A Note For Band Kids

A Note For Band Kids

We Aren't (all) Nerds
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You were always still at practice by the time it was dark outside, you showcased your skills at every Friday night football game, and you made a ton of new friends along the way. No, you weren’t on the school’s football team: You were part of the band.

Day in and day out you practiced marching and playing. You tested every note over and over again to make sure you got it just right. You tossed your flag and rifle repeatedly until your catches became solid and consistent. You spent hours running around in the blazing heat working from set to set, just to hear “One more time!” being yelled by the directors. Your captains and section leaders scolded you for slacking (which made you want to be even better). The band director never seemed to notice when you did something right, only when you screwed something up, and sometimes it got so bad that you wanted to quit.

Be better. Keep your feet in time. Spin together. Play louder. Make your sets. These are the things you heard a million times, and you wondered if the show was ever going to look decent. But you persisted. And you pushed others to be their best as well as yourself. And the goals for the group were set out from the very start: be the best. And the idea of winning at the end of the season made your heart race and nudged you to work harder.

After being in band for a few years, I’ve come to learn that all of these things were worth the pain and trouble. Being in band made me a better performer. More importantly, it made me be a better person. And this was only due to the amazing people I met along the way.

Thank your band director. Thank them for pushing you. Thank them for goofing off and telling jokes that didn’t make any sense. Thank them for yelling at you when you were wrong and for congratulating you when you were right. Thank your band director for all the times he asked, “How are you?” when you seemed a little down. Thank them for all the opportunities he gave you, whether you knew it or not.

Thank your instructor. Thank them for teaching you everything you know. Thank them for realizing your potential and pushing you to be your best. Thank them for the advice they gave you when you needed it and the advice they gave you when you didn’t. Thank them for laughing at your silly jokes and for understanding when you had a bad day. Thank them for being your friend as well as your teacher.

Thank your section leader. Be grateful for all the times they made you redo the work or replay the song just so the entire group could be better. Thank them for guiding you and for picking you up when you were down. Thank them for taking responsibility (even when it wasn’t their fault), and thank them for the knowledge they passed on to you.

Thank your entire section. Thank your section for all the bus rides and football games. Thank them for working as a unit instead of as individuals and for always allowing a little friendly competition. Thank them for being your friends when you needed them most.

Thank your mom and dad. Thank them for coming to your performances, even if it meant sitting on the hard bleachers, rain or shine. Thank them for buying your instrument and equipment and sacrificing their own needs to suit yours. Thank them for crying every time you caught your toss and thank them for crying with you when you didn’t. Thank your parents for being your number one supporters.

Thank yourself. Thank yourself for not giving up. Thank yourself for pushing harder with each run through. Thank yourself for never handing out blame, but instead taking responsibility. Thank yourself for joining such a great organization.

Band has taught me many things. I learned how to be a leader, a friend, a perfectionist, a jokester, a therapist, a performer, and much more. I learned that working as a group to become better was more important than telling others what to do. I learned to take criticism and to give it. I learned to cry and to laugh and that making mistakes is not the end of the world. I realized “One more time” never actually means “one more time” and how a singular person can make a difference.

No matter how hard you were pushed or how many losses you faced, you loved every minute of being in band, and you wouldn’t change a thing.

P.S. I am sending a personal thanks to my high school band director and guard instructor. Both of whom have made me the person I am today, and for that, I am forever grateful. Thank you for being my mentors and my friends.

Cover Image Credit: Mike Caswell

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I Ghosted My Old Self For 5 Months In An Effort To Reevaluate My Life

My life fell apart faster than a drunk dude approaching a Jenga stack.

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BREAKING (not fake) NEWS: It's true, you have to hit your lowest before hitting your highest.

I want to share my lowest with you, and I'm almost ashamed to say it had nothing to do with the loss of both of my parents. I like to think I handled that like a warrior.

Turns out I didn't, and the hurt I've been burying from that hit me all at once, the same moment my life fell apart faster than a drunk dude approaching a Jenga stack.

My life flipped upside down overnight back in August. I had my heart broken shattered, lost two very important friendships that I thought were with me until the end, lost my 9-5 job, my health took a hit stronger than a boulder, and I was absolutely lost. For the first time, ever, I let go of the reigns on my own life. I had no idea how to handle myself, how to make anyone around me happy, how to get out of bed or how to even begin the process of trying to process what the f*ck just happened. I was terrified.

Coming from the girl who never encountered a dilemma she couldn't fix instantaneously, on her own, with no emotional burden. I was checked out from making my life better. So I didn't try. I didn't even think about thinking about trying.

The only relatively understandable way I could think to deal with anything was to not deal with anything. And that's exactly what I did. And it was f*cking amazing.

I went into hiding for a week, then went on a week getaway with my family, regained that feeling of being loved unconditionally, and realized that's all I need. They are all I need. Friends? Nah. Family. Only. Always.

On that vacation, I got a call from the school district that they wanted me in for an interview the day I come home. It was for a position that entailed every single class, combined, that I took in my college career. It was a career that I had just gotten my degree for three months before.

I came home and saw my doctor and got a health plan in order. I was immediately thrown into the month-long hiring process for work. I made it a point to make sunset every single night, alone, to make sure I was mentally caught up and in-check at the same exact speed that my life was turning. I was not about to lose my control again. Not ever.

Since August, I have spent more time with family than ever. I've read over 10 new books, I've discovered so much new music, I went on some of my best, the worst and funniest first dates, I made true, loyal friends that cause me zero stress while completely drowning me in overwhelming amounts of love and support, I got back into yoga, and I started that job and damn near fell more in love with it than I ever was for the guy I lost over the summer.

But most importantly, I changed my mindset. I promised myself to not say a single sentence that has a negative tone to it. I promised myself to think three times before engaging in any type of personal conversation. I promised myself to wake up in a good mood every damn day because I'm alive and that is the only factor I should need to be happy.

Take it from a girl who knew her words were weapons and used them frequently before deciding to turn every aspect of her life into positivity — even in the midst of losing one of my closest family members. I have been told multiple times, by people so dear to me that I'm "glowing." You know what I said back? F*ck yes I am, and I deserve to.

I am so happy with myself and it has nothing to do with the things around me. It's so much deeper than that, and I'm beaming with pride. Of myself. For myself.

I want to leave you with these thoughts that those people who have hurt me, left me, and loved me through these last couple of months have taught me

Growth is sometimes a lonely process.
Some things go too deep to ever be forgotten.
You need to give yourself the permission to be happy right now.
You outgrow people you thought you couldn't live without, and you're not the one to blame for that. You're growing.
Sometimes it takes your break down to reach your breakthrough.

Life isn't fair, but it's still good.

My god, it's so f*cking good.

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Why Challenge is Good for Personal Growth

Challenging oneself more can increase performance and motivation towards a goal.

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Poet Ted Hughes, commenting on what happens when a person puts pen to paper, wrote, "you meet the terrible resistance of what happened your first year at it when you couldn't write at all." For years in the '80s, Hughes would judge poem contests and noted that the poems had gotten strangely boring as time progressed, although the poems were beautifully written with nary a grammatical error with many reaching seventy pages. This was around the time where home computers had penetrated into the household.

This is unsurprising, however, as many recent neurological studies have added strength to Hughes hypothesis, saying that the mere act of hand-writing activates part of the brain involving memory and thinking more than typing on the keyboard. But why is that? Typing on the keyboard makes it easier, more efficient to write, which is good but not necessarily best. This principle applies to many everyday things.

Walk into any gym and they will be packed to the brim with fancy machines to aid in working out. These machines work, there is no doubt about that, but they don't produce the same kind of functional strength as pure weightlifting would with dumbbells and barbells. Likewise, these machines produce a solid physique, just as the poems possess a strong understanding of the English language, but they lack the strength or creativity to back it up.

It is perhaps our human desire to develop ways to make life easier for ourselves, because why would we voluntarily want to have a difficult or challenging life? We wouldn't. However, it is this challenge, it is the difficulties that we face that make us grow as people. When we encounter difficulty we are forced to step back, figure out what we want and then devote resources to attain that goal. A rather personal example is my new weightlifting regime.

I was insecure about my squat and my legs because I had always struggled to do them with a knee injury I had as a child. After a session at the gym where I struggled to even do the bare minimum, I knew that I couldn't stop fooling myself anymore. I developed a schedule around improving my legs and my squat and it has worked wonders. Whenever I face a weight I'm struggling with, I keep trying until I get it perfect for multiple repetitions.

In a study done by scientists at the University of Amsterdam, they conducted several trials to learn how external obstacles affect our thought process. One experiment had two groups of people solving an anagram puzzle, one group was the control, while the other had random numbers read off while they were trying to solve the puzzle. Those in the experimental group actually demonstrated better cognitive ability. This was because they were likely to make mental associations and connections. The researches concluded that when people are faced with unexpected barriers they are more likely to widen their range of perception to look at the larger picture.

Take, for example, the creation of the first airplane. Wilbur and Orville had essentially nothing, not even a college degree. They ran a small bike shop in a small town in North Carolina. They had an idea, and seemingly infinite obstacles to achieve their goal: limited funding, lack of education, a small crew, and the biggest one was probably that they had a limited understanding of engineering. However, they weren't the only person that tried to build the flying machine. Samual Langley was a well known and respected engineer.

Educated at Harvard and friends with many bigwigs, he was sponsored and given millions of dollars to try and create a functional flying machine. He had all the resources he could ask for at the tip of his fingertips and failed to create this machine. However, a small crew headed by two bike repairmen was able to. It was precisely these difficulties that allowed their passion to thrive because they had to actually work for it, they had to apply everything they had to this project. Langley, on the other hand, not so much.

There are infinite examples, stories, personal anecdotes that could be presented to prove this point, and that's because it is nearly universal. Having obstacles pushes us to try harder, it motivates us to achieve, to create, to innovate. Without difficulty, we lose what makes us truly human, our drive to make more. We have the world at our fingertips in the world of technology, which is good in many respects, but sometimes write out that essay for English or work with the free weight section over the machines at the gym.

These difficulties don't have to be big, but when presented they can allow for greater cognitive ability producing products that can really make an impact. Hughes wisdom about the simple act of putting pen to paper, a trivial obstacle, will only become increasingly more important as technology continues to dominate more and more of our everyday lives and take away the traditional obstacles that have allowed us to remain uniquely human. So challenge yourself every now, look at it as a way to motivate, to improve, not as a pesky annoyance.

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