A Silent Struggle

Catherine - Nashville, Tennessee
Entered on March 14, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I am a violinist. I have been a violinist since Christmas day, 1995. That was the first time I played a violin. Since that moment, I have been taught to love silence. To a violinist, silence is an opportunity. It is a fortunate space commanding to be filled with beauty and passion as found in Handel’s Messiah, or Mozart’s Eine Kleine.

Silence is also the only thing I can focus on before I perform. In these moments, it is almost deafening. The quiet stillness most musicians live for is to me a sea of expectations, demands, and judgments. It flows from the chasms of the stares of the audience, settling on top of me like a heavy weight.

I used to wonder why performing was such a fear, and why I hated silence when I was meant to love it. But then I realized that through out the past thirteen years, violin is one of the few things that has remained constant. It gave me the ability to make noise when I couldn’t scream, to smile in a way no one else could, and to cry when tears wouldn’t come.

Every time I faced silence, it threatened to take this part of me away. To fail in front of all those eyes meant more than just a bad performance; it meant I was a failure, for I defined and expressed myself through my ability to play.

One day my life changed dramatically. The brother I have always known suddenly no longer existed. In a matter of seconds he was gone, left in a body that worked like a machine, pumping his heart and filling his lungs with air. There were no more conversations, no more laughter – just silence.

This silence was different. There was no call for music, no cry for beauty. Instead it seemed more like a black whole, capable of sucking anything and everything down into it. I hated this kind of silence, and I hated that it surrounded him.

Then one day I found my escape. I did what I always do when I hear silence; I started to play. Only this time, I played differently. There were no screams of silence and no stares of judgments, only the eyes of my brother. The room was overpowered by sound, by pure and sweet music that was at last able to fly free. And that’s when I realized that playing the violin was something no form of silence or any number of eyes could take away from me. I saw instead that music was part of me, but in no way the only part. Most of all I realized it was a gift I should never be afraid to give.

I never believed I would have the ability to play music the way I have always dreamed of; to be free of the hold I allowed others to have on me, and to conquer that deafening silence. But I was wrong, and this I now believe.