Once upon a time, my dream was to be a performer on Broadway. When I lost my hearing, the odds of that happening went from low to astronomically low. It forced me to change my passions, but it also allowed me to grow so much.
It would have been so easy to just give up and say I’m not going to sing again. But I didn’t.
When I lost the first ear, I went on to have a great lead role in a community theatre production near Boulder. I saw an open casting notice for Les Miserables happening in Salt Lake City – I was ridiculously close to just getting in the car and driving there to audition. Job and relationship held me back, not my hearing. When I lost the second ear, I still wasn’t ready to quit. I found a great voice teacher who was willing to work with me and a theatre company featuring actors with disabilities that was willing to give me lead roles. I learned to sing properly and actually became a much better singer than I had been prior to losing my hearing.
Over the years, performing became less and less of a passion, for various reasons. I still love to sing, but these days I do it for myself and not an audience. I’m happy to do karaoke, and if the right show at the right time were to come along, I’m sure I’d love to do it. But it’s not my dream anymore. My dream and passion is something different now – serving the greater good, making my voice heard in different ways.
All that being said, there’s still that little bit of me that wants to play Fantine someday.
I was in Chicago over the weekend having a girls’ weekend with some of my internet besties. One of them, Heidi, is a karaoke regular (even doing some KJ’ing), so we decided to go to her pub on Saturday night and hang out…and she and my other friends convinced me to sing.
I hadn’t really sung much at all since the implant was activated. Testing things out, sure. Singing around the house, sure. But actual singing where I’m trying to sound good and letting other people hear me? No. But I did it. I was scared out of my mind, shaking with nerves. But I did it.
To begin, I figured I needed a song that I could sing in my sleep, and is not too challenging. So I went with a standard, Debbie Gibson’s “Lost in Your Eyes”. I had my friends video it so I could play back later and hear what I sounded like. I could feel my voice shaking. I had a vague idea that I might be on pitch. But it went surprisingly better than I expected. I used my music program and could hear the background music – there was some of it I missed, it was muddled together a bit. I could hear my own voice. It sounded good to me, as good as it could being that my hearing is still a weird mishmash of static, Mickey Mouse, and frequencies I haven’t heard in 17 years. But here’s the important thing – it FELT good.
So they convinced me to go again. When I finally decided to do it, I figured if I was going to go, why not go big. And I did. I picked my absolute favorite song to sing, and I just let go and sang like no one was watching. I moved that room – afterwards, several strangers came up to me and told me how amazing it was (people who had no clue I was deaf). My three wonderful friends, Heidi, Kelly, and Jenny, had tears in their eyes, as did some of the strangers.
I share this not to brag, or even to show how far I’ve come, but to share that feeling – that hope and joy that I had while I was singing this song. Believe me, I can nitpick every last little thing wrong with this performance. This was the first time in a long time I was able to hear myself sing this song that I’d been performing in public since I was 15. It means so much more now that I’m an adult and have been through life, and have been through this. I did dream a dream once, and life killed it, but I’m back and ready to move forward with whatever comes next.