So I have been doing a lot of reading lately and a lot of pharmacy work while on my final year pharmacy rotations. They are unpaid internships that are graded experiences working in different settings under different preceptors as requirements to graduate with a doctorate of pharmacy degree.

During all of these rotations (6 total, and each 6 weeks long) we are also, as pharmacy students, supposed to be looking for jobs and residencies and fellowships or what have you. I am an odd-man-out, an anomaly. I graduate in December when about 90% of my classmates will graduate this May. (I get to don cap and gown and walk in May but no diploma until December 31+). This process involves figuring out where you want to be in life and what “where” means. For a lot of people in my class, they wanted to do residencies, similar to how you think of medical doctors for any of you who can only picture the pharmacists behind counters. This provides up to 2 years of hospital or managed care or another specialty of experience where they get paid only as a resident and it adds to their knowledge base. Others take leadership roles right away in community pharmacies as a retail pharmacist, being thrown into an environment that involves multitasking and not messing up even once while individualizing treatment of every single person in there and working as a team. Others in my class are lost, still wondering what to do because either a residency has not chosen them, they don’t want retail, they don’t know what they are meant to do, or they haven’t thought past this part of their life.

For me, I know that I am interested in research and regenerative medicine and stem cell work. Is there a pharmacist job in that field? Technically? No.

I also know that I am extremely involved in politics and feel a great need to become more knowledgable. Is there such a thing as a political pharmacist? No.

So I decided that I would do my own research into politics, reading books about past wars, how intelligence works, staying up to date with current events, looking into certain branches, and trying to understand overall the aspects of the American government and how that affects the world. How a politician can manipulate words, the press can cut and paste their own, and then the public becomes a victim to a jagged documentation of history that is not from its primary source. Even worse, the public can think that what they do has no effect on the world and that what happens in the world has no effect on them… what a true demonstration of manipulated ignorance to provide power to those who survive on remaining high up and without question.

I am not saying this to be cynical, but rather to set up a point of the importance of having a voice. Democracy was instated to give the public the power to influence government rather than to be ruled by it. The people are ALLOWED to speak their minds and protest the government’s views. Someone asked me the other day why people still picket sign and gather in groups. They said that they don’t see any of this ever working. I explained that if an elected official is voted by such group of people and stated official does not stand for what the group of people are standing for, the official will not hold power because they will not remain elected for long as a leader without a following is a lone pawn without moves. This does not imply “mob rule” either, as has occurred in some historical events or stating that more voices will equal the government’s actions. That is not true, clearly. It is much more noticeable however, when people do nothing. There is a gap, there is a void, there is less noise. A voice could speak out but to whom exactly? And who is this one voice? No one will care or give any attention to a lone voice without face or true reason to turn their head.

Think about being in an empty room and giving a lecture. It could be the most powerfully worded and evidence-based work anyone has ever imagined. This is what a normal person undergoes, this person who has worked hard to make their beliefs validated with facts, to manipulate their words into something meaningful to others, and who have garnered so much courage that one could be brought to move a mountain by hearing their voice exclaim their speech. And yet, the normal person has no one come. If anyone does listen, it is people close to them, people who already know the person and likely take pride that the person is their family or friend and the cycle never moves. The word does not get out to others because others do not care.

Think now that that same normal person incites one news reporter to attend. That news reporter gets 10 views of their paper. The lecture is now published and sent and more people, not related to the direct event, but as an effect, can be affected by the mountain-moving speech of the normal person.

Think now that in the same room, there are 2 more reporters. The articles they write can’t be perceived in the same fashion, and more perspectives will be drawn on the important speech the normal person has given. Now the number of affected individuals here is compounded because 3 papers reach 3 different kinds of readers with their own individual perceptions of news and abilities to be impacted.

Now imagine that the normal person is from a local radio show. The area knows their voice and the speech is recorded with the knowledge not just of its power, but through the name of the normal person spread from ear to ear. The word is not just written through the reporters, but is spoken to locals who know the voice well, familiarly in fact, and are very willing to listen to what the normal person has to say.

Think again, that instead of just being a local radio show, this person is a notorious star. Their speech was packed. The room, so many longing eyes to catch a glimmer of someone they view as a other-worldly and reaching with their ears to catch every single word. The person speaks their truth, and much more adversity comes to their word because of who they are, but it also gets higher-up people talking about this speech. Not only is the name moved around, the speech perceived through published papers, but it is collecting more names. Famous names now add their word on the speech and continue the conversation. Groups come against the speech and bring forth action to sway believers or followers. Public is taught that they can choose how they view the movie star based on their speech and if they will allow themselves to be grateful that such a person says what they feel or if they feel the star is too far in space to know what life on earth is really like. Nevertheless, the whole world is now buzzing. The world rotates and this speech is discussed, everyone knows it and whether it is carrying its pursued action or bringing about defiance, the hard worked speech has made it. Whether people say words from it just to be relevant in conversation or politically inclined write think pieces on each sentence, breaking down the poetry of the star’s words, the words have become engraved. The analysis of a speech or writing is the biggest compliment one could ever be given, because it means that people give a shit. And yes, when having a voice, people giving a shit does matter. You can be the most moral and righteous person for all of the best reasons and if no one knows you, what is the point. You can be the most intelligent person and if you do not ever share your knowledge, why bother having a brain?

Now, the normal person, back to the initial scenario, was JUST as emotional and prepared, as intelligent and passionate, as well-read and knowledgable as the movie star, yet the normal person is kept hidden. This is no fault to the normal person and maybe nothing can be done, but when the normal person has the opportunity to be heard, would you not expect them to lunge at it? So why does the notorious star shy away from this sort of talk? Why would someone immensely capable, as capable as the normal person, delete comments about things that are “controversial,” choose to remain silent when the world is talking about densely packed subjects, and leave the room empty because even listening to the normal person talk would bring attention. And why should they then be associated?

So having a voice… this to me is something that is a true dream of the normal person. The normal person who lives their life knowing how great their potential is and not being able to reach it without a level of notoriety that the world does not afford them. To the normal person who tries so hard to give their valued word an etch into history, instead the silence overpowers.

Now, here I am, ready to make a place for myself in the world that doesn’t exist. Trying to be so well-read and knowledgable that I go to bed every night feeling guilty that I didn’t do more. Trying desperately to make those in my circles that have more influence than me allow my word to affect them, allow my voice. A voice can only do so much in silence and in making its way, has to be listened to. The normal person, a person much like myself, has to be prepared at any given moment. If there is that crack in the universe that allows a greater influence to be made, it is likely unplanned for and only offered once. Notoriety has the luxury of bringing about attention and the use of voice can be quite sufficiently used (ala oscars speeches becoming more and more about equal rights, climate change, valued ideals…the speeches of the notorious!) These are the envied moments of the normal people but also the admirable documentations. Whether it was said with eloquence or harsh vocabulary, it will be talked about. And it will be carried through perceptions of the world and translated to an individual’s own understanding. A true gift.

I am refining my voice daily, opening myself now to the voices who affect me, who choose to affect rather than deflect. I give no hate to those notorious who stay quiet, but I give them no love either. I fear silence and without strength of voice, to influence is to daydream. I will work to make myself available to the paths most likely to off-chance provide me with an opportunity to flex my truth and spread my word into the perceptions of others. Until such moments, here I am. Expecting myself alone to see these words.