On a typical day in 1798, legendary composer Ludwig van Beethoven shared a simple country walk with fellow composer Ferdinand Ries when they saw a shepherd playing a pipe. Melodic sounds filled Ries’ ear, but Beethoven didn’t hear anything.

Serendipitously, three centuries later, Beethoven and I would share similar incidents. Sounds were replaced with silence. And in a parallel universe where the silence simultaneously engulfed our souls, the deaf genius’ life and mine were never the same again.

Music came naturally to me. Before I could read, my parents discovered I could carry a tune. Belting high notes by Regine Velasquez and Sarah Geronimo became my breakfast while the magical voice of Lea Salonga lulled me to sleep. Annie’s Broadway hit “Tomorrow” became my anthem, inspiring me to pursue theater later on in life. High school became my stage—“High School Musical” came to life! I continued singing/acting, drafted songs for annual theatrical plays, and even learned how to play the guitar and violin. With most of my high school years filled with music, I’ve grown to create my own sound. It became a part of me until it became my whole being.

Just like Beethoven who, at 30, had composed a couple of piano concertos, six string quartets, and his first symphony, I was confident that I had a bright future ahead of me—one filled with music and theatrical artistry.

To honor my roots, I composed instrumentals played on my 18th birthday. I remembered I was drafting the first few leads during class hours; amidst the noise around me, I scribbled notations and finished in under an hour or two. The noise around didn’t bother me, it was as if I entered my own world, an unknown void filled with melodic inspiration. I didn’t have any instruments on hand at that time but I could hear the notes floating inside my head waiting for me to grab them and organize them in a way they would want to be placed.

But they started disappearing, note per note until there was none left to hang onto.
In the early 1800s, at the age of 28, Beethoven began to experience a particularly disruptive form of tinnitus or ringing in the ears. This became one of the first symptoms of his aural dilemma and this worsened over time until he was diagnosed as completely deaf. These ringing sounds were similar to white noise, and these were so distracting that he had problems hearing his own music. Worse, it plummeted him to the depths of depression, making him consider taking his own life.

Unlike Beethoven, my cause of deafness was figurative rather than literal.

The pandemic forced me into silence as loneliness consumed me. Like quicksand, the more I reached out, the stronger I got sucked in. The wind blew me into a different kind of life. I was constantly faced with shortcomings in every shape or form. I continued to fight with every inch I could—until I couldn’t and eventually didn’t. As I slowly watched my hopes and dreams disappear, I also saw my passion dragged along with it. And just as Beethoven abruptly stopped performing until the last note he could hear, I continued making music until I could hear no more.

It has been two years since I last made music. It was also that long since I had a stroke of inspiration to make one. Burnout from passion is legitimately scary. You wouldn’t know it unless you’ve experienced it. What was once your pride and glory and source of happiness is now a blank slate wherein you couldn’t feel anything except long to be as good as you once were. Wishing you could do it again like the first time you did it; feeling that rush and excitement to indulge in it again. Instead, there you are, standing in the middle of nowhere or walking somewhere—directionless and ultimately lost.

In Beethoven’s “The Heiligenstadt Testament” written in 1802 and discovered after his death, he said: “… such incidents brought me to the verge of despair, but little more and I would have put an end to my life—only art it was that withheld me, ah it seemed impossible to leave the world until I had produced all that I felt called upon me to produce, and so I endured this wretched existence.”

Accidentally hearing my debut piece again made me miss the bliss of creating music and felt life flow through my soul just for a few moments. Music kept me alive and inspired me to push through life. It gave me meaning and hope. Here I am wishing that it would spark another fire within me just like it did years ago, to flame the burned-out passion.

But that’s another chapter I have to open for some other time, once my heart and ears connect once again.

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