I do not remember my exact age, but I vividly remember sitting “crisscross-applesauce” on the hardwood floors in Mrs. Eaton’s General Music class (which was actually the auditorium, but due to the growing student population and lack of classroom space, her music class was relocated to the auditorium stage floor) when I first heard a piece of music that spoke to me in ways my young, grade-school-mind couldn’t quite put into words. It was Beethoven’s Symphony Number 7 and although my classmates were visibly bored and squirming and fidgeting restlessly, the music kept my interest and attention completely. That Christmas I specifically asked Santa for a Beethoven CD with that “song,” and Santa did not disappoint.
In 2011 I woke up after a brain surgery (the second one that year) and through my foggy, anesthesia-laden, haze I realized my entire body felt funny. Not “funny: haha,” but “funny: something is terribly wrong please someone tell me why it feels like my skin somehow hurts, feels like it’s on fire, and feels numb – all at the same time.” That surgery was all thanks to that pesky little part of my genetic mutation: VHL. The resulting damage from the surgery left me with extensive nerve damage throughout my body. Previous to this drastic change, I was deeply involved in music (singing, studying, playing in top-notch ensembles, and teaching) and was convinced that my undying love and commitment to it would lead me to great things later in life. Santa didn’t just bring me a CD that Christmas years before – he helped me realize something: I had found my “thing.”
I had a lot of growing to do, but I was pretty good. I worked hard in my music ed studies, I had begun practicing longer chunks of time in order to include an extended and more in-depth warm-up, I had begun putting together plans to study abroad, and I was coming off that “high” after performing a half-recital earlier that year. And to literally wake up and have all that change…to put it as politely as possible: it sucks ass.
After missing two semesters of school (to re-learn how to walk and use utensils and get used to this new, numb/highly sensitive, all-over, sensation, etc. ) returning to my music-centered studies felt like (this is as best as I can describe how it felt) like I was suddenly forced to be in constant contact (and best friends) with an ex boyfriend who had just broken my heart.
Music was my defining “thing,” and then suddenly it became so incredibly foreign and out of reach. I’m 28 and it’s been six years since that confusing, infuriating, heart-breaking, event. Yeah, I (somehow) finished school… With Honors! And I even student-taught abroad! But more medical BS has happened since then and I’ve stepped away from teaching music completely.
Music was once my reason for everything: confidence in myself, expressing emotion, connecting with people, etc. But its place in my life has changed drastically and I still don’t know how it fits in with “me.” Does that make sense? I guess I’ve learned how to “be me” despite the lack of my former major identifier (music), but I still don’t feel completely whole/genuine. How do you reconnect and rebuild a healthy relationship with something that still has a tendency to make you dwell on what “used to be,” and, subsequently, makes you break down and ugly-cry? Seriously… how? The logical/analytical-me has a lot of great suggestions, but the emotional/creative-me gets so hung-up on the heartbreak of it all. My current solution is to just crack open an Orange Crush, watch the new Maria Bamford special on Netflix, and later brainstorm less depressing topics to write about. I’m leaning towards an entry about the interesting shapes of my cats’ turds…