Recently, in my reading, my talking with students, I’ve been repeating the same mantra over and over:
Take. Up. Space.
Initially, it’s a phrase and piece of advice I’ve heard given to women and people of color over and over– take up space. Society so often tells us to silence ourselves, “shrink ourselves, to make ourselves smaller” space for others: take up that space. Put your arm on the armrest in the airplane. Insist that able-bodied men move to the side as you run down the sidewalk. Write your articles in your voice and ensure that your voice is heard in White-dominant spaces.
Take. Up. Space.
I know I’ve been trying to do that more. I’m a big believer in speaking with your ears, but I’ve been trying to do as much as I can to get involved in work that matters to me: fellowships and writing for organizations I believe in or just being involved. As Educolor founder Jose Vilson mentioned in his most recent piece: my experiences as an educator and as a woman of color needs to be taken seriously and valued by folks– myself included.
This weekend, though, I’ve also realized that access to my voice is a privilege not a right. I’m not saying I’m the be-all-end-all of human existence, but if I believe I am worthy of taking up physical/emotional/intellectual space, I think that also means that I get to unapologetically say that it is worth taking care of and protecting as well. Having to consistently speak up, especially around difficult topics, is emotionally taxing. Sometimes, “taking up space,” also means loving yourself enough to protect that space.
I don’t really know what that looks like yet. Most of it, I think, is self-care. There have been a few times this weekend where I was very tempted to jump in on conversations, often around ~Hollywood~. In spaces that are so clearly White and patriarchal, it feels mind-numbing to see those convos and not feel like any voice of reason will jump in.
Funnily enough, I got some of that clarity from catching part of Mr. Holland’s Opus on TV last night (I know, not really straying from White-patriarchy, but alas). There’s a scene where he brings up something I struggle with a lot as a teacher– there’s always more you can be doing, but you run the risk of neglecting your own life and family (and visa versa). It’s immensely hard to find that balance, both with time and with emotional openness.
A lot of that, though, comes down to me. I may want to jump convos that make my blood boil, but sometimes, it’s important to just… let that go. Sometimes, it’s worth deciding that the people still debating those things may not be worth my time, voice, and thought right now. If my space is worth asserting, it’s also worth protecting too.