When I was young, I had a condition that made it difficult for me to speak in a normal register. I would often speak in either a high pitched tone or a low, frog-like voice, and it took time for me to learn how to adjust the way that I spoke so that others could understand. Having to work to be understood granted me a lot of the empathy and compassion I carry with me today; struggling to find my own voice afforded me a deep connection to others with the same struggle. I think this is why I have such a strong bond with animals— our relationships with animals show that there are forms of understanding that are deeper than speech.
I grew up on a wildlife preserve and I still remember the nights I spent on my roof underneath the stars in the company of my family’s two cats. I found them to be such a comfortable presence; we had a gentle understanding that didn’t need words. My connection with them taught me that communication can exist in terms far broader than we sometimes think. This is a lesson I carried with me as I began dancing, and studied movement as communication in college: that our interactions are about so much more than tone and syntax, that sensing and awareness are both fundamental to true understanding. That I could form connections with others that had nothing to do with spoken words.
My journey as a young dancer was one of self-discovery. Much like I had learned to calibrate my vocal tone over time, I started to explore channels of expression in movement and sense. I learned to gain a deeper sense for everything around me and make choices about how I wanted to interact with the world. At the same time I had to learn balance and strength, to hold onto my new voice even when I faced opposition. Being a woman in the entertainment business taught me that I had to believe in myself and nurture my own voice, honor my values and convictions even when it was challenging. That my voice has been tested again and again only makes it so much stronger and more precious to me, and encourages me to continue to exercise it.
Once we start building a voice for ourselves, there’s a dance to learning how to use it. We start to reflect on what we want to say and how we want to say it. We learn that unique frequency that belongs only to us and start to see the beauty and importance in that, and just as importantly, we learn to shape and refine it. It’s taken time to learn that not everything needs to be said, that I can choose to hold some thoughts in not from fear or low esteem but because some thoughts are just for me.
Over the past years I’ve been blessed with a platform, an outlet that amplifies my voice and connects me to people who will listen to it. With this increased visibility comes an increase in responsibility. I now have more of a voice than that little girl in Honolulu ever dreamed possible, but that also means that how I use that voice has become so much more crucial, and that the words I choose require immense care.
I’ve been fortunate to find so many connections with people all over the country, all over the world, who recognize a part of themselves in the stories I tell and want to share a bit of themselves with me. This is the heart of the Carrie Ann Conversations. I share my experiences, even the more challenging ones, with the world, hoping that it helps someone out there feel less alone and access a truth beyond what they’re able to see right now. It’s a way to use my voice and be honest about what I’ve been through, both the good and the bad, in the hopes that it will make it easier for others to do the same.
I think it’s also important to acknowledge that finding our voices is a constant process. We experience new things every day, all of us are constantly growing and shifting, and as we transform, our truth transforms along with us. That’s why there’s such value in continuing the conversation, across months and years and decades, helping us gain a broader perspective on the truths that guide us.
Be both gentle and bold with your voice, and use them accordingly. And listen to your heart, for she will never fail you.