For a lot of my life, I wondered what to do with my voice.

It never seemed like I had a choice.

I look like this so I must sound like that.

I come from there so I must be like this.

Don’t be too loud they said, you’ll scare them.

Don’t be too soft they said, you’ll embarrass us.

All these rules and yet, no space for expression of self.

Nuance taken away in the name of systems and expectations.

Identity stripped away to make people I barely know comfortable.

I rehearsed several versions of myself so I could play in whatever movie was showing for the day.

All this hard work only to play supporting characters or extras.

I was never the star because God forbid I be seen as too extra.

So I did what they said.

I became an actor in my own life instead of THE director.

That was before I heard the power in the sound of my voice.

What a day it was because I could finally use it to rejoice.

My voice led me to the hidden layers I had covered up.

I could finally see myself without any apologies.

My voice led me to the mic so I could project even more.

Yes! No more hiding.

My voice taught me a lot! But, more importantly, it brought me to this realization.

Your approval will not make or break me.

Your DISapproval will no longer silence me.

I’m not placed here to make you feel comfortable about your choices.

My existence isn’t something you can tokenize and my story isn’t something you will weaponize.

I’ve decided to quit playing your game and the only game I’ll play now is to live up to my name.

A warrior that brings joy!

Not someone that plays coy.

Tayo Rockson

Tayo Rockson is a storyteller, cultural translator, and brand strategist for change-makers on a mission to use his difference to make a difference.  He is a 4x TEDx speaker, the CEO of UYD Management, and the host of the As Told by Nomads podcast. In addition to that, he's been named a "Top 40 Millennial Influencer" by New Theory magazine. His book Use Your Difference To Make A Difference is based on how to connect and communicate in a cross-cultural world.

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