Hearing the Rhythm

Hearing the Rhythm

I used to be scared of dancing.

When I was younger, I saw people around me dancing, and singing to music. I saw my friends getting excited over the newest song release of their favorite artist. I saw people flocking to the dance floor whenever the hit single of the year came on.

I remember watching girls talking about being enrolled in their dance classes, and showing off their moves during recess. I remember feeling envious. I wanted to dance too.

I wanted to feel that freedom and that ease of rhythm that other people seemed to have whenever music came on. I used to be scared of dancing because I couldn’t hear the music. When I was younger, hearing aid/cochlear implant technologies accomplished the main objective at the time - help people to hear sound. Sounds weren’t captured in its full capacity, which meant I missed out on hearing things to its full potential - one memorable example was music.

Thanks to the latest in cochlear implant technologies, listening to music is easier than ever. The sound is more crisp, and my cochlear has the ability to parse out the different instruments - and it all gets streamed directly to my cochlear via Bluetooth.

It’s hard to describe what music sounded like when I was younger, but if I could put it into words by describing how it sounds to me now vs. how it sounded to me back then - I would do it via a scene:

You’re sitting on a rock by a flowing river nestled in a forest. The air is empty around you, filled with only the subtle sounds of nature. You hear the river flowing, the slight wind making the water splash softly against the sides of the riverbed. The leaves in the trees towering above you rustle in the breeze. Small twigs snap underfoot as a small woodland creature scurries around. Birds chirp to each other in nests settled so high above in the trees that you can’t see them.

You lean forward and, if you listen closely enough, you hear the water rushing softly around the bend and down a small waterfall splashing into a small pond. You sit back, the fabric of your jeans rub against the rock.

Just as you slip your eyes closed and get lost in nature’s sounds, you hear a rumble in the distance. An airplane is about to fly overhead. The roar of the plane grows louder as it prepares to land on the airstrip several miles outside of the forest.

Your brows furrow and you cock your head. All the sounds you were enjoying before are still there, but muffled under the roar of the plane. If you strain your ears hard enough, you can hear the rushing of the water, but it’s faint - you need to concentrate before you notice the sound. You slump and wait for the roar of the plane to quiet down so you can get back to that peace and quiet from before.

The plane flying over the forest and masking all the sounds of nature until only the faint strains of it remain is how I used to hear music. If music was being played in any place outside the comfort of my own room, I would hear the surroundings over the music, with faint strains of the music playing - only if I concentrated hard enough.

I couldn’t hear the music well enough to parse out the beats, and that’s why I used to be scared of dancing. I knew that whenever I moved, I would be moving to a rhythm in my own head, rather than the rhythm that was playing. I felt awkward and clumsy. I got by in dances by copying how other people danced, hoping that no one was watching me close enough to realize I was always a half a beat behind.

I did try to dance though. I was put into ballet classes when I was a child, and then promptly pulled out because I couldn’t nail the rhythm. In my late teens, I decided to say, ‘screw it’ and danced to the rhythm in the best way that I could, learning not to care if I was off the beat or not. Before my last cochlear upgrade, I danced with my partner, and he counted the steps aloud for me until I could hear the rhythm of the music in his voice.

Through it all, I still felt a sense of apprehension when it came to dancing. I wasn’t confident, and was ready to accept that I’ll never be confident. Over the last couple of years, I realized that I still do want to learn how to dance. I wanted to confront my own limiting belief that I couldn’t dance, and just try it.

So today…I just registered for dance lessons. I signed up for an eight week program because I want to give myself the chance I never gave my younger self. 

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