When I was a child, and I’m talking the brand new “fresh off the shelf “ kind of child, there was a fear I wouldn’t speak (I know, laugh away, you won’t be the first or last to do so). The fear existed because at an age when most little humans start to speak, I didn’t. Thankfully, a trip to the ear, nose throat doc confirmed my need of tubes in my ears, resolving the worry I would never speak, but setting me up for a whole lot of ear-trouble, including brutal ear infections most summers because I was simply not NOT going to spend every possible moment in the pool.
Through the years I have unintentionally stopped being so aware of my ears, earaches, swimmers-ear what have you. But recently, with the shift to more voice-over work I find myself very conscious of them once again, and specifically of sound, of intentional listening, and of the human voice in all its intimate glory.
This morning I was thinking about a time in our world, before television, movies, the internet and all other forms of visual-assault to our senses. A time when we listened, truly listened. I have vivid memories of watching re-runs of The Walton's and thinking how ‘unfortunate’ for them they didn’t’ have a TV, but instead had to sit around a radio. Even in the moment I was thinking that, I was feeling a deep jealousy toward this “family” and a longing to have my own big brother John-Boy and Grandpa near me to distill wisdom and practical life skills.
Over the past few months I have intentionally stripped away all the tricks and tools I developed to work in the world of film and television. Realizing that I had taken what was an original love of theatre and storytelling, being in the moment with an audience, and manipulated it into something that was easily digested by a culture desiring a perfect visual without a note of dissonance.
This new experience I'm having, the one where I walk the entirety of ten steps from desk to sound booth and sit, alone, with no camera crew or director, no audience unwrapping candy wrappers, or stage manager giving me time updates. Just me. In a booth with nothing but the story, my voice, a microphone that amplifies it and a computer program that captures it. That's all. And every day I'm making discoveries in this new world that excite and challenge me.
Maybe those in charge of me early on were worried about my not talking. Maybe the quiet world I lived in during that time set the stage for who I am now without me having any idea it could or would. One thing I know for certain is that without my ears and the capacity to hear there is no point in the ability to speak. What an amazing gift for me now to feel the whispers of my story in the soul of my being and see that reflected back to me in the person I am becoming.