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As someone who has battled a voice disorder almost my entire life, I have always struggled to find my “voice.” I refer to the idea of “voice” in quotations because, while I was in high school, I came to the revelation that the term “voice” does not have to refer solely to the sound that comes out of your mouth. After years of struggling to understand why I was given this burden to bear and how I was supposed to reach my goals when I felt so impeded by my lack of a physically strong voice, I realized that “voice” is so much more than the vibration of your vocal cords creating sound.
My first week at Xavier, I must have been asked more than 50 times if I was sick because my voice is so raspy. I realize it is a natural response to hearing someone who sounds like they have lost their voice, but having that be one of the first impressions I make on people has always been a very discouraging thought. Luckily, I made some great friends who showed me kindness and compassion immediately upon meeting me. Those friends will always have a special place in my heart.
Even with the support of my newly found friends, I struggled quite a bit throughout my freshmen year and the first half of my sophomore year.
I found myself questioning the plan that I had thought about for years. Psychology had always been my subject of choice, and although I was enjoying my classes, I wasn’t satisfied. I had expected to find my “voice” within the vast field of psychology, but that just wasn’t the case.
I declared a criminal justice minor at the very beginning of my career at Xavier, figuring that the two subjects would go well together. It was not until the second semester of my freshman year that I was able to start my criminal justice course load. I absolutely loved my Introduction to Criminal Justice class more than I could have ever imagined. Not only was I extremely invested in the subject matter, I found myself actively trying to pursue opportunities outside of the classroom to learn as much as I could about criminal justice.
The first semester of my sophomore year, I took Introduction to Corrections with my favorite professor, Dr. Jonson. That class changed my life. I know it may seem dramatic for me to say that, but as far as aspirations for my future, that class completely changed my outlook on what I wanted to do with my life. I fell in love with the topic of our correctional system. More specifically, a passion for correctional policy and reform started to burn inside of me.
I changed my major to criminal justice after that semester of my sophomore year, and I will never forget the overwhelming feelings of satisfaction and fate that I felt afterward. I had found a home for my “voice” at Xavier.
There are a couple of reasons why I wanted to share this journey as my senior op-ed, but because of the limited amount of space, I will only share the most important. The idea of finding my “voice” in everything that I do is very important to me. Although I may not have as loud of a voice as others, I found my “voice” through the things and the people that I love.
I found my “voice” in my studies of the criminal justice system and my involvement in the department. I found my “voice” in the intramural sports I played with my friends. I found my “voice” by stepping out of my comfort zone and becoming a copy editor for the Newswire. Most of all though, I found my “voice” through the wonderful people that I met throughout my time here.
My advice to my fellow Xavier students is to realize that you always have a “voice.” That “voice” doesn’t have anything to do with the sound you create when speaking; instead, your “voice” is what you find happiness in and what you are passionate about. It is what you love and what you feel that strengthens you as a person. Please always remember that your “voice” is important and it is beautiful.
Maddy Lancaster is a senior criminal justice major and copy editor for the Newswire from Charlottesville, Va.