The purpose of “Prompted” is to provide an outlet for myself and others to reflect on past experiences, personal goals and innermost desires. It is my hope that this exercise will encourage unconventional thinking and self awareness. Each week, I will provide a new prompt and post my response on the blog. Readers can comment with their responses on this post and read what others said.
Mama always said, “Your mouth is going to get you into a lot of trouble.” and boy, was she right! Now that I’m older, I wonder if she could truly see that my tongue would be the greatest source of struggle or if it was just something that adults said to deter you from “talking back.” I wonder if she could really see the extent of its power over me or the adversity it would bring.
I was always an exceptional student, but on my report cards, next to the As and Bs, I always received the same feedback: “Does great work but talks too much.” They tried reassigning seats but that never helped. Everywhere I went, my mouth went with me and besides, the quiet kids were the best listeners. This is where it all began.
Then, I became a teenager and it stopped being about how much I said. The bigger problem was what I said. I was a force to be reckoned with. I had a mouth and the attitude to match. I was “The Great Debater.” I had a teacher who would stop me at the door and say, “Not today, Ms. Washington.” and another who deemed me, “Ms. Sassy Pants.” I even had a teacher tell me to shut my mouth in French. “No, you ferme la bouche!” I said. The phrase “Shut Up” would probably only insult a person who talks a lot. To anyone else, it wouldn’t hold the same weight.
My mouth might not have been so bad if I was able to control my emotions. I have always been very sensitive and it was so much easier to get under my skin at this age. If something didn’t go my way, I had something to say about it and I wouldn’t just say it, I would explode! I used to wonder why I even had a cellphone. I could never keep it in my possession because I was always in trouble! It would be weeks, sometimes even months before I got it back. I would ask myself, why is my mom even paying the bill?
Now that I’m older, I see how strategic that punishment really was. Why didn’t she tell me that I couldn’t go outside or watch TV instead? Why didn’t she spank me? It’s because I liked to TALK. Maybe if I liked to go outside, she would have taken that way. Maybe if I actually watched TV, she would have suspended those privileges. But no, I spent hours at a time on the phone because I loved running my mouth.
*Side note: Remember when your minutes weren’t free until after 9 so when your mama asked if the person was with the same company, you would be like, “Hey, are you Verizon?” (KNOWING DANG WELL THEY WEREN’T!!!!), then when they said “Uh, no”, you’d tell them you’d call them back when your minutes were free. No? Just me?… Cool.
So, anyway, I think she knew that there would never be a way to control what I said. But, she could, however, control the medium. For non-communication majors, a medium is just the tool in which you communicate with; a means by which a message is transferred between the speaker and an audience. Another example of this would be the internet. They kind of went hand in hand for me. When one was taken, the other was too. I was so distraught when I couldn’t “share the love’ or update my status on Bebo! haha. Good times.
But the punishment was genius. I felt incomplete without my phone.
So far, we’ve covered teachers and parents. So what about your peers, Alexus? Did you get in any trouble with them? Yes, yes and yes! And it was always because of that darn mouth! I cannot begin to tell you how many times I had to own up to or defend something I said. I even spoke up for other people and made their enemies my own. And if I heard that something was said about me, you could bet I was going straight to the source.
You know that phrase, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me?” Who lied? You can always tell what your enemy places value on based on what tactics they use to attack you. My mouth was a lethal weapon. I could cut you with my words. But if you live by the sword, you die by the sword. I was a ticking time bomb and that was the only thing that could set me off.
I grew out of chasing after every rumor and learned how to mind my business if something had nothing to do with me. But then, I went to college…. and found out that my new problem was my delivery. “It ain’t always what you say. It’s how you say it, Alexus”, mama said.
I am and will probably always be a “straight to the point” kind of girl. One of my college friends said to me recently, “I can tell that you’ve always had problems with your mouth because of either what you said or how you said it. I am almost sure that most people who don’t like you, probably don’t know you at all. But you said something way too honest once and they wrote you off because of it. Either that or they didn’t understand your dark humor.”
It was like she read a book about me.
A good example of this “problem”: I recently found out that someone held a grudge for months over a joke that I don’t remember making.
Still, I believe her for two reasons: 1. It sounded like something that I would say and 2. When she repeated it, it took everything in me not to laugh out loud.. for the second time. She, however, did not crack a smile. So, yeah, I definitely said it and for the life of me, I still can’t understand why it was so bad!
I hardly ever know when I’ve struck a nerve.
But, story of my life. Did mama know that I would be this misunderstood?
So what do you do when your native language is sarcasm? If I were a style of coffee, it would be black with no sugar or cream added. Not the best taste but I bet it gets your attention!
So, I wonder… if when my mom said “Your mouth is going to get you into a lot of trouble.”, did she really know how much. I wonder if she knew that I would spend most of my childhood apologizing for what I said and the beginning of my adulthood struggling with the best way to say it.
It’s true that you catch more flies with honey but it’s also true that you die a little inside when you stop speaking up for the things that matter.
I’ve tried changing, but it never lasts.
For a while, it really bothered me to be this way. I used to wish I was quieter. I thought that people would like me more if I said less. It’s not fun trying to shrink yourself to be accepted though. They say, “If the shoe fits, wear it.” Well, I keep trying on this stupid shoe and each time I find out that it’s not my size, it makes me feel smaller.
I found out that these troublesome words just wont fit into a neat little box. They don’t come wrapped with a pretty bow.
I decided that I would rather be ostracized than censored.
And, let me tell you something (and if you’ve gotten this far, you know I’m not asking for your permission): I recently heard a sermon about potential and purpose. The pastor said that your greatest struggle is probably central to your purpose and I believe it because you wouldn’t even be reading this if it wasn’t for my “struggle”.
It also happens to be my strength.
Mama said that my mouth would get me into trouble and she was right! But, I also think she knew that it would still take me far.