Losing My Voice, Finding Myself
My story begins as a little girl. Like most little kids, I was active, curious, and endlessly inventive. And I loved being loud. Like, really loud! If I was singing, I was singing exuberantly. If I was playing Indians and cowboys, I was yelling like an entire war band was coming. If I was injured, the whole world was alerted. Put me on a stage, and I would dance like everybody was watching and revel in it!
As I grew, I began to notice that not all people reacted positively to my exuberance. Kindergarten…oh, kindergarten! Luckily, it was still half-day kindergarten, so I had the whole afternoon to play in. And there was the library. So, in the interest of free access to all those stories (and dinosaur books), I learned to moderate myself.
The world had expanded, and I had discovered that there were things I wanted badly enough to modify how I acted…in public. At home, I was still dancing on the play table singing “New York, New York” and pretending to be a horse, loud neighing included.
Fast-forward another five or six years. My experience with the wider world continued to expand, but now home was changing, too. With my baby sister entering kindergarten (I’m one of six kids), my mom went back to work. My oldest sister and brother began taking up more and more of the load of watching us younger kids…but it wasn’t the same. You see, I was loud. And obnoxious. And buggy. And still running around on all fours neighing like a horse (although I’d added dragons and wolves to my repertoire). So I started learning to limit myself at home. Being quieter, tamer, less obnoxious…it just became easier than constantly battling the “be quiet”s, not to mention avoiding my sister’s bony knuckle coming down on the top of my head. And then…middle school.
Okay, yeah. Middle school tends to be significant in most people’s lives. It’s a place where budding personalities are made or squashed. And I may have been one of those that got squashed—except…I started band. And discovered the euphonium.
For those who aren’t familiar with this wonderful low brass instrument, it’s the same shape as a tuba but about half the size. And loud. I. Was. In. Love.
Here it was. My ticket to being loud, performing on stage, expressing myself. And it was totally legit. No pointed fingers, no funny looks. I took to it like a duck to water, playing all the way through college. Band became my world.
Fast forward-15 years. I was now married, living just outside of Seattle while my husband was going to school. I was working four jobs pieced together in a crazy hodgepodge…and the car died. Not cool. And rent was due. Also not cool. I only owned two things of value at that point: my sewing machine and Baird, my euphonium. And life had taught me that the sewing machine was the useful item that could do things. My euphonium, my voice…wasn’t valuable. Beautiful, maybe, but not valuable.
My ad was answered by a good gentleman who was starting an instrument rental business and was looking for instruments to stock in his store. He didn’t haggle over the price—he wanted my instrument for a good purpose and was willing to meet me in a few days, cash in hand.
I followed through. We met at the library, a nice public place. He handed me the cash, and I handed over Baird. I stood, rent in hand, and watched him drive away, as I sobbed uncontrollably. You see, I’d sold my voice. Not just lost it, or had it taken, or forgotten how to use it. I’d sold it. For rent. The thing that had become my sole means for full expression was gone.
I can still feel myself strangling on all the emotions I wanted to express, but no longer had the language for. It took me two years to be able to listen to band music again. It’s taken more than six years for me to stumble back into my voice. I’ve had to learn a whole new language, one that uses words instead of pouring forth in pure sound. One that doesn’t hide behind the comfortable mask of an “appropriate” outlet, like an instrument.
But there is a bright side to this story. I may never stop regretting my decision to sell my instrument, but I now have a voice that is inextricably mine. And in finding my voice, I rediscovered myself in all my loud, exuberant, messy glory.
No more hiding behind an appropriate outlet, an instrument, the mask of a performer. And I am beautiful. I am strong. And I am of far more value than just the physical work my body can put in. My new voice may not always be in tune, and sometimes the words may come out all funny–but I’ll take it. Because it is me.