For the last few years, I have routinely said that I didn’t think I would ever get a tattoo. It’s not that I don’t like them. On the contrary. Several tattoos I have seen are exceptionally cool. Rather, my hesitation comes from the fact that I didn’t think I would ever find an image or a phrase that I wanted on my body permanently. Then, about a year ago, I heard about the Semicolon Project. Because of my love of literature as well as my challenges with my psychiatric diagnosis, the thought of a semicolon tattoo seemed like a good choice. I wrote a blog post about it, but I never took the plunge.
As the concept of the semicolon tattoo spread and got more popular, something about its luster faded for me a bit. The image became somewhat common, and I have always been more of an “outside the box” kind of girl. So the idea of my getting a tattoo got put on the back burner inside my head.
About nine months ago, I was asked to share my thoughts about the importance of accessibility to a team of people who support a potential project in Lawrence, the city where I live. According to the caption on a video about the subject made by Handbuilt Productions, “in 2014, Lawrence, Kansas won a $500,000 Art Place America grant for the artistic revitalization of East Ninth Street from downtown Lawrence to the Warehouse Arts District in East Lawrence.” In addition to fixing many issues that have the street in severe disrepair, (potholes and broken sidewalks and such) the plan is to put several pieces of sculpture and better lighting along a section of the street, along with making it fully accessible and essentially an “arts corridor.” One of the reasons I am so excited about this plan is because, if it goes forward, then I would be one step closer to having a completely accessible route from my driveway into the heart of downtown. That would mean I could get out and about in the community by myself, without the help of a caregiver. If I could decide that I wanted to go to some event in the community on a whim, without having to coordinate a ride with anyone days in advance, then the quality of my life would improve significantly.
Obviously, I really want this to happen, so I have provided testimony, voicing my support, to the mayor and the city commissioners several times, as well as been part of the video about the project.
It’s getting down to crunch time. The city commission is supposed to continue the discussion on July 12th as to whether or not to allow this project to go forward to the next phase. A friend of mine requested recently that I email all the city commissioners again, to let them know how much better my life would be if this project became a reality, and I did so.
The next day I received a reply from one of the city commissioners. Matthew Herbert supports the East 9th project going forward and his email response to me read, in part:
“Lorraine, I am so grateful to you for speaking up and being heard on this issue. Too many people look at this topic and narrow it to simply “art in infrastructure”. Rebuilding 9th isn’t just about art; It’s about building accessibility into the DNA of this town. I too support the East Ninth Project…”
He just gets it.
When I asked him if there was anything else I could do that would be helpful, he said “Don’t stop writing and don’t stop advocating. Your story is compelling…. there is no one in Lawrence that can listen to your story and walk away saying “I don’t much like Lorraine”. That makes you a very powerful asset to have on our side. Stay loud. ”
It was the last two words that struck me and settled deep into my soul.
I really like the concept. It somehow seems to fit. That phrase could have so many different meanings in my life, especially as an advocate.
Stay loud. Let your voice be heard. Don’t sit at the back of the bus. Don’t let anyone make you feel inferior or take away your power. Speak kindly. Have clear boundaries. Practice. Get noticed. Be present. Don’t let the noise in your head overshadow what is in your heart. Do what is right. Keep going. Don’t fade into the background. Fight. Be confident in your convictions. Don’t tolerate any kind of mistreatment. Regroup. Don’t gossip. Stand up to injustice. Maintain your dignity. Don’t be afraid of the unknown. Participate. Make good choices and be able to back them up. Know why you believe what you believe. Work out conflict. Take risks. Refuse to settle for mediocre. Own your successes and your mistakes. Be exactly who you are.
You probably know where this story is going. At some point in the foreseeable future, I am going to get a tattoo. Those two words sum up many things that I am about, and that are significant to me.
Thank you for the reminder, Commissioner Herbert!
I never want to be obnoxious…
I always want to stay loud!