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No shyness, no holding back, and no fear of being judged. Thoroughly exposed, openly vulnerable, and minimally concealed. Beatboxing is a form of excess expression; all the details of your voice will manifest.

I embodied the traits of beatboxing when I was a kid. In my local, Chinese-speaking school, I was always the playful and outgoing type. I frequently made my whole class laugh and befriended everyone. As I transitioned into my new international, English-speaking school in fourth grade, I started becoming more reserved. Perhaps it was due to the language barrier or that I was moving into a different, more diverse community. Whatever the reason, it stuck with me throughout the rest of my days in school.

One night in tenth grade, I remember stumbling across a video titled “The Best Beatboxer in the World.” The performer started with a simple drum beat. Gradually, he built more and more layers, adding the bass and the melody. I was spellbound by the complexity and fluency of the routine. The sounds he created were surreal, yet so human. The pulsing of his breath, along with his fluidity created a flow of music I have never heard before.

Listening to the video made me desperate to learn. I started imitating it, and in just one day, I managed to learn a new sound. The magic of beatboxing hit me like a breeze: I was acquiring sounds through hard work and time like a character in an adventurous video game, piecing them together and discovering new sparks every single day.

A year in, the only people who had seen my new skills were my family and close friends. Then, an opportunity arose at my school’s Halloween talent show, which I reluctantly signed up for after their encouragement. Yet, my reserved self caught up to me weeks before the performance. I was anxious and nervous. The thought of showcasing my beatboxing had never occurred to me as possible, especially in front of a crowd. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that beatboxing could be the bridge to even the minutest form of expression between me and the world.

Packing that thought, I finally went on stage. I had not fully settled on my routine previously, so it felt like I had to improvise a half-written song. I was mumbling through my performance, failing to reach the audience. However, the more I got into the performance, the more I enjoyed myself.

Finishing off with a stylish beat and a fast drum roll, I heard the audience explode with applause. A rush of newfound energy and purpose-filled my entire being and washed away all of my bottled-up anxiety. For the first time in years, I felt like I was coming out of my shell. I had found my voice, a language that I could speak fluently and without fear of being judged. I felt like I was taken back to my childhood again, my outgoing and carefree self. The true reason I had retreated into the safety of silence was my concern with how outsiders viewed me. Beatboxing pulled me away from my such trivial concerns.

I now find myself being able to open up in situations I had not before. I actively share my opinions in class discussions. I gladly and confidently speak in front of an audience for a robotics club meeting. After I let go of my unwarranted fears, I found that I could do things with more ease and enjoy myself, living in the moment.

Whatever life throws at me, I now beatbox my way through. It has become the rhythm of my life.

© William Hou. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team and we can put you in touch with the author’s teacher.