I always wanted to be famous. The first song I ever learned how to play on the guitar was the Oscar Meyer Wiener song, self-taught by way of painstaking plucking of each individual note. I was 10 years old and fancied myself something of a genius for figuring out such a complex tune. It wasn't long before I was signed up for guitar lessons at Clark's Music store in Wheaton Plaza, back in the day when it was an open-air mall. My teacher was a 28-year-old, larger-than-life hippie named Jim who wore a black beret and drove a Volkswagen Beetle, and the first song he ever taught me was a little ditty called "Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road." It was awesome.
Once I learned a few chords, I began to breathe music instead of air, and I wrote my first song when I was 11 years old. It was called "My Favorite Angel" and it was terrible, sugary and sappy, and yet at that moment I knew I was a songwriter. I played my guitar until my fingers were raw, trying new chords, styles, and patterns, implementing everything I learned into new and better songs. I started taking classical guitar lessons from a teacher who studied under Segovia. I stopped trying to talk to people and began singing to them instead, writing my feelings into verses and bridges, locking myself away in my room for hours on end, singing... singing... always singing. I was the singer, the songwriter, the guitar player, the performer. I was freakishly comfortable on stage, and yet awkward one-on-one. People came up to me after performances to tell me how my music had touched them, how they could relate to my songs, and it blew my mind to realize I was not such an oddball after all. I carried my guitar everywhere with me, like an appendage without which I was unable to breathe, without which my heart was unable to beat. My music came to define me, protect me, and soothe me.
I joined the adult choir in my church when I was just 13 years old, attending both services every Sunday just because it meant I got to sing every song twice. Being in the choir was a big part of my life, and I genuinely loved it. So when my left ovary ruptured when I was 19 and I had to be out for several weeks because of the resulting surgery, I felt a little lost. I was diagnosed with endometriosis, something not a lot was known about at the time. Then a couple of years later, another cyst, another surgery, then another, and another. I was in the hospital almost every year, and finally when I was 23 my doctor decided to try Danazol, a hormone therapy, as an alternative to yet another invasive surgery, and I was all for it.
But the medicine came with a long list of side effects, almost all of which I experienced. The worst was the lowering of the voice. My voice began to change and I found myself sliding from the alto section to the tenor section amid stares and whispers from those who had known me for 10 years and knew how much music meant to me. People who should have known how devastating this was for me. When my voice continued to change and I briefly considered moving to yet another section, I chose instead to leave the choir. After four months taking the Danazol, I lost my singing voice, my direction, and my desire to live, but had another cyst that required another surgery. I felt I had lost everything for nothing.
For the next five years, I felt worthless and frustrated, forced to find a more traditional way of expressing myself. I began writing poetry, churning it out like a meat grinder, filling binders with unspoken fragments of myself, creating volumes almost too heavy to lift. I wrote constantly, feverishly, and yet I still couldn't release what was inside of me. It was like a scream that would only trickle out in maddening whispers. I couldn't touch my guitar, because it made me want to sing. It stood in the corner of my room, watching me, begging to be played. Some nights we would simply stare at each other in silence.
Then I found myself in the hospital once again, for the same old song and dance, and the new minister from my old church paid me a visit. He reminded me of what a "star" I had been, and the more he talked, the angrier I became, and I threw him out of my room, telling him to go pray for someone else. I was mean to a minister, and I couldn't believe it. Before he left, he told me that if I was meant to have a wonderful voice, it would come back to me, and to have faith. I waved him off like an irritating bug.
It was less than two months later when I suddenly found myself compelled to pick up my guitar, and when I began to play a song that had just formed inside my head, I heard a voice come out of my mouth that was completely unfamiliar to me. It was rich, strong, and beautiful, and apparently, it was also mine. Being without a singing voice for so long forced me to find out who I was on a deeper level, and after cranking out some very satisfying songs, I realized that my music had been more of a crutch than anything else, and I made the decision to let it go.
Winning the Metro "Doors Closing" voice competition opened many doors for me and gave me amazing opportunities to use my voice in an entirely new way. I discovered that a voiceover artist was exactly what I was meant to be all along, often hearing myself referred to as "one-take Randi" because it comes so naturally. I get to narrate educational materials that teach me fascinating new things,and record commercials that my parents can hear on the radio, and it's incredibly cool. I can't really explain how much I love being in that tiny little booth with nothing but a bright light, copy stand and microphone. It's a fantastic feeling, and it makes me truly and completely happy. And very grateful that I'm not claustrophobic.
I suppose everything happens for a reason, in a sequence that ends up making sense for the universe. It's impossible to explain my altered path to those who only knew me as a singer, but I imagine that once their own roads begin to change and they start hearing a new voice inside their heads, it will all make perfect sense. Finding my voice has been the best experience I could have hoped for, even with all the heartache that came with it.