Nobody Puts Kenzie In The Corner: Speechless

This post is depressing.


by Mackenzie O'Guin, Managing Editor of Copy

I want to preface this by saying that I did not in any way plan to do this challenge. My laryngitis had other plans.

On Saturday, October 29, I found myself at rehearsal with my backup singers. Or, rather, rehearsal for my backup singers, because about 10 minutes in, they were the only ones singing as I found myself nearly in tears sitting side of stage while my track blasted through the speakers. I knew I was sick and had been since the previous Tuesday. I knew my voice was in rough shape, because it’s usually the first thing to go as soon as my immune system takes a hit. I did not know what bad shape my voice was truly in. I tried again and again to meagerly screech along to the space my voice formerly filled with ease, feeling defeated. Finally, backup singer Crystal Watson, wife of Strange Music rapper Krizz Kaliko and surrogate mother who has known me my entire life, gave me strict instructions. Your voice is your moneymaker, she told me. She forbade me to speak until my voice was in better shape, limiting me to the use of a pen and notepad for any interactions. Many people may have taken this with a grain of salt, agreeing to just take it a little easier and talk a little less. These people don’t know Crystal. If she says do not speak, you do not speak. I respected this order with the same reverence I would have if my biological mother had given it to me. I left rehearsal under an unbreakable oath of silence.

You might think I sound dramatic when I say how devastating and depressing it is for me to be without a voice. I understand that for many, the implications of losing one’s voice are much different. For me, it means I cannot fulfill my duties at work, enjoy my most favored pastime, or embody a substantial part of my identity. My job is reliant on my voice. Even if I’m not singing, I need to be able to communicate my thoughts and ideas, whether it be to express an artistic vision, participate in an interview, or dialogue in a business meeting. Furthermore, I really do love music. I love to sing. I love engaging with the art. Not being able to do so is incredibly saddening, especially when my own music is involved. My abilities and accomplishments vocally are a massive part of who I am as a person. To be unable to do things that are usually very easy to me make me feel really invalid. To have the very thing my talents are equated to revoked makes me feel very incapable. It becomes weirdly psychological for me. It gets in my head.

This challenge has been on the List since my sophomore year, and I have been putting it off because the concept of doing it gave me insane anxiety. Again, I know that probably sounds dramatic, but admittedly, I don’t know if I ever would have gotten around to doing this challenge if it hadn’t been forced on me so aggressively. The worst part was, it didn’t subside after a chosen 24 hours. I only had to spend about a day completely silent, but I was on vocal rest for nearly a week and spoke very minimally the entire time. This speech hiatus led me to a lot of realizations. A few of my epiphanies are as follows:

  1. I talk to myself a lot. I previously thought I was self-aware enough to realize the extent to which I converse with myself, but I was proven so very wrong. I literally constantly talk to myself. I had to constantly check myself. Driving home from work, I had to check myself. Watching Food Network from my couch, I had to check myself. Perusing tea in Whole Foods, I had to check myself.
  2. I feel very vulnerable without speech. As a skilled linguist, I am very empowered by the written and spoken word. Without it, I found myself feeling very inferior. I almost felt inherently meek or submissive in public. Without my words, I can’t be charming. I can’t joke with the cashier at the aforementioned Whole Foods or compliment the man with the incredible hair in the parking lot. I don’t know how Ariel managed so well, and frankly, in her place, I would have kept the mermaid tail.
  3. Not being able to communicate with my four-year-old brother sucks. My family and I are all very close. Like, The Godfather Corleone family close. Not being able to speak to them easily was annoying, but at least I could write to my parents. My little brother Travie is in preschool, thus he is obviously fairly illiterate. He also doesn’t quite get the concept of laryngitis, so he was very upset when he didn’t know why I wasn’t playing around with him like usual. Heartbreaking.
  4. I really take my voice for granted when it’s operational. You never know what you got till it’s gone. After a few days, it became less about not being able to sing or talk recreationally and more about just wanting to say something. There were a few pathetic instances where, out of the blue, I would try to say my full name, “Mackenzie Nicole O’Guin”, and feel total disappointment when the voice I heard seemed so disjointed and disconnected from what it should sound like. Not being able to hear my own normal voice say my own name really bothered me.

Those are just a few reflections from this unwanted fulfillment of one of the most avoided items on my List. If you’re having a difficult time sympathizing, imagine you’re an athlete who’s just been benched for a major injury, because that’s the best comparison I have. I hope I never lose my voice to this extent again. This was the worst thing ever. I’m done talking about  it. Bye.

So long and goodnight,

Mackenzie Nicole O’Guin

Special thanks to Crystal Watson for making me take care of myself, Gina McFadden for encouraging me to literally drink honey, Dee Brown for telling me about Singer’s Saving Grace, Singer’s Saving Grace for being disgusting but useful, Throat Coat Tea for tasting fairly disgusting after about 8 cups, the K-53 GroupMe for all their suggestions after my panicked texts asking for home remedies, Dawn O’Guin for taking care of me when I was sick and dying, Travis O’Guin for being an amazing and understanding employer, Travie O’Guin for being the light of my life, and my shih tzu MoJo JoJo for being my sole companion in my week of isolation.