A Sentimental Sunday

I love words.

In all forms.

In my favorite book that I read and then reread. Bending its pages to keep my place. In movies and monologues, and in the voices of friends who talk through the show.

In poetry, written on bathroom stalls. Words written in dust on a car’s window. Graffiti on train cars passing through my sleepy little hometown.

The note hung on the refrigerator of my childhood home. Wishing me good luck on my math test and reminding my dad we need eggs. 

In speech, casual conversation, secrets spilled between bathroom stalls. In the voicemail left by my grandma just to say she’s been thinking of me.

Words are the means through which we shape our reality. 

Words name our favorite objects. Chai tea lattes, pancakes, Baby’s Breath, silk pajamas. They convey feelings and describe emotion. Of embarrassment, irritation, skepticism. Words conjure images of our favorite people, places, memories. They mark our actions. Giving meaning to what it is to laugh, to lie, to try, and to forgive.

And some are just designed to tickle our mouths coming out. Smiling as we stumble on the syllables of serendipitous, periwinkle, ominous. 

Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” – every adult ever

That’s why I’m studying advertising, so I can work with words.

In my copywriting class, my professors asked the students whether they thought audio or visual media was more important.  A few hands went up for video. A majority of students copped out and said both. I was the sole hand raised in favor of audio. 

I reasoned that you could tell a more complete story with just audio than you could with video. Spoken word has a human characteristic that centers it. Gives it life. 

I can’t remember when my love for reading turned into an addiction.

When I think about it, it probably all started because of a competition. In second grade whoever read all the Magic Treehouse books first got to be line leader for a whole month. How could I pass that up?

That little nudge was all it took. Even now, I read like it’s a race. Scared that I might turn the page to find the next empty. The words all gone. The story incomplete.

When I sit down to read, I don’t move until I’ve finished the book. All my priorities fade into the background. I’m somewhere else entirely. It’s numbing in the best possible way. 

It’s just me. The weight of the book. The feel of the page in my hand. My eyes scanning for a clue as to what happens next. Taking note of clever phrasing. Collecting new words. 

At times in my life, reading has become my air. 

Around the same time I started avidly reading, I was also convinced I was going to be the next Hannah Montana.

She was the only pop start I knew a the time, and I was obsessed.

I played the piano, not necessarily by choice. I spent hours every week sitting on a warped wooden bench waiting for inspiration to strike, while I was supposed to be practicing my scales. My little fingers curled and stretched trying to gracefully glide up and down the black and white keys. 

And in the privacy of my basement bathroom, I would write my own songs. I will warn you, everything rhymed. Even today, I love when things rhyme. I know that’s rather cheesy.

I took a songwriting workshop in middle school. That really didn’t work to discourage me. Not that anyone ever heard what I was writing. Never ever will I sing in front of people. 

I played the lead fairy godmother in my elementary school production of Sleeping Beauty. I sang the wrong lines and ran off stage crying. Never to utter another note again. 

Sometimes on my drive home from college, I’ll turn down the radio and just sit in silence. And then under my breath sing whatever is on my mind.

Only for a minute or two. As if I’m scared someone’s bugged my car and is listening in as I make a fool of myself. 

In seventh grade, my mom signed me up for the speech team. 

This might not sound so bad, but for context, I was an anxious child.

Maybe she thought this would help me work through it, but I saw it as a form of cruel and unusual punishment. She said public speaking was a life skill. I saw public speaking as the end of the world. Well, at least my world.

But, as always, she was right. After I got past the mortifying realization that my competitors would witness me speaking and that my competitors included high school boys, I settled in. 

Tori with fourth place medal

I was always nervous. That never went away. My stomach would be churning as we rode the bus to competitions at six-thirty am on a Saturday morning. 

But as I gained experience, I started to enjoy the feeling of performing. Of holding the audience’s attention. The ebb and flow of my words had them enthralled.

I felt powerful as I manipulated my voice to convey false emotions. Contorting my face to portray a pain unimaginable to me, a senior in high school, but all too real to my character dying alone.

But then the pandemic hit. And high school ended.

I graduated at a distance. I was chosen to be one of the commencement speakers. I used all that I had learned in my eighteen years of life thus far to write and deliver one of the best speeches of my life. Everyone cried. 

I’m not sure if it was because of my speech, or because they felt bad for us seniors. Our time cut short. Regardless, I recognized the power of finding the right words that day. 

Maybe it’s just my affinity for words, but I truly think they’re the most beautiful thing we give one another. 

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