Music has always been a huge part of my life. Ever since a young age, I have loved listening to the beats and lyrics to any song. I loved jamming in the car to my favorite band, Green Day, and, as soon as I could, I started learning how to make it. I got my first drum kit at the age of 5, my first guitar at 8; by the age of 12, I had seven different guitars, and I knew how to play every chord blindfolded. I had my own makeshift studio in the garage with soundproof walls, beautiful handmade displays, and probably 20 amps. I knew how to sing, and write songs. I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life and I was all set up to get there. At the age of 15, I signed up to audition for “America’s Got Talent.”
Then, on October 5th, my life came to a screeching stop when I found out that I was slowly going deaf due to auditory neuropathy spectrum disorder. The disorder was irreversible and incurable, and I learned that one day, in the very near future, I would go completely deaf. It felt as if my heart was ripped out of my chest. The only thing I could think of was that I would never be able to play or hear music again. Music was my life; how would I go on in life without being able to do what made me, well me? Music was the thing that I was good at. It was not just a part of my identity, it WAS my identity! I mean, my name is Melody! It’s not just that, but I’d have to learn a completely different language. I was ambushed with all of this information, and I had no clue what to do with it. I didn’t have the time to even process the thought of not being able to hear or communicate. I just sat there in my doctor’s office, so in shock that the only thing I did was sit and stare at the periwinkle walls, with tears streaming down my face. I was very mistaken to believe this was the hardest part.
For the next couple of weeks, all I did was wallow in self-pity. The only time I got out of bed was to eat, or when my mom forced me to go to ASL lessons. She said it was important that I had a way to communicate, but, honestly, that’s the last thing I wanted to do. I didn’t want to admit it to myself at the time, but I was very much in denial. Though I could feel my hearing deteriorating with every passing day, I feared talking. I didn’t want to have a conversation with someone to just hear their faint whisper turn into silence. So, instead of talking, I decided to listen to every Green Day song ever made and memorize them all. That was the only thing that kept me sane.
On December 13th I was having a conversation with my parents, Levi and Katherine, about finals, when my worst fear came to life.
“So I have my math final Monday, and we have this presentation on Thursday in science that I’m partnering in with Daphne.” I said as I was sitting on the countertop watching my mom cut carrots and my dad in the corner sitting and reading the newspaper.
“Daphne,” she pauses to think “She’s the one on your basket….”
Her lips were moving but words weren’t coming out. Tears start streaming down my face as if someone had opened the flood gates to the Hoover Dam. I looked up to my parents’ puzzled faces and signed “I can’t hear you.”
Not a minute later, I was rushed to Dr. Smith’s office. When we were in the waiting room, I looked around and noticed every detail, every etching on the wall. I looked at the periwinkle walls and at the red stain on the gray and white carpet with a slightly noticeable blue tinted chevron pattern. It’s kind of funny what you notice when you’re not trying to butt into everyone’s conversation.
After I sat down in my audiologist office, he porceeded to tell me that my hearing was now 95% gone and that with hearing aids I’d only be able to hear very loud noises. For days I laid in bed doing nothing, I wouldn’t even eat. It finally hit me that I would never hear again. One big thing that bothered me was that everyone had to change their life for me. Though sweet, I felt helpless. It’s kind of inexplicable in a way. I walked into my studio, started crying, grabbed my guitar and threw it on to the floor, and I just fell with it. It was as if my entire body just stopped. I was so upset and angry at myself. I hated myself, and all I wanted to do was die. The worst feeling is to have your body betray you and not know why. You just end up hating yourself. I had all this pent up anger towards myself and no way to release it, so I grabbed another guitar and smashed it. I knocked all my awards over, ripped all of my sheet music, sat down, and cried. After crying for a good 30 minutes, I picked myself up, shoved all my guitars and half my amps in the back seat of my royal blue Honda Civic, and drove to the closest music store I could find.
Little did I know that my little temper tantrum would lead to one of the best decisions of my life. I walked into the store with my mascara running, my electric guitar slung on my right shoulder, my amp in my left hand, and a note in my hand that said “I’m deaf and I’d like to sell these. I have four other amps and 7 other guitars in my trunk.” As I go to hand the note to the man, it was intercepted by this kid who was about the same age as me; he had fiery red hair and was wearing a bright blue flannel. He read it and looked at me with an unfamiliar look. It sent shock waves down my spine. I snatched the note and turned away. He tapped my shoulder and signed to me.
“Hey, I’m Emmett, now what’s a pretty young thing like you doing selling her guitars?”
“I’m deaf so I can’t play them anymore. Clearly you are too, so what are you doing here?”
“ What are you talking about? Of course, you can play the guitar. Being deaf doesn’t give you an excuse to give up on your dreams! Get this, I play the drums, and I’ve been playing since I was a little boy.” He looked me dead in the eye and signed, “There are so many things you need to learn. Yes, being deaf makes things harder, but you can do anything you could do if you were able to hear. Like music; music is just vibrations. You can see it and feel it, like when you strum, you see the strings shake, and you can feel them shake too. You just have to learn to be more in touch with your senses.” He grabbed my amp and guitar and told me to meet him back there the next day for some lessons. I knew that Emmett had a lot to teach me about my new deaf musician lifestyle.
*4 months later*
I’m currently in a band with 2 other deaf people, Emmett and Veronica, and one hearing kid, Lily. Our band name is “Deaf Day.” I came up with the name if you couldn’t tell. We have won many competitions including Battle of the Bands. Truth be told, I wouldn’t trade being deaf for the world. It’s a part of my identity now, and I’ve met the most amazing, loyal people in the world because of it. Moral of the story, you can overcome anything, you just have to adjust and try to move forward. Like Billie Joel Armstrong, lead singer of Green Day once said, “You can’t change the wind, but you can set your sails.”