My Universal Language

Stephanie Stowers, Staff Writer

The June air was warm – humidity cut short from all the people in the room. With a kiddy microphone and a reverting blowout, a terrified but equally electrified look plastered across my face. The song began. I was under everyone’s critical eye. 

Before I can remember, my parents have had a fond love for sound. In our home, music is our second language – or what I would call it, the universal language. Downstairs my Dad transformed the basement into the ‘Home Theater’. A large screen assisted by a projector lays above a record player and prominent wooden speakers. Here the gray carpet brought my family and me together. The rugged carpet contained our laughter as we danced around the room, then voted who danced the best in a “confidential” manner. Our Home Theater’s back lies a collection of records organized in square boxes. One spring day in 2009, my parents introduced me to the self-titled album Whitney Houston. “The Greatest Love of All ” stood out to me the most, the cause for day-long earworms constantly playing “I believe the children are our future.”  

As it grew closer to the end of the month, I asked my teacher to perform it at the graduation. Unfortunately, I could only do it back in the classroom due to short notice, but the idea still thrilled me. Music taught me how to communicate through sound, inspiring me to learn languages. I’ve also known the importance of self-expression, storytelling, and vulnerability. 

The song began, flashes from the smartphones blinding me. I clung to the wall, wiping the sweat off my hands. It was over. I ran to my mom’s leg and hugged them as tears ran down my cheeks. “I can’t believe I just did that,” I thought. She rubbed my back, the warmth matching my face. At this moment, I knew that I wasn’t only a shy person but also someone who loved performing. I began to take music classes in piano, guitar, and clarinet (as a school requirement). Music became a second language.



             When I was around 10 years old, girls and boys in my 4th grade classes would always arrange  to have their friends over, and I never went over. Now, that isn’t to say that kids in my class didn’t invite me, it was just that I was never allowed to go over. This being due to my mother not wanting me to visit anyone, whose parents she didn’t know, which essentially, was everyone in my class. Meaning that I then (and still do, despite the two years of the pandemic) don’t have friends come over.  

         My mother is naturally very overprotective of me and my siblings, and I was very fine with that. Up until halfway into middle school, I saw my friends as people I’d hangout with, and we’d go our separate ways once school ended. Until I ended up really sick for about a month and a half in January 2018, ending up in the hospital for a weekend (a story I don’t want to elaborate on). But, while I was recovering, my friends kept calling me, checking up on me as often as they could, keeping me up to date on school assignments, happenings in classes and inquiring about my condition. 

        Not being someone who opens up about the happenings in their personal life to many people, it felt like I had real friends. ‘Real’ in a sense that I could talk to them about things besides my interests, my hobbies, and class assignments. It made me feel closer to them, which was an excellent thing in hindsight, as time went on, my life went in a crazy amount of directions, and having my friends there as a homebase of sorts, felt reassuring. Until March 2020, when the world went downhill, literally and figuratively. 

Now, because I was someone who didn’t need to see my friends on a daily basis, being at home with access to a phone, wifi and data network wasn’t all that detrimental to my relationship with them, in the beginning. After a few months, when summer rolled around and 8th grade was close to ending, I felt like I was really missing out on stuff, eating lunch with my friends, studying for tests and just having fun. But, my mothers rules remained strictly in place, now strengthened by a deadly virus. Until my birthday rolled around the corner in 2021. 


Unbeknownst to me, my sister, my friends and my mom were planning something. Something I didn’t even think my mother would ever allow:


She let my friends come over to my house.


Granted, we had to go outside with double masks and socially distanced from each other, but after about a year, it felt really nice to see them in person, even if it was only for a few minutes. It felt almost like the world was normal again.