope nobody tries to make a big deal out of it. The purpose of this assignment, as was later revealed to us, was for us to figure out if we were capable of empathizing with the person we wrote about. As a playwright, being able to empathize with people, even the ones we greatly hate, is a skill one has to master in order to be able to come up with a good and realistic play.

Within one page, one must be able to introduce who the person is, what they did, and why you think they did it. I suppose I’ll just leave it to you to decide whether or not I did treat her with empathy, and whether or not I actually got the assignment right. Although I think it’s far reach.

To put in the kindest way, she was unbelievably boring. There was nothing special about her that made her stand out from the crowd for me. She was of average height with unsightly curly hair and a dark complexion. We had never been given the opportunity to be classmates, and I knew her simply because she would occasionally be a part of the top ten awardees of our year level but that hardly made her interesting in the least to me. In fact, even though we went to the same high school for four years, she had never interested me in such a way that would compel me to strike up a conversation with her. I would have probably gone through the rest of my high school days without having even paid her the slightest attention if she hadn’t taken an interest and continuously flirted with my ex-girlfriend in our junior year, shamelessly doing such bold things that made me feel disrespected, infuriated, and unsure of myself.

There were a lot of moments that made me feel so horrible that she and my ex-girlfriend were responsible for. They both liked sports, had the same kind of music taste, and clearly enjoyed each other’s company so much so that they bestowed each other with chocolates as gifts and kisses on the cheek as gratitude. I trudged through the remaining days of my high school experience, still clinging onto a relationship that was doomed from the beginning and even more so when she came into the picture. Even just seeing her pass by the hallways triggered me into a fit. Her very existence irked me and every time I saw her I wished the ground would swallow her up and that she’d stay there because I found even just her breathing offensive. But even so, at the time, I couldn’t blame her or call her out. How could I when she simply saw what I would see in that person? We were somewhere along the ripe age of fifteen or sixteen, young and naive and careless of our actions and thought nothing of how it would affect other people. She was the same as I, hanging onto the empty words of another person that kept you hoping for something because neither of us had ever been told to stay away or to give up on our childish feelings. I understood her, wanting things whether it be selfish or forbidden, and I no longer fault her for that anymore, but still I wish that the universe would keep her away for her peace of mind and mine as well.