To This Year's Graduating Class, We Told You Senior Year Would Fly By

To This Year's Graduating Class, We Told You Senior Year Would Fly By

Here we are now, in May.
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You’re about to have the most sentimental month of your entire life so far. It’s your last month of classes. It’s your last month of high school homework, the student lot, and having to do assignments that at this point you know are just busy work. Take this time to live your high school life to the fullest. You’re going to miss it, whether you think you will or not.

You’re going to have prom at the end of this month. Let me tell you something about prom, no matter who you go with or what you wear or what you do after, you’re going to have a night that you will never forget. If you have a date who ditches you for most of the night like I did, you’re going to make memories with the people who are your closest friends. It’ll be that night that changes the way that you look at all the other memories you’ve made in high school.

Before senior prom, every other memory was just a memory, but once senior prom is over you start to realize how important everything else was too. Prom just signifies the memories truly becoming memories and maybe they’re better that way. Once you get to college you’re going to remember the day you asked someone to prom or the day you were asked to prom, you’ll remember getting ready for prom a year ago and finding a dress and getting more and more excited each day that passed by as we got closer to our senior prom.

And then one day it was here and it all happened so fast and you forgot to get pictures with half of the people that you wanted to, but its all okay because no matter how bad your night was its still perfect.

It’s your prom memory and no one is ever going to be able to take that from you. It’s something you’ll cherish forever and ever, take it from me. I remember seeing people on prom night who I hardly spoke to throughout all of high school that I talked to that night. It’s little things like that that you’re going to remember.

You’re going to start getting ready for your high school graduation. After seniors get to stop going to school, you start your summer vacation early. Until you have graduation practice, of course. I know what you’re thinking, ‘great I have to sit there in the morning and not want to be there’. Don’t look at graduation practice like that. Trust me. Take it for what it is and cherish your last few days together as an entire graduating class. It’s the last time that you’ll all be together and who knows when you’ll all be able to be together again.

I remember at our graduation practices it would always take us such a long time to listen to the principals because we were all goofing off. We were the first class ever to have to practice walking into the stadium more than once and despite our principal being unhappy with us, we owned it and we laughed it off and we got it down the second time.

For the class of 2017 at East, graduation and practices really were the last times that we were all together as a class and I don’t think that any of us were prepared for such a big loss so soon. Cherish your time together now, love each other, build each other up, and be there for one another.

May is a month of nostalgia for high school seniors. That’s one thing that I can tell you for sure. You’re going to see some people for the last time in your life, and that’s something that no one can prepare you for. I challenge all of you to take these last few weeks that you have left and have a smile on your face every day. Be happy and make more memories than you ever thought was possible. You won’t regret it.

To the class of 2018, I wish you luck in all of your future endeavors, whatever they may be. Reach out to the class of 2017 for advice, I’m sure we’re all happy to help you as best as we can. Cougars forever.

Cover Image Credit: Mekenna Passner

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To The Coach Who Ruined The Game For Me

We can't blame you completely, but no one has ever stood up to you before.
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I know you never gave it a second thought, the idea that you're the reason I and many others, never went any farther in our athletic careers.

I know you didn’t sincerely care about our mental health, as long as we were physically healthy and our bodies were working enough to play. It’s obvious your calling wasn’t coaching and you weren’t meant to work with young adults, some who look to you as a parent figure or a confidant.

I also know that if we were to express our concerns about the empty feeling we began to feel when we stepped onto the court, you wouldn’t have taken the conversation seriously because it wasn’t your problem.

I know we can't blame you completely, no one has ever stood up to you before. No one said anything when girls would spend their time in the locker room crying because of something that was said or when half the team considered quitting because it was just too much.

We can't get mad at the obvious favoritism because that’s how sports are played.

Politics plays a huge role and if you want playing time, you have to know who to befriend. We CAN get mad at the obvious mistreatment, the empty threats, the verbal abuse, “it's not what you say, its how you say it.”

We can get mad because a sport that we loved so deeply and had such passion for, was taken away from us single-handedly by an adult who does not care. I know a paycheck meant more to you than our wellbeing, and I know in a few years you probably won’t even remember who we are, but we will always remember.

We will remember how excited we used to get on game days and how passionate we were when we played. How we wanted to continue on with our athletic careers to the next level when playing was actually fun. We will also always remember the sly remarks, the obvious dislike from the one person who was supposed to support and encourage us.

We will always remember the day things began to change and our love for the game started to fade.

I hope that one day, for the sake of the young athletes who still have a passion for what they do, you change.

I hope those same athletes walk into practice excited for the day, to get better and improve, instead of walking in with anxiety and worrying about how much trouble they would get into that day. I hope those athletes play their game and don’t hold back when doing it, instead of playing safe, too afraid to get pulled and benched the rest of the season.

I hope they form an incredible bond with you, the kind of bond they tell their future children about, “That’s the coach who made a difference for me when I was growing up, she’s the reason I continued to play.”

I don’t blame you for everything that happened, we all made choices. I just hope that one day, you realize that what you're doing isn’t working. I hope you realize that before any more athletes get to the point of hating the game they once loved.

To the coach that ruined the game for me, I hope you change.

Cover Image Credit: Author's photo

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Drum Corps And Overcoming Myself

Sometimes, you truly are your own worst enemy.

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Late afternoons in Millbrook, Alabama were terrible. I learned that very quickly. The heat, the bugs, and the humidity were such a terrible mix. Dense grass and burnt, blistered hands made for grueling rehearsals. Surely through all this suffering I would be able to conquer anything, it seemed.

I was wrong. The biggest obstacle I'd ever face turned out, as cliché as it sounds, to be me.

My biggest obstacle - myself.Photo by Ruth Marek

I joined Southwind Drum and Bugle Corps for the 2017 season, and my rookie year would definitely showcase the impact of these negative thoughts. We were not even a week into tour when I first "broke." I had survived all-days, but once we hit the road, it seemed that I couldn't continue. That day, the pressures were particularly immense. I had been newly promoted to the marimba line, been given only nine days to learn the full show, and now we were on tour. Competition would start that very day. Needless to say, the odds were stacked against me. The grass on the field was extremely, almost unnaturally thick, making for a hellish and painful push. I'm already a small person, and of course only being a week or so into my rookie season, I didn't have the muscles for it yet. The sun was beating down on us; the temperature came close to 100 degrees. The marimba itself - yeah, the big thing I have to push around a field all day - was actually at least twice if not three times my size. On top of it all, we were under a time limit which, if violated, resulted in a penalty for the whole corps.

I could continue on for ages about all the external factors that made my experience difficult, but I would be completely ignoring the point. Those external factors made my experience difficult, not impossible. The factors weren't the problem itself. I was the problem. I didn't believe in myself. Negative thoughts thrive in negative environments. As such, the aforementioned circumstances resulted in a copious quantity of self-doubt, self-loathing, regret, and other wonderful feelings. My own negative thinking patterns created the problem.

How does one overcome oneself? It's almost paradoxical. In retrospect, I've struggled with myself for far longer than just in drum corps, and I still struggle today. But that sweltering day, in the middle of Millbrook, Alabama, I was given something that has helped me tremendously in my fight to extinguish my negative thinking patterns. That day, in the middle of my push onto the field, my legs locked up. My thighs were screaming, and I was pretty close to doing the same if I hadn't been biting down on my lip. I was leading the whole line of front ensemble onto the field, so I had to keep going. I tried to. But I couldn't.

I couldn't do it.

I couldn't do it.

I heard my section called out from the press box: "That's two minutes already! Front ensemble has thirty seconds to get set!"

I couldn't do it.

I couldn't do it.

The pain of pushing the board mixed with the pain of the humiliation I'd caused myself and my section. I began to cry. My technician, Kirstyn (whom you may remember from my previous article), ran to my side. Tears were streaming down my face, probably leaving streaks of sunscreen washed away. I thought she'd help me push. She didn't.

All she did was stare at me. I still remember her eyes, icy blue and filled with confidence, like she was willing it with everything she had to transfer to me. I remember sobbing. At this point, I'm still pushing, but barely. She said two words to me, and those two words changed my entire life: "Keep pushing."

I'd love to say that something clicked into place. I'd love to say that those two words filled me with strength and my speed skyrocketed, bringing me and my section to our place in time. It didn't happen like that, of course, but the fact that it didn't have some magical effect on me speaks to me. It shows that overcoming oneself has always been and will always be a long process, filled with successes and failures just like any other.

More than anything, those words fill me with hope. Hope that I can get through whatever obstacle I'm facing. Those words have become a sort of mantra for me, and I am immensely glad to have received that advice. I've taken on so much more in my life than ever before thanks to the hope it brings me.

If you're ever facing an obstacle, be it yourself or otherwise, keep pushing. You'll thank yourself after the fact.

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