So, I finally figured it out. I was worried for a while that I wouldn't. I mean, isn't it a rule or something that by junior year you have to have a goal in life? The more people I saw who knew exactly what they wanted from life, the more convinced I became that my dream was ducking around a shadowy corner every time I thought I caught a glimpse of it. Yup, I thought I was on my way to the dreaded "undecided" box when the rest of my life came up and shook my hand.
Everybody told me long before I had the revelation myself. "You're gonna be a band director, aren't you," they'd say in a way that was always more of a statement than a question. I would just shrug and throw out a "Who knows?"
Who does know? Sure, I love music, but there are so many things out there! How could I possibly nail myself down to one thing? That's what I would say when people pursued the topic. But for me this was a dangerous way of thinking. I knew deep down that music was what I loved more than anything, but, for whatever reason, I would try to convince myself otherwise. It's a condition I've come to realize is applicable to virtually all aspects of life: so often we know with certainty which paths are meant for us, yet - be it out of a fear of failure or even success (it's more common than you think) - we wean ourselves from them and settle for a cheap imitation.
It's a nasty condition that I'm certain all too many suffer from. Had it not been for the slap in the face I received this summer, who knows, I might have been one of them. But I won't, because I realized what I love.
I love high-school band. That has never been in question. Every day since the first one I have been reminded a hundred different ways why I love band. So why was it so hard for me to figure out that I'm supposed to be a band director? I mean, come on! Why didn't I see it sooner?
I didn't see it because I hadn't seen it from all angles yet. This past summer I got a new perspective. It was my third band camp as drum major, but this year was different because I was in charge of teaching marching fundamentals. And I loved it. I loved being able to teach (and learn) along with the students.
I loved seeing them go from aimless wandering musicians to marching machines accompanied by the feeling of knowing I had something to do with it. I ran those four hours in the morning like it was my own band. I held nothing back. I put everything I knew on the table. And then I realized why I was doing it - because I wanted everyone to experience band the way I did, to love it as I did and to have the same feelings I got when the band took the field. It was about sharing my love of music and creating an opportunity for others to experience it. That's when I knew what I was going to do for the rest of my life.
And in retrospect, I knew it all along. It was my doubt that held me back: What if I can't get a good job? What if I don't make much money? Forget that. If you love it, make it happen. That's what I decided. I just couldn't live with that empty feeling of settling for a secure, lucrative occupation while knowing there's something out there I could be doing and loving. So, I've promised myself that I will never settle. We all know the answers to our questions, but often we're too scared to raise our hand and scream it to the world.
Emerson once said that "We but half express ourselves and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents." Absolutely right on. We've got to recognize those divine ideas that we know are part of us and scream them to the world. And you know, I may not care for what you say, but if you're confident enough to scream it, I promise I'll always listen. -
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.