Give Us a Voice

I walked into a conference room with fifteen men sitting around a table. I sat down, and the director said his name and asked others to introduce themselves. That man to his left introduced himself, then turned to the next person to do the same.

My heart sped up as the participants introduced themselves around the table. Soon it would be my turn to speak. My hands began to shake, and it became increasingly difficult to write the names of the attendees. All my life I had been terrified of talking in front of people. My throat closed up and my mind went blank whenever people turned and looked at me expectantly. I even took up needlework in my twenties so that I could avoid eye contact when surrounded by my first husband’s colleagues.

The introductions around the table were getting closer to me. I practiced in my head what I would say: “I’m Patricia McConnell, and I’m the administrative assistant.”

I needn’t have worried. The man to my right said his piece and then turned his head in my direction. As I was opening my mouth to say my name, the man to my left spoke over me. It hadn’t occurred to him that I would introduce myself. As the recording secretary and the only woman in the group, I wasn’t expected to have a voice. As I sat in stunned silence, my face hot with humiliation, the introductions continued around the table.

I would like to tell you that I began my career solely because of a deep-seated passion for animals. It’s true that this was my primary motivation. But underneath my love of animals, I was motivated by something else. After years of feeling like I had no voice, I wanted to be the one with something to say, even though I was afraid to do so. Everyone needs a voice and needs to be listened to. Including dogs. Maybe I could give them that. Maybe I could give it to myself.

 

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