05 May 2014


1. We are, all of us, children: eyes bright, with the pointed face and awkward limbs indicating a growth yet to come. Our desks have grown comfortable and the hallways have grown home-y and we are at the top of the food chain, and yet we are about to leave it all behind.
The prospect of moving on is not one we are familiar with; it is what we have been putting off, but no longer. They thrust it upon us, with forms to fill out and papers to sign and numbers to memorize.
They tell us to choose an elective, and when I did, I never thought that a word, circled, on a sheet of paper, could save my life.
2. I have grown up learning that I have what is known as potential: I display excellence in academics. But I have been taught more about getting good grades than I have been about science or math or history; I have been taught more about being exemplary in the eyes of the system than I have learned at all. They tell me I am talented.
They tell me that I am going places, but they never tell me where.
3. I am alone, and I sit on the edge of the bathtub. The bottle I hold rattles when I shake it; the paper in my other hand is crumpled and smudged. I have always believed them when they told me that my future was bright,
but not anymore. I see no future. I am alone
and worthless
and there is nothing for me.
My potential has run out and my talent has faded. I am the ashes of a campfire, and I am so tempted to let the wind carry me away.
I put the bottle away. But I hide the paper where only I can find it.
4. The next day, at school, my band director says something to me. He says that he is proud of me, words I have only ever heard from my parents and which have long ago lost meaning. But I go home, and I look at my hidden letter, and I tear it to shreds, because suddenly, the thought of never feeling an instrument in my hands again, of never making music again, of never making my director proud again, is too much to bear.
5. It has been several months since they began asking me the college questions. What will I major in? Where will I go? And the truth is, I have no idea. They tell me I can do anything- again with my potential- but I know that's not true. I am an utterly unremarkable student with mediocre intelligence and an unusual ability to bullshit teachers, but that will only get me so far in life and I doubt its abilities to get me into college. I am at a loss. Everything I thought I knew is slipping away.
I write another letter. I find another hiding place.
6. You inspired me to practice more, so I can be an amazing clarinet player like you, is what one of my freshman writes in my yearbook. I saw you playing the clarinet and it made me want to play it, too, is what another tells me at a sectional. And somewhere along the lines, the words music education major floated to the front of my mind.
7. Why music? You could excel in math; you could thrive in science. Why music?
Why music? Because music has shown me beauty in places I'd never expected,
and has spoken to me in languages I'd never known;
because music has kept me alive when the breath in my lungs couldn't.
So now, here I am, a child with eyes more dull than before, with limbs more proportional than they had been, yet again at the top of the food chain,
with more forms to fill out and more papers to sign and more numbers to memorize:
they tell me to choose a major and this time,
I am fully aware that a word, circled, on a sheet of paper can save lives.

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