by Daisy A., 11th
In our everyday lives, we interact with many different people, some that we like and some that we don’t. No matter how harshly we judge someone, we never judge them as harshly as we judge ourselves. In his book, The Voice of Knowledge, Don Miguel Ruiz uses his personal experience to explain how we treat ourselves worse than we treat others, because we listen to the voice of knowledge. Ruiz describes the voice of knowledge as a subconscious voice in our head that is instilled in us when we begin talking. As our knowledge increases, the voice of knowledge gains a larger presence within us. The voice of knowledge consists of the lies we’ve been exposed to: the stereotypes we’ve heard, the insecurities we have, and the societal norms that have been engraved into our lives. The voice of knowledge uses the lies instilled within us to expel the love we have for ourselves, and it uses the vast knowledge we have about ourselves to attack our known insecurities.
When we allow the voice of knowledge into our life, it utilizes the knowledge we have been exposed to, to abuse us. From an early age, we have been exposed to various lies such as false stereotypes and societal norms. I come from a Mexican background, and in Mexican culture, men are significantly valued more than women. Growing up, I was exposed to the narrative that women should stay at home and men should work. I wasn’t taught this; I observed this in my surroundings. My mother was a stay at home mom who cleaned the house and cooked while my father worked. I internalized this lie, and I believed that I wouldn’t be able to have a career because I am a woman. The aspirations I had for my life and the confidence I had in myself diminished, as I realized I would never be able to have what a man does because I am a woman. Ruiz would argue that I am using the word against myself. The word symbolizes our knowledge. He says, “How do you know when you are using the word against yourself? Well, when you are suffering with envy, with anger, with sadness. Suffering of all kinds is the result of misusing the word; it is the result of believing in knowledge contaminated with lies.” (150)
I envied men because they have a choice about what they want to do with their lives, and this envy and suffering was the result of my misuse of the word. Ruiz explains that “when you believe in lies, you are using the power of the word against yourself. When you believe that nobody likes you, that nobody understands you, that you will never make it, you are using the word against yourself” (148). I was using the word against myself in this situation. The fact that I believed this lie influenced not only my thoughts but also my actions. When doing chores at home, I will do most of the cleaning while my brother does nothing, and I will judge myself harsher if I don’t do my chores because I am a woman, and I should clean while men should not, according to the cultural values I have been exposed to. I know I don’t need to conform to this social norm, but the voice of knowledge pushes me towards changing myself to fit this social norm. I allowed the word to control because I don’t love myself enough to value myself over men.
We all have the ability to love, and it comes easily to us when it regards other people, but we have a harder time when it comes to ourselves. Due to the presence of the voice of knowledge has within us, we are unable to love ourselves. We focus on the negative aspects of ourselves and use these as barriers that hinder us from loving ourselves. Ruiz argues, “love and respect are what we should also teach our children, but the only way to teach them love and respect is to love and respect ourselves” (180). He believes the adults in our lives do not love and respect themselves, and they teach their children to not love themselves, which only adds on to their self-hatred. Ruiz proposes a solution that can end the cycle of self-hatred and allow the future generations to grow up with parents that love themselves when he says, “By changing ourselves, by loving ourselves, the message we deliver to our children carries the seeds of love and truth [ … ] Imagine how our children will grow up when we share with them the seeds of love instead of the seeds of fear, judgement, shame, or blame” (181). If my mother would have stood up to the societal norms she was exposed to, I might have learned to love myself enough to go against the voice of knowledge.
The voice of knowledge causes us to develop insecurities which we then use to put ourselves down and de-value our existence. “Every self-opinion, every belief, is made by words,” and these words are contaminated with lies and negativity about ourselves, therefore, insecurities are created (149). We judge ourselves more harshly because we know ourselves the best. When you judge yourself you attack all of your known weaknesses, hitting where it hurts the most. When you attack other people, you are speculating about what their weaknesses are, but when you attack yourself, you know what your weaknesses are. There’s a saying that sometimes the people who are closest to you hurt you the most; this is because they know what you think are your flaws, and this gives them the power to hurt you. Although many people know your flaws and insecurities, no matter how transparent you are with them, the only person who knows who you are is you even if you aren’t able to interpret what that is yet.
I know what I like, what I dislike, my fears, and my dreams. I am always changing and growing, and these aspects of my life change, but the only person who knows when they change is me. It is your instinct to be who you are, but this can be overcrowded with the societal pressures you are exposed to and the voice of knowledge that engraves these pressures deeper into your mind. It can do this because it is always with you. A larger presence is able to have a larger impact on you which is why you impact yourself the most. You know what you are insecure about, and you know what buttons people shouldn’t press. Just as these buttons are off-limits to others, they are also off-limits to you, but the voice of knowledge pushes them anyway. Ruiz argues that the only way to overcome our low self-esteem is to be impeccable with our word. “To be impeccable means that you don’t use your own knowledge against yourself, and you don’t allow the voice in your head to abuse you” (149).
We abuse and judge ourselves more than we judge others. We know ourselves best which allows us to target our known weaknesses, and we act on these targets when we don’t love ourselves. The judgement we carry with us regarding ourselves or others causes unnecessary suffering. Ruiz believes we can live a happier life if we rid ourselves of this pain by expelling the voice of knowledge from our lives and being impeccable with our words. We cannot control people experiencing pain from the loss of someone; but what we can prevent is our choice to hurt ourselves. We need to build up our self-esteem not tear it down, and we can achieve this through love. If we all love ourselves, we will be able to truly love others, and the world will be a better place for this.
by Perla, 8th
I am an immigrant from El Salvador. My name is Perla Hernandez and I am 13 years old. My family came to the United States because we needed a new beginning. Now we have a new beginning in Oakland, California.
When I was younger in El Salvador, my family had a problem. My grandfather had a gun and some people were mad about that because they didn’t have a gun. The guys who had a problem with my grandfather got in a fight will him at a rooster fight. After that fight they killed him. I was so sad about that.
Then my uncle called my dad and he said take your family now because we are in danger. My uncle came for us, and then we went to a hotel. We stayed one night at the hotel and then in the morning we were waiting for two men. We left and were taken to a big house. It had big beds and blankets. The coyote called my family and told us it was time to eat. We said ok and we went to eat. And then, they said go to bed. We followed what they told us to do, but it was raining . We were cold in the morning when they said “wake up, it is time to go.” It was 6:00 a.m. and we got to a bus and the police stopped us on the street. Then we got to another hotel we stayed there two nights and in the morning we washed our clothing. Then they call us because our aunt was calling us to see if we were ok. They told us “you need to stay two nights - you and your family.”
In the morning we went up to a small store. All we had to eat was tomatoes and beans for the whole time. We took a taxi and we got to a blue house. We stayed five days. After the five days we left. A car came for us and we crossed a big river. They helped us to cross the water in a boat. They said “walk this side, don’t stop.” The migration officers saw us and they took our cooler. Then, they checked our hair and we ate. At night a bus came to get us and we took one hour to go to the airport. Then we took another bus and another bus and another bus. When we finally arrived in Oakland, I was so happy to see my family, especially my cousins and my aunt.
The similarities between immigrants in U.S. history and my story are many. We both had to pay to come to the U.S. We both had to learn English and wait for a long time to come. We are both from another country. And immigrants in 1890’s - 1940’s came for better schools, and I did too. The biggest thing all immigrants have the same is we came to this country for a better life. The differences between the immigration station on Angel Island and today’s immigrants now is clear. Immigrants 100 years ago came to Ellis and Angel Island, but I immigrated to San Antonio, Texas. They had to take medical tests, but I didn’t.
Today, people like my mom have to wear ankle bracelets because of their immigrations case, but in 1900s they just keep them on the island like jail. I learned a lot about immigrants now and before. It is so hard to come here and I see how they worked hard and had a difficult time. I think about immigrants 100 years ago and their experience. It was difficult because they were not educated and they didn’t speak any English when they came here. The immigrants from then were totally different from me because they came on a boat, they had to go to Angel and Ellis Island, and they had to take tests. I hope that immigration in this country changes. I also hope that immigration officers, la migra, don’t come for all of us. I hope we can stay together and stay happy in Oakland like we are now.
by Nalli, 10th
When I hear the word home
I think of the small things that I once took for granted thinking they would always be there.
I think of the yellow, orange, and green buildings I grew up in.
Yellow to let the demons out
Orange to haul them back in
Green to start over
The apartment buildings we would have never been able to let go of if it weren’t for the letter giving only six days to leave behind a lifetime.
I knew exactly which floor tiles creaked in the dead of night.
How to turn the knobs in the shower to get just the right temperature.
And the downstairs neighbor who dreamed about growing her own garden but was never able to.
I think of the way the leaves fell from the trees in the fall and flooded the streets like rain.
How when we first stepped foot in that neighborhood my brothers were still using training wheels.
The room with a giant closet I avoided at night just incase there was a ghost living in there.
The hall full of photos of my brothers and I and the Christmas tree mom took down and sold before it was even Christmas.
And how in the Autumn time I would leave my window open so I could listen to the giant trees swaying and creaking in the wind.
My dad walking me to my fifth grade class
Tracing the lines on the fences with my fingers as we walked side by side.
I was too embarrassed by sixth grade
And by seventh grade I walked alone every morning.
Waking up from an after school nap to a dark living room
The sunset peaking through the window
The sounds of my family getting ready for dinner.
Jumping in the creek even though we knew we shouldn’t
Building clubhouses in the field
Stealing the neighbors oranges and never really eating them.
Riding my bike in the driveway
Riding my skateboard in the driveway
Attempting to build a seesaw in the driveway.
Dancing with the thought of never leaving.
Playing soccer in the streets late into the night.
Sitting at the top of the stairs waiting for the sun to rise.
Watching as the neighborhood slowly came to life.
I think of a world that no longer exists.
And how there’s no feeling crueler than nostalgia.
by Summer B. 11th
Each of us is on a journey.
Cocooned in a
mold made by the world
vulnerable to the elements
Hoping to one day
Seeking milk and honey
As we struggle to feed
our starving souls.
Burning bountiful forests
to pack our pretentious pockets.
Building off the backs of others
breaking bonds between
our brothers, as sisters are
silenced and sold to satiate broken beings.
We bind ourselves to
Denying our own
If only we could
dissolve the film!
that filters our perspective
Emerge into a world
outside of ourselves,
and see we’re interconnected.
One blue rock
that lives and breathes
Formed from stardust
And born by storm
Each beat of wing,
suspended in space
Oakland Youth 6th-12th