As you know, I have started college classes. In one class, I had to write about a time when my voice was taken away.
This prompt could have been taken literally (which is how I took it) but also in other ways.
Last January my voice was quite literally taken away. After an ordeal concerning my front teeth, which is a story for another day, I believe I caught a nasty cold from the dentist’s office. For the next few weeks, I continued my life and attended my J-term class unable to speak. Looking back on that whole ordeal, I can see how I communicated with others, how others communicated with me, and how that time is still impacting me today.
When I had no voice, I had to learn how to communicate in ways other than speaking with the people around me. I used sign language and writing as my main tools of communication. I now wish that everyone knew as much American Sign Language as they do English. That would have made the few weeks I had no voice much easier! I only knew a little sign language from my Mom and from a friend of mine who taught me motions to Christian songs, but I used the little that I did know. In church it felt awkward just mouthing the words, until one song came on that I knew the motions to, so I sang with my hands! Afterwards a man told me, “I saw you singing over there,” and he winked at me.
At class I would type what I wanted to say and my friend would read it out loud. I don’t know why it never occurred to me to carry a pencil and paper with me wherever I went. That would have saved me some exasperation. When I physically couldn’t speak I realized how much I normally banter. I make fast quips and slide in my “two cents” without even thinking much about it, but without my voice I could only do that in my mind. Being silent forced me to consider what was really important to say and what was unnecessary or potentially hurtful. Through utilizing sign language and writing I was able to communicate fairly well with others around me. How they chose to communicate with me, I found interesting.
I found that the people who communicated with me the best were my Mom, brother, and my friend in class. I love my Dad, don’t get me wrong, but when I couldn’t talk he would mouth things and make big motions I couldn’t understand. He acted as if I couldn’t hear, but since I couldn’t talk I couldn’t easily tell him just to stop and talk normally to me! If you knew my Dad you would understand this better, I think. It makes me laugh to remember how he’d point to himself and the door mouthing, “I’m going to get gas.” Mom, my brother, and my friend on the other hand did a better job of guessing what I had to say. They also tried asking “yes” or “no” questions to help me out. Sometimes it felt like a game when they’d look into my eyes or stare at my soundless lips guessing my unvoiced thoughts. How I communicated back and forth with others back in January still has an impact on me.
That trip to the dentist is still impacting me today, in more ways than just that voice episode, but that’s another story. When I found the need to express myself in church by using sign language, it made me more confident to sign and sing beside my friends and family. I would like to learn more sign language for church but also for future encounters with those who are deaf. Drinking lots of water became a habit back in January, and I try to remember to lubricate my throat many times throughout the day. I would like to think that now I’m more careful and think before anything comes out of my mouth, but I know I’m not quite that saintly yet. I still quip and cut snide remarks when they come to mind, but maybe now I’ll start noticing more and guard myself. What was it you said? “A habit is only a habit until you are conscious of it. Then it becomes a choice.” Thinking back on last January has reminded me how important words are.
Loosing my voice posed challenges to my communication skills. I learned how to communicate effectively with others and also observed how others communicated with me. Today I’m still being affected by that time in January, and now that it’s been brought to my attention again, I’d like to consider my words more carefully as I communicate with those around me every day.
Have you ever had your voice taken away?
Tell me about it!