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Marching Through Changes
As I walked up to the band room door, the sun was hot on my neck and beads of sweat formed; whether it was from the heat or my nerves, I could not tell. Even before entering the band director’s office I knew that I would be in trouble, because I was a whole week late for camp. The other band members had already practiced songs and sets, placing me at a disadvantage. Entering the doorway I saw a stout, balding man in his mid-thirties. I noticed how casually he was dressed in shorts and a band t-shirt. He started to adjust his glasses when he noticed me in the doorway. I introduced myself to the band director, Mr. Jones, and then found a seat in the corner, away from the few people who were there and sat down. I noticed that my pink shirt, khaki shorts, and long, curly hair were way too formal for the occasion as people began to arrive in t-shirts and sweats. To avoid making eye contact with any of the band geeks- I knew them immediately because they were thirty minutes early- I pulled out my phone and attempted to look busy. I texted my mom, even though I knew she would not be able to answer, and then continued to hit random buttons on my phone, scared to death of looking up and having to meet someone.
The morning continued on into rehearsal. I found myself seated last chair of the flutes, directly in the middle of the band. There were red, blue, and white lights above, creating a weird glow on everyone’s face. The seats in the auditorium were empty and had an eerie silence draped across them. I then examined every crack, scratch, and paint chip on the floor, but I could still feel the eyes of the other students watching me. From every direction I felt the burn of judgment, good or bad, from their eyes. Beside me another flautist cocked her head at the strangest angle to try to get a glimpse of the new girl.
“Do you need a pencil?” The timid voice came from my left. It startled me, but I managed to say yes- or did I just nod? I reached for it with no eye contact. The entire rehearsal followed like this, she would stick the pencil across and I would grab it, then back to her.
Instead of playing my flute, I looked around at the other high school kids, all playing with enthusiasm and amazing skill. They had immaculate posture, their backs perfectly aligned and flutes parallel to the ground. Their feet tapped to the beat, and their bodies swayed with the phrases. In contrast, I was slouched against the back of my chair, elbow dug into my side, my flute more perpendicular to the ground. I knew I did not fit. Not only were there differences in how we played, but in our physical features as well. My lack of make-up compared to their painted faces, their beach tans against my pale skin, their big, expensive school compared to my farm-town, falling apart building. There was no way I had anything in common with these people. I wanted to disappear, which is why the next sentence I heard made me want to cry.
“Everyone, we have a new student here. Her name is Eva and she is a junior. So, please introduce yourself and make her feel welcome.” As one of the band directors said this, I could feel everyone’s head turn in my direction. I smiled, strongly wishing I could stare at the ground again. My face turned bright red in embarrassment.
We were then dismissed for a water break, and I followed most of the kids outside. The sun was now hiding behind some clouds, sending a sudden chill throughout my body. Once outside, many different people came up to introduce themselves. There was curly-haired Scott, the saxophonist, and smiling Sarah, the flautist. They all had different names and strange faces, but I could not remember a single one. So far they all seemed to be pretty nice, making my prior assumptions wrong, but there were still no similarities. The rehearsal began again and then finished, which is when I went immediately to my car, alone. I was trying hard to ignore the curious eyes that were considering introducing themselves out of pity. I had had enough for one day.
The following day seemed sunnier, more optimistic almost, and as hopeful as I was I believed it would be better. This time we were outside marching. The sun was hot and pounding down on us at eight o’clock in the morning. We were on the soccer field; the only bit of shade was to our right where several tall pines lined the field. The grass was a bit damp from the morning dew, licking my terribly old and dirty sneakers. I remembered not to wear fancy clothes, desperately attempting not to repeat the previous day. As soon as I arrived though, I realized how much I did not know compared to what they had already learned in a week. I lacked knowledge of where I stood on the field, who to even ask for help, and the emotions and stress of yesterday came piling in like a wave. I was afraid I would drown in the fear.
Mr. Jones, however, was watching me wander aimlessly through the kids. “You need to go stand by Megan . She’s your squad leader,” he told me, no ounce of care in his voice. Megan , who was that? His help was actually quite the opposite and left me more confused. Scanning through the flutes, I found a familiar face, Pencil Girl. Her hair was in a ponytail, which seemed to be the main style during camp. She was wearing bright blue shorts and a grey t-shirt, laughing loudly with a few other kids.
“Who’s Megan ?” I asked Pencil Girl, a little louder than the day before since I felt a small bond over our pencil sharing.
“She’s the girl over there with the blonde hair in the ponytail. Here, I’ll take you to her,” Pencil Girl said very willingly, motioning me to follow. Wow, some people might actually care, I thought. I followed her across the field to the girl she had pointed out. “Hey, Megan. She’s in your squad.” Pencil Girl said and then she was gone with a big smile back to her spot.
“Hi! I’m Megan, your squad leader. You stand right here. Your name is Eva, right? Well, we’re going to have a lot of fun in band this year. Welcome!” Megan was almost bouncing with enthusiasm, her ponytail bobbing up and down. She seemed like a pretty happy person in her bright pink shirt, and I immediately felt at ease. Though her excitement over band was a bit much, I still felt relieved to finally meet someone who was genuine. She did not seem to talk to me out of pity, but in the hopes of forming a true friendship. Some of the fear and anxiety melted away the day I met Megan, as if I somehow knew this would become a strong and meaningful friendship. I still did not know the songs or the pre-game show; I did not look as mature as the other band members, and I certainly was not raised the same way as they were, but I had a friend. Soon with just a quick couple of sentences on her part I began to relax in the new school.
The second day flew by. With Megan’s help and encouraging words I learned the entire pre-game show and could at least play parts of the fight song. During water breaks, she would talk to me as if we were always friends and a seat was always saved for me underneath one of the pine trees. After fate brought us together through band, I began to meet her friends and hang out with them. There was Rachel, the very talented trumpet player, and Adrian, who strongly reminded me of my cousin. Completely by accident I also met my two neighbors who immediately made my adjustment into Canfield a lot easier.
Although the sun always seemed to be at its worst from eight o’clock until noon and water breaks were something you only dreamed of, I enjoyed band camp. I began to give people chances and stopped judging them and pointing out all of our differences. I found that when I let down my walls people can really surprise me. Of course I was not friends with everyone, and in perspective to the whole school I knew practically no one, but my first day at band camp was completely forgotten. I spent many days after camp with my new friends swimming at the swim club, walking through Mill Creek Park, and hanging out at bonfires. The feelings of anxiety and fear faded because there was no need to be afraid once I had friends.
As I walked through the doors on the first day of school I did not even worry about people staring, if they even were. I already had familiar faces to find through the bustling crowds on my first day. Not only that, but I also possessed a lot more confidence now that I knew I could make friends easily.
I would be lying if I said the move was easy, because it was definitely a bumpy ride in the beginning, but it all worked out in the end. I learned so much more about myself during the move. I began to consider myself independent and outgoing, two words I would have never used to describe myself before moving to Canfield. Sure, I did not fit in with respects to money, clothes, and other material goods, but I found friends who are always there for me. Most importantly I impressed myself.