“Who we are is as important as what we publish.”
~Paul Brian Campbell, SJ
I continue to share my development from early age to late adulthood. It is not because I find my trek unique; rather, my path reflects the similar paths of many elders in our time who have journeyed through the decades since the mid-20th century. In doing so, they have been witnesses to extraordinary changes in our society, which has been transformed into a global, interconnected community and, in a sense, has left them as elders as keepers of the memories and guardians of the voices.
In my last entry, as a part of my own story, I shared the development and the potential loss of voice in girls and young women. I have witnessed the loss in many students as an educator and academic. Bright, capable girls reach a point, usually in late childhood and early adolescence, when voice is silenced – either by themselves or because of the actions of others. Both Gilligan (1982) and Miller (1986) shared insights in this regard from their research regarding the psychological development of women. They reported that girls, because of the very relationships that nurture them, are in danger of withdrawing into silence when they feel that speaking their mind risks those relationships. An example was “Hailey” in my previous blog, who was told she needed to silence herself in the classroom since no one likes aknow-it-all. How many times have we witnessed bright young girls who, in an effort to preserve friendships, go along with the opinions and wishes of their less capable peers despite their own beliefs, which remain silenced?
My own personal journey is one of losing (and finding and losing and finding) voice multiple times through the years. As an adolescent, like many high-functioning girls, I went “underground” with my true words in an attempt to fit into a world that refused to celebrate individualism. As a college student, it was not until I had professors in my major who encouraged my voice that I re-connected with Self. As a classroom teacher, again one was expected not to stand out intellectually, lest others feel threatened. A transformative moment came when I completed my doctoral work and moved into the academic world. What a pleasure to be heard and accepted by colleagues eager to involve me in research and decision-making! Now retired, as a student again in a clinical psychology program that is an entirely new paradigm for me, I find that I am at the beginning of the learning curve again. I am humbled by young graduate students, steeped in the literature and familiar with the scientific research model that I find so challenging. In addition, I find myself at odds once again with a society that conveys the message that at my stage of life, I should not be concerned with creative productivity. Yet, how glorious to hear voicereappear, strong and capable, as I worked with clients in practicum experiences.
The message I wish to convey through the sharing of my personal journey is that my perspective as a gifted elder is tinted with seven decades of disappointments, delights, and discovery. As you continue the journey with me, Dear Reader, it is my hope that – through knowing who I am – what you read in the posts that follow will resonate clearly and assist our gifted elders in finding their strong and rich voices, that they may continue their own journeys supported by a community and a society that celebrates their gifts.
Gilligan, C. (1982). In a different voice: Psychological theory and women’s development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Miller, J. B. (1986). Toward a new psychology of women (2nd ed). Boston, MA: Beacon Press.