10 December 2016

A Voice of My Own

Originally written 5 November 2016.

I have a fairly intense singing semester at college this year: choir, voice lessons, and vocal master class. I'm spending more hours a week singing than I ever have dancing. The music students and faculty I interact with keep saying I'm improving, but I don't hear it and instead of gaining momentum I'm actually shrinking back. I haven't really sung in two days -- I've been in the practice rooms, but I've been doing breathing exercises or lip trills or speaking the text for the songs I have or playing the melodies to 'get them in my head'... but no actual singing takes place. I've mentioned before how I hate the sound of my voice and it seems that no matter where I turn I run into my voice, this awkward, clunky, wooden thing that can hit a note but sounds like the screen door on your grandma's old farmhouse in the process.

Their big thing here is volume. Because I hate my voice so much, I speak and sing as quietly as possible so people won't have to suffer the fate of hearing something so ungainly. I've done this for so long that I physically can no longer speak or sing very loud. My second year here stretched my volume boundary a bit, but not as much as is expected of me. I'm in this constant battle between wanting to sing more loudly because that's what my teachers ask of me and never wanting to sing again so no-one has to hear me.

Where did this come from? Nobody has ever outright told me they hate my voice. I've gotten 'I hate you,' and 'you sing flat,' but never 'I hate your voice.' Even the person who told me he couldn't stand me and basically wished I would go die in a hole told me I had a nice voice -- in the same conversation. (Come to think of it, that probably explains why I have such a hard time accepting compliments.)

It must have come from experience... The experience of being in that youth group and not even having a name. The experience of telling my parents I was NOT okay with a certain arrangement they had made and having them ignore me --- thrice (even after watching me spiral downward dramatically after the first two instances). The experience of constantly being ignored and shushed (and rebuked for the things I did say) in the youth group and having the God-card pulled on me at home. The experience of screaming to God for help, comfort, peace, anything for months when hell broke loose in 2015 and hearing nothing in response.

Nobody valued my voice -- literally or figuratively -- until I came to this college. I spent twenty years being systematically silenced and told I meant nothing, that my opinion didn't matter, that my voice was pointless. And now I have to sing loudly? Are you crazy? Who wants to hear that? Nobody.

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