Wicked Words


Dahlia Bray, Online Editor

On average, humans speak and hear 20,000 words each day. Some of these words are hard to swallow, like a large pill or a burning shot of whiskey. Others slide right down your throat like the first bite of ice cream or a cool glass of water. It’s like these words are in a race each day, and the prize is your confidence.

The first 40 words of my day, every day, is the chorus to Toto’s “Africa” in hopes of my day being blessed like the rains down in Africa. However, the other 19,960 are unpredictable, and any tone of voice or mannerism can determine how the rest of my day will go. Over the course of high school, I have become hyper-aware of people’s tones and body language, their pseudo-smiles. My subconscious attention to detail is one of my most damaging personality traits. Sometimes naivete can be beneficial, and for the sake of my mind, I wish I had that benefit.

Words are the root of my anxiety, whether they are another’s or my own. When people tell me to be honest, they’ll call me a bitch, when I am quiet, they act like I’m a recluse. Be selective, think fast. What words can I say to appeal to the other person and continue our conversation? I would like to say I do well in conversations, but I spend all day redoing them in my head. Did I sound happy or polite? Could I have said anything to take them aback? I want to please, but my words do not assure me.

Words haunt me where they shouldn’t. Even in my most private moments with my friends and loved ones, I go over and over in my head what to say to them or how to respond. At this point in my life, my conversations are almost rehearsed. I know how to please my friends and family without getting sick from nerves, but on occasion, I will feel it coming–my word vomit. It only happens when I get nervous and my conversation goes off-script. Why does it go off-script? I ramble and make dumb jokes, then I cannot help but think, “Have I scared them away?” And if I haven’t, what do they think of me now? Am I the girl who can’t speak or who speaks too much?

When I lay in bed at night, I think about my 20,000 words–if they were right, if they were wrong, if I was annoying, or rambly, what I can do the next day to carry on normal conversations. The next morning, Toto will reassure me like always. Each day is a clean slate of words, and I can only try to find peace in how I use my next 20,000.