Herman’s life began in a well-to-do family in Arlington, Virginia. His father, a successful lobbyist, and his mother, a devoted attorney, held strong beliefs about racial justice in America. Despite their privileged lifestyle, they were determined to ensure their son’s success. However, from an early age, Herman failed to demonstrate exceptional talents according to private educators.
Frustrated by these assessments, his mother insisted on exposing him to numerous cultural and artistic activities, hoping to uncover hidden abilities. Yet, Herman remained mediocre at best, leading to a childhood filled with constant pressure from his parents. As a result, he became inhibited and self-conscious, lacking the confidence to explore his own interests.
At the age of 18, Herman entered Brown University, where he encountered an intense focus on social justice ideologies, mirroring his parents’ beliefs. Upon arriving at his dormitory, he was immediately summoned to a mandatory meeting regarding his gender identity. In this environment, Herman began questioning his privileged status as a “cisgender, White man” and contemplated a gender transition.
His college experience further reinforced his parents’ ideology, as he was exposed to a professor who excluded all literature by White male authors. Instead, the class studied works by authors espousing revolutionary communism. Herman was taught that his race and gender inherently made him racist and sexist, regardless of his intentions.
As the semester progressed, Herman’s vow of silence began to have a significant impact on his life. He realized that without the ability to speak, he couldn’t participate fully in his English class discussions, which relied heavily on verbal communication. Feeling frustrated and isolated, he made the difficult decision to drop out of the class, sacrificing his academic aspirations.
The multicultural environment of his college, which once embraced diversity and inclusivity, became increasingly challenging for Herman. He felt that the mere fact of his existence as a cisgender white man brought disgrace upon his gender-fluid and exotically colored peers. Unable to express his thoughts and engage in meaningful conversations, Herman’s sense of belonging eroded, and he found it difficult to connect with his fellow students.
One evening, after a particularly exhausting day on campus, Herman decided to take an Uber back home. But as the driver struck up a friendly conversation, Herman’s vow of silence prevented him from engaging in even the simplest exchange of words. The silence in the car felt suffocating, and Herman realized that his self-imposed silence was creating barriers not just in academic and social settings but in his everyday life as well.
Even family traditions were affected by Herman’s choice. Attending Democratic Party rallies had been a long-standing tradition in his family, where they would cheer and exclaim their left-wing slogans with passion. But now, Herman found himself standing in the crowd, unable to participate fully, unable to share his enthusiasm and support for the causes he once believed in.
Herman’s vow of silence had transformed his life into a muted existence. He had isolated himself from meaningful conversations, severed connections with his peers, and limited his ability to engage in everyday interactions. What started as a response to the pressures and ideologies he encountered had unintentionally become his destiny.