Friday, August 27, 2010

Notes on life

Sometimes I forget that people actually read this stuff. No, make that.. most times I do. Because I've never had to write for anyone but random English teachers or college lit. professors. They'd simply skim the surface; check my grammar, punctuation, spelling, sentence structure... And give me some subjective grade and send me on my way. The paper? Never to be seen again. And the grade? Well, believe me, after the cowgirl thing began at Florida State, and it became harder for me to blend in, the grades got extremely subjective.

But one English teacher stands out in my mind. He was a tiny little man, with fiery red hair and beady little eyes that narrowed at me from behind his frameless glasses that told me "Don't ever do anything that involves writing. Ever. You're terrible at it." Harsh words to say to the youth of America that looks to their teachers for inspiration. Then again, most are getting paid duckets for a thankless job that helps so many.

Believe me when I say, I took that man’s words to heart.

In high school, I went through an identity crisis. I spent so much time questioning my life and was so ridden with teen angst that I would’ve made most John Hughes’ movie plots look like child’s play.
Every few days it seemed I would find myself sitting in front of my guidance counselor, Mr. Peak, questioning why kids were so cruel, or why I had to deal with the hardships I faced. To anyone else outside his office, I probably looked like some overly pretentious spoiled brat, looking for a way to "legally" ditch class. But in all actuality, I was learning lessons about life you can't get from reading books or writing perfectly assembled five paragraph essays.

In our sessions, I shared with Mr. Peak the things I was scared to share even with my closest of friends. Like the extreme sadness I experienced watching my grandfather slowly slip away from us before our very eyes. Like the fact that someone took a baseball bat to my car just weeks after I had broken up with a guy on the baseball team… random right? Or like .. Well, there are certain parts of my life I can never bare for anyone to read. But for the few people that will read this, and instinctively know.. Yeah, that messed me up pretty bad too.

But the one thing Mr. Peak always understood about me was my love and passion for music. No matter how big life’s problems got, I always had my music. It was what got me through the other five grueling classes of the day. I knew come 6th period I would be among people that "understood me" and loved to create something as much as I did. I may not have been the best at it, but I poured my heart and soul into it. The 6th period wind ensemble, 7th period "showcase" or as most people in pop culture these days have come to address it.. "Glee." I belonged to the live band that accompanied them, but it wasn't from lack of vocal talent. I just preferred to play piano; after all, it was my one true love. Even on the really crappy days, where I bombed that AP physics exam or when the mean girls convinced my prom date "not to go to the dance with me or they wouldn't be his friend anymore"...I always had my music and it never broke my heart. In fact, I poured myself into variations of song. That is until the end of my senior year.

It was just a mere two weeks or so until our senior day, which I can only describe as a half ass version of the one depicted in "Grease." The teachers had already taught you all they could, the final exams had been taken, and essentially… Well, you were pretty much just going to mail in the rest of your remaining days anyway, so why drag this out any longer? With the end of the year came the end of the year music concerts. It was something I always looked forward to, but this one was special to me, as it was the culmination of four years of hard work on my life’s greatest passion. The band concert always went well, and I usually landed the all the flute solos. I even got to conduct some too, which I found I got as much joy from as actually playing. But then came “Finale”, my show choir’s end of the year performance.
I had spent weeks preparing for this event: making a senior slide show, helping people with their solo numbers. I dealt with overbearing stage moms that insisted I was playing in the wrong key when it was really their kid just being tone deaf, then me learning songs in new keys to rectify said problem. And I did this all with a smile on my face. Why? How? Because I loved what I did, but more so the way it made me feel.

That Wednesday night was the big show, and boy do I remember it well. We had finished the final song.. And now came the curtain call. One by one the names of all my fellow band mates and glee clubbers were called until we were down to just me. This is it, I thought, my big moment..

But my name never came.

I looked out into the crowd of people, and found the faces of my family.. My mom, my dad, my grandmother.. All of whom had come to see me. And.. Nothing. The moment I locked eyes with my mom... I lost it. There on the stage, in front of a sold out auditorium, I tilted my head down, and wept. As they say in mean girls... "Gretchen Weiners had cracked."

The next day I came to school in a daze. I was a shell of my former self.
My eyes puffy from crying, I tried to put on my best happy face for all those end of the year pictures people take while they sign each other’s yearbooks. Somewhere near 3rd period, I tapped out.

A lot of dark shit went through my head that day at school, but mainly just that my music had failed me. How could it do such a thing after all these years I had been its loyal disciple? How could it break my heart in front of a room full of people like that and rob me of what little self-worth I possessed? I got so angry, and so upset.. I just wanted to pull a fire alarm and disappear into the parking lot so I could jump in my car and blow that popsicle stand. But as it turns out... I didn't have to.

My mom showed up to school mid-afternoon. She had found a note I had written the night before.
It wasn't addressed to anyone in particular, just an open letter.. to my parents, to my friends, to my ex-boyfriends, to my music, to God.. To anyone that had ever touched my life in those four years. Before anyone goes jumping to conclusions, it wasn’t “that kind” of note or anything, just more so a list of all the crap I had silently endured over my tenure there. I won't go into all the heart-breaking details, but I can vouch for what happened next. My mother, an employee of the school system herself, marched into the principal’s office... and proceeded to tell them what I had written. They stood there, speechless, unable to pull together one coherent reason why such a bright child, with as big a heart as mine had been treated so poorly in their care. Beyond being forgotten at my own senior finale, and ridiculed by my English teacher, I had had enough.. And my mom had had all she could handle in watching me.

While my music may have failed me, my writing may have saved my life. It wasn't the perfect five-part essay. It was probably filled with spelling errors and sentences fractions. But no one seemed to care. It was written from the broken heart of a girl that wanted nothing more than for someone to understand what it felt like .. To be her... "To want to matter."

My life experiences these past five years have been anything but ordinary. They've often bordered on that territory of complete absurdity and randomness that have had everyone besides Daniel from the dentist asking.. "Is this real life?" Maybe that's why I took to writing. Music, though powerful, is hard to bring along for life’s journey. Sure, there's always the iPod, but it doesn't compare to the feeling I got when I touched the keys of my piano. So my computers keyboard became the next best thing.

I write for myself. I write because it makes ME feel better and keeps ME off a psychiatrist couch when shit in life just gets a little too real. If people want to rip apart my writing style, or my terrible spelling, or crude, mostly self-deprecating humor, then so be it. I am what I am... And whatever that vague, grey area is.. I wouldn't change it for the world. I can't promise you that I will write complete sentences, because I write in stream of consciousness. And that stream happens to be more contaminated than the Hudson River, with raging attention deficit disorder and borderline OCD. I can tell you I will probably never win an award for my writings, nor frankly do I give a damn if I ever do. I don't write to report on things, nor do I claim to be without bias. I would never dare call myself a serious journalist. Hell, I would never use “serious” to describe any aspect of myself. I'm simply a girl, sitting in front of a computer asking you to love her for who she is... a fast talking, southern girl with a big heart, a bigger mouth, and not enough self-censorship to tell her when not to use either of them. If my critics choose to write 2,000 word essays on “Why I suck at life” well… I really just feel bad for them. One, that they had that much time on their hands, and two, that they feel the need to tear others down to validate their own existence. I don't promise you that you'll always agree with me, or even find my humor funny.. But that doesn't say someone else won't. If that's the case, then you simply don't have to read it. No hard feelings. I was writing before you got here, and I’ll be writing long after you're gone. But for those of you that come back time and time again, have “ridden the bus,” and gotten to know me through the years, I thank you for your continued friendship and support. I figure, if life has to drag me through all the ups and downs it has, I might as well share it with whoever wants to read it. Because no matter how crappy life may get sometimes, it’s always better when you've got some company along for the ride.

"Be who you are and say what you feel. Because those that mind don't matter. And those that matter don't mind" – Dr. Seuss.