Today was monologue day at the Eli-Africa center. While Austin led a lively bunch of students in Parkour during sports class, I sat underneath a tree nearby with a few students for theater. We talked about monologues. What are they? What purpose do they serve? The kids were quick to arrive at this conclusion: a monologue is a speech delivered by a single person in order to express something he/she thinks, but has never spoken. (Not too bad, eh?) With that in mind, we started writing our own personal monologues in order to express thoughts we’d never spoken. The results were not only surprising, but deeply moving.
The first student read her monologue aloud. She spoke of a deep yearning to be seen by others as she really is, not as the mask she often feels forced to wear. She yearned for people to accept her flaws and not expect her to conform to their expectations. The second student spoke of the pain she has felt in a few friendships, in which she feels deeply misunderstood and forgotten. She talked about staying up late into the night consumed by doubts and fears, and about her deep desire to be proud of who she is. She spoke of self-acceptance and of celebrating differences. Another student spoke of loss and of missing a person once they’ve gone. Each of them spoke with a graceful vulnerability, putting to words things that are often too hard to speak. I was moved by their openness, impressed by the willingness with which they shared their inner selves. I realized: so many people have things they don’t feel like they can say. But when a safe environment is created in which those things are allowed to be spoken, a weight is lifted. Mouths are opened. People are ready to speak to those who will listen.
At the end of the class, after reading her monologue, one girl told me: “I can express myself here better than anywhere else. At home, they don’t understand. At school, they don’t understand. But here, I can just be me.”
We all have a monologue waiting to be spoken. What’s yours?