Before I started kindergarten, I had five ear surgeries. When I ruptured my left eardrum in college, it couldn’t heal because the eardrum was solid scar tissue, leaving me with a permanent hole. I’ve lived my whole life with hearing loss, and it doesn’t bother me. When that’s what you grow up with, you don’t feel a loss.
When I started school, I also started occupational and speech therapy. They taught me to form sound correctly (almost nobody can tell by my voice that I’m hearing impaired), how to read lips (most of which I’ve retained because it’s hella useful), and how to sign (of which I remember virtually nothing because I never used it).
The thing I remember most clearly, however, was being taught to keep my voice down. Because I couldn’t hear myself as well as other people, I was loud. So they taught me to tone it down, but when I got upset or excited or angry, my volume rose and rose.
I constantly heard, “Keep it down, Sara,” both at home and at school.
I remember the elementary music teacher telling me, more than once when we were supposed to sing at an assembly, “Just mouth the words.” I was constantly offending people and getting in trouble for yelling. I didn’t mean to yell, but when I wasn’t consciously reminding myself to keep my voice down, I got louder than most people.
For a long time, I bought into it. I thought that if I was good and polite and always remembered to keep my voice down, people would like me.
It didn’t work. I’m intense. Always have been, always will be. I’m opinionated and stubborn and insistent on expressing myself. I feel intensely and react intensely.
And I finally, finally understand that this is not a bad thing.
It sets me apart from other people, sure. I’ll never be the quiet, polite, sweet little Southern belle my family wanted. I convinced myself I wanted to be her because I craved my family’s approval and love. But now I’ve grown up enough to know I never really wanted to be her.
I want to be loud. I want to curse and laugh and rant. I want to take no bullshit. I want to have strong opinions about almost everything, and I want to tell them loud enough to get an audience. I have a voice, i know how to use it, and I’m finally starting to like it. I’ve got things to SAY.
I’m not going to keep it down anymore.