Day 27 - Mandy Harvey
Mandy Harvey, a professional musician, has turned a major life pivot into her biggest strength. By the age of 18, Harvey had completely lost her hearing. Not only could she no longer hear the world around her, but she could no longer hear herself. She relied on her experience as a singer with near perfect pitch to help catapult her to success and the ability to inspire others to embrace their pivot.
“If I take back any of the bumps, bruises or scrapes I’ve been through,” Harvey expresses, “I wouldn’t be the same person. I would tell my younger self, ‘this is going to be hard but you’re going to get through it and you’re going to be better for it. Just keep going.’”
Harvey began singing in her local choir at the age of four. It was a way for her to express herself. She had always been hard of hearing so the choir served as an outlet for her to understand all the words that were being spoken. “I had to get close to the piano to hear the pitch,” she explains. “Once people started singing I could no longer hear myself. You get used to trusting yourself a lot more.”
Until she attended college, her entire life was built on the idea that she was going to be a music teacher. However, in order to attend school for vocal music education, Harvey had to be able to hear. “It felt on several levels that I had died,” she expressed. “I made the mistake of pouring my entire identity into one single dream and convincing myself that I was not capable of anything else or creating any other dream. That was my biggest mistake in the whole experience.”
Harvey kept a journal during the time she was losing her hearing. She’d describe what a certain sound sounded like. “After a certain point,” Harvey stated, “I realized there's no value in focusing on everything that I can't do. That mindset didn't start changing until I moved back home and started taking ASL [American Sign Language] classes and got involved with the deaf community. I found clear communication. It was the first time I was in a room full of people who were all communicating, and I understood what was happening around me. That gave me a lot of confidence to start reevaluating my life. I started to think there were different ways to enjoy it. I found my way back into music and realized that it's not that the music went away after losing my hearing, I just get the privilege of enjoying it and experiencing it differently.”
Harvey’s dad encouraged her to start singing again. “We sat down and I started watching him play the instrument. I started playing along with him. I began feeling the instrument.” Her father asked her to learn a song to sing. It entailed her sitting at a piano with a visual tuner going through the song in sheet music form, going over the song note by note. It took upwards of 10 hours to get through the song once without any mistakes. “By the end of the song,” she smiles, “he said ‘I had done it.’ I started testing those waters…and singing again without being able to hear myself, without being able to judge myself. It was such a freeing experience because it’s always been the thing that held me back so much. Now not being able to hear myself, not being able to judge myself, I found my voice in it.”
Fast forward ten years to the moment Harvey had an opportunity to audition on America’s Got Talent (AGT). “I went onto the stage with no expectations,” she humbly states. “I didn’t think I was going to get the golden buzzer. I just wanted to show up and prove to myself that I could stand on that stage. I wanted to encourage people around me to evaluate their lives and see where they are holding themselves back. I wanted them to dream again. For the golden buzzer to come from Simon [Cowell] meant a lot. He didn’t talk about my story. He didn’t talk about my situation. Yes, it’s a part of me and who I am, but it’s not the entirety of who I am. At the core, I’m a musician. I want people to value that part of me. He [Cowell] was judging my tone, my songwriting and pitch.”
When facing a transition, Harvey advises:
Allow yourself to mourn. Allow yourself to be upset about the change. It’s ok to be upset that your life has changed. Just don’t get stuck there.
Evaluate what you’re really upset about. You have two choices to make: you can sit there and be upset and let life pass you by or you can get back up off the ground and use this moment to push yourself forward.
Then cheer yourself on. Be proud of what you have accomplished and what you will continue to accomplish.
“I have failed more times than I can count and I’m still young,” Harvey proclaims. “I’m going to fail a heck of a lot more. Every time I fail I learn something new about myself.”
(from article in Forbes Women)
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