When I first started high school, I didn't really know where I fit in. As a shy 14-year-old going through an awkward Hot Topic phase, there wasn't an obvious niche for me to settle into. As much as I tried to squeeze myself into various social groups and extracurricular activities, nothing seemed to fit me perfectly. When I was a sophomore, however, I became friends with several girls who were all a part of the marching band. Unfortunately, I have no musical talent to speak of, so playing an instrument was not in the cards. To counter this, my friends informed me of a non-musical part of the band called the color guard. The color guard is a group of performers who spin flags, rifles, sabers and sometimes twirl batons as well, adding an element of dance to the show. Joining color guard was one of the best decisions I made in high school, and I've realized that much of what I learned there can be generalized to the rest of my life. For example...
Something that was stressed very often in marching band, especially to the color guard in particular, was the importance of maintaining a professional demeanor. Our guard coaches reminded us as we arrived at competitions that our performance began not on the field, but the moment we stepped off of the bus. You never know who is watching you while you are just walking around--it could be a judge who would take note of any unprofessional behavior. In life, this is always a good tip to keep in mind, especially with the prospects of graduating college and networking to find a job coming up in the next two years. Even now it is important to make a good impression on professors, managers and other superiors who may be able to recommend me in the future.
The marching band practiced around four times a week--three hours on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and longer hours on Saturdays before heading off to competitions. During the winter color guard season, practices were extended even longer. There were many days when we would watch the football team pack up their equipment and go home, knowing we had one more hour of practice before we could leave, but that didn't stop us from powering through. Ask anyone who's been in marching band--"just one more run" is almost always a lie. In the end, though, these long hours of practice paid off. They helped us perform better and, on a personal level, they increased my own endurance by a lot. This kind of perseverance can be applied to almost any situation, whether it be a particularly hard work-out, a nine-hour shift at a job you don't like, or a difficult class you need to take to graduate. I know now that if I can get to practice at 9 a.m. on a Saturday and not return home from the competition until 1 a.m., I can power through pretty much anything.
Unity was the last and arguably most important of our "five stars." The five stars were five values the marching band held close--pride, respect, leadership, trust and unity. In a marching band, unity is extremely important because just one person out of step can throw off an entire formation. The judges' boxes are up high enough in the stands that they can detect any small mistake we have made, making acute attention to detail imperative. With flags in our hands it was even more obvious when one of us was off in the choreography. The importance of unity in everyday life is a bit less obvious than that of professionalism and perseverance. Unity isn't always something you can see, but you can certainly feel it. Unity is needed in families, social justice groups and in the country in general. It is needed in times of tragedy as well as times of celebration. The individual is important, yes, but thanks to marching band, I will never forget the importance of being united with the people around me.