Throwing my Voice

I had been at BYU for two whole years, and I still didn’t know what to major in. Which is actually a lie. I had known what I wanted to major in since my senior year in high school when I fell in love with Shakespeare and Greek tragedies and also Subway ham and cheese sandwiches that my friend would buy me as we studied for the AP test, but that’s another story for another day. But, when I got to college, I felt like I needed to do the dumb college thing and “explore” and waste time and money searching for my major I already knew I was going to major in.

I considered Psychology, History, French, Humanities, and, of course, English. I also toyed around with ASL, but I figured that my man-hands would be too much of a distraction. I even dabbled in Dance, but my feet couldn’t keep up with my head, and my head couldn’t keep up with my feet and it wasn’t pretty. Not pretty at all.

My sister talked me into taking one of those career assessment tests. So, we got our mini loaf of warm bread, smothered it with honey butter from the bakery in the Wilkinson Center and headed over to the counseling office.

I got all set up with the test, which was on a bubble sheet . . . no, like 50 (Five-Zero) bubble sheets. “How am I possibly supposed to know so much about myself?? Who am I?” I asked myself very existentialisty. But, I started in with my number two pencil, eager to get to know myself.

Deep. I know.

One of the questions was: Do you like to work outside? “Well,” I says to myself, I says, “I don’t want to sound like some pale hermit, so I’ll say Yes.” The truth was that I hated being out when it was too hot or too cold. Hot makes me tired and cold makes me cry. I preferred working in an air-conditioned cubicle, unless it was nice outside, but they didn’t have that option. So, Yes it was.

Another question was: Do you like working with people? “Well,” I said to myself, “I don’t want to sound like an anti-social weirdo, so I’ll answer yes, when I really prefer working alone.” Unless people who are in my group ACTUALLY help, but they didn’t have that option, either. So, Yes it was.

So far, I didn’t sound like the wimpy, weather-sensitive, loner I sometimes felt like in college. I sounded like a friendly person who always loved to be skipping outdoors, rain or shine, always willing to do whatever it took to work with people who bugged the crap out of me. Perfect!

Don’t worry. I knew what I was doing. I wanted to see what job the test would give me if I was the perfect version of myself, not necessarily myself.

And so it went. I answered page after page, feeling like I needed to ask someone for the answers I didn’t know about myself. I wondered if I should have studied first, taken some time to ponder and reflect before answering such deep questions, like: “What is your favorite color?”

Blue! No, yell . . . Ahhhhhh!

Finally, I was done. I turned in my test and the guy put it into the little scantron . . . scanner . . .thing, and I waited for my fate to be revealed. Would I be a doctor, a lawyer, an awkward dancer? The possibilities were endless.

He handed me my results, still warm from the printer and dripping with that wet-ink smell. I eagerly looked at my top career choice–the sum of all that I was or ever hoped to be. Are you ready? Are you on the edge of your seat? Oops. You fell off. I can wait. Good? Ok. Here it is.

A Ventriloquist.

I repeat.

A Ventriloquist.

I turned the paper over, looked at the other pages, and realized it wasn’t a joke. I looked over at the guy who wasn’t holding up a camera or anything. It was real. It was true. It was . . . hilarious. My sister and I fell on the ground laughing. WHY, oh WHY, would they even have ventriloquist as an option on a college career assessment exam?? (Nothing against ventriloquists. I’m actually quite in awe of them.) But, come on!!

Anyway, I finally decided on my previously-chosen major of English and actually graduated, though I had two babies by then. If I had not wasted any time, and trusted that I really did know myself well enough, and just chosen what I knew I loved, I would have been done literally two years earlier.


As the years have gone by, though, I have witnessed the prophetic nature of my top career choice of ventriloquism. Here are a few examples:

I can throw my voice one hundred yards across the cul-de-sac when I call my kids in for dinner.

When my kids are looking for me and I answer, “Yes!” from my bedroom upstairs, I hear them run downstairs to look for me in the basement, believing that my voice came from there instead.

I can tell them to be quiet and stop beating each other up at church through still and smiling lips, and no one around us would even know.

Recently, I have started speaking through the characters in my books to say the words I can’t or don’t say myself. And I don’t even need a shiny-faced, weird-looking puppet on my knee with floppy, straw-hair, and wide, creepy eyes to do it. (Again, nothing against ventriloquists. Just maybe their puppets.)

I hear my own words through the mouths of my children. Sometimes I’m mortified, sometimes I cry with joy. My thoughts are becoming their thoughts. My hopes their hopes. My happiness their happiness. My sadness their sadness. My worries their worries. My beliefs their beliefs. My attitude their attitude. My love their love.

My words. Their words.

I AM a ventriloquist.

4 thoughts on “Throwing my Voice

  1. Ah ha ha ha!!! So funny! And then so poignant! You are a very skilled ventriloquist because as I read this I can hear your voice in my head 2 states away!

  2. Dad said, “You should read Jessi’s new post.” We were at Sam’s Club. I was eating my hotdog. As I read, I was fine until, I wasn’t. I was laughing so hard, quietly, that I almost choked…seriously!

  3. No way!!! Ventriloquist?! Too funny!! I forgot what mine said now, but I don’t remember it being so specific. I should go do it again, just to see the difference almost 20 years later. You should too! But I guess it would be kind of anticlimactic if you get author this time… 😉

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