Sveta Petty is an editor of We Are Kathy. She is a 17-year-old college student, writer, artist and soul seeker. Read more of Sveta's story here, where she talks about her journey in Flint and finding a place in this world as an adopted child.
Years ago, I would feel the burning sensation in my chest as words swirled around my head, begging to be heard. I didn’t know what it meant at that time, that the fire inside of me was a voice that was trying to find its way out. For the longest time I believed that I wasn’t made to speak up, that it wasn’t my place, and that my voice was not important.
There were countless times where my age was used against me -- as if age was the determining factor in being able to speak up and for people to take you seriously. I believed that being a young human, a young woman, and a young creative made my voice of no use. I told myself that with time, that with age, that when I was good enough then my voice would finally be important. What I failed to realize, what I wish I knew, was that my thoughts and experiences were important and deserved to be spoken. They were valid, and most all they were my story to share.
What I failed to realize, what I wish I knew, was that my thoughts and experiences were important and needed to be heard.
There was never a specific moment where I began to hold that spark closer and dear to me. But when I began to let that fire erupt into words, it pushed me to put that to use. At first it was personal, it was letting the pen dance pirouettes upon pages. It was in the lines of poetry that I began to quietly share with others in moments of "maybe this deserves to be shared." It was conversations where I began to say what I felt and the experiences that I once hid in shame and fear.
There were the big moments where I stood up for justice. I remember a pivotal moment being among a crowd of counter protestors to the anti-LGBTQ+ Westboro protest that took place at U of M Flint, as well as other locations around Genesee county. I remember the feeling that said, I want to do this forever. It was a moment that I believe has shaped how I use my voice and ignited a spark in me.
When I began to let myself own who I was, I began to better support others who did the same. I used to be the person who shuddered at those who unashamedly spoke out and walked with a sense of security. I was told that was wrong and inappropriate. But as I began to find my footing, I found myself putting that as my goal. I am still learning to do that, to hold my journey and voice with security and confidence. I am thankful that growth is continuous and that I will always continue to learn -- to refine my voice and speak louder. I hope I always remember that the thunderstorms reap gardens, and I should never apologize for my sound and the space I take up. I am valuable and my voice is important as young human, a young woman, and a young creative.
It was difficult when I heard people constantly label younger people as naive, reckless and unknowing. It turned me inward and I silenced myself. I believed what I heard and that it was pointless for me to speak. However, I am thankful that I am young, that I am evolving and constantly learning. And that doesn’t change with age. We are creatures of magic, evolving, learning and growing. I am thankful for the stories and experiences that have been shared from those before me. I am thankful that I get to carry those with me as I continue on my journey and sharing my story.
I am glad that I live in a time where I have access to learn about the powerful women who shaped the way for us to continue the fight for equality. Even more, I am filled with gratitude that I have women of all ages around me to learn from, to learn with, and to share our stories and voices together.
I am glad that my story is colorful and messy; vibrant. I continue to struggle with owning who I am and being comfortable with the darkness and weight that I sift through. But that does not deny me my power, nor worth. It does not define who I am as a human or woman.
I am a firm believer that we all deserve to share our stories. There is power in owning ourselves and our stories. I refuse to believe that because I am a young human, woman, and creative that it devalues the importance of my voice. I will continue to speak up, share and educate. I will continue to advocate for mental health, LGTBQ+ rights, women's rights, and equality in a world of division.
My voice is important. My story deserves to be heard, and I am proud of myself and my journey as I find my voice as a young human, woman and creative.
May we never forget that thunderstorms reap gardens
Written by Sveta Petty
Photos by Alyssa Baldermann