Playing to the write beat

Playing+to+the+write+beat

Alex Helm, writer

It’s official. I’ve made my decision.

I have played trombone in band for six years, about a third of my life. My best friends are in band. I found a family within the trombone section. Those boys are my brothers. The few girls are my sisters. They make me laugh, and they make me cry. I watch over them like a big sister would, even the ones who are older than me. I’ve shouted along with the low-brass chants and have watched my section overtake CiCi’s during “section lunch” when the whole trombone section eats together. I’ve never had more fun than I have had with the trombones.

When I told them I was thinking about quitting, they all said I was making a mistake. They wrestled the pink senior schedule sheet out of my hands and saw where I had erased the check mark by band. When I turned the sheet in without remarking band, they groaned and teasingly called me a quitter. Especially the sophomores and my two fellow juniors. We were going to be the three seniors next year, the “Three Aaa-migos,” since our names all start with the letter “A.” It makes me feel like I’m abandoning my family.

Now that my mind is made up, I think of all I’ve done in band. I’ve played six solos, been part of three first-division rated ensembles and participated in UIL concert band contests where we earned first-division ratings. I’ve marched in two award winning shows and pushed props in another. I’ve been to every football game of my high school career. I’ve spent 12 hours every day in August for the past three summers marching outside in sweltering triple-digit temperatures during band camp. For three years in the fall, I’ve practiced for two hours after school. Every weekend in October and November each year, I’ve marched in competitions. I’m a 2012 State Champion. I’m a Grammy winner. I’m a 2013 Grand National Finalist.

That feeling after finishing the last note of the closing song at the final performance, knowing that I’ve given the show everything I’ve got, is indescribable. All of the hours spent digging astro-turf out of my shoes, all of the moments when water was all I could think about, all of the days of constantly smelling like band – boy sweat and instrument valve oil – have finally paid off. The last note rings up to the top of the stadium, I slam my horn down, and tears begin to leak out of my eyes because we did it. We all finally did it. I’ve never felt more accomplished than I have during marching season.

But something changed this year. I found something I loved more.

Writing.

When I was exhausted from a rehearsal in the freezing rain, I’d write. When we were on a crowded bus ride home at 1 a.m. from a two-day long contest, I’d write. When all I wanted to do was rip off my gray and white uniform and throw my trombone off the tower in the band lot, I’d write.

Lately, I’ve come to understand that the only reason I got through this year was because I could write. And I realized something else. Why am I writing to survive band when I could be writing to be happy? Telling stories became my passion. Writing about the world and the people in it became my release, and I realized that writing is what I want to do with my life.

Sometimes it takes leaving something you once loved to understand what’s best for your own happiness. Once you find your passion, follow it, even if you’ve spent years doing something else with your time. There’s a point when you have to make a decision, cut your losses and decide not to worry about what anyone else says or thinks. There comes a point when you have to move on for your own self, not for anybody else.

I’ve come to that decision.

I don’t want to say that I’m quitting band. The word ‘quit’ has such a negative connotation to it. After all, I’ll always be a band kid at heart. But I’m a writer, too.

The point is that sometimes hard decisions must be made. While good memories still linger, it’s time to make new memories and have new experiences. Following your dreams may mean leaving old passions behind. It’s difficult to decide which side to take at a crossroads, but once you choose, keep moving forward. It’s where you’re meant to be.