This is the second in a series of posts where I recall some memories of earlier in my life. Think of it as memoirs no one wants to read. The memories are as accurate as I can make them, though they may be slightly embellished due to faded memory, and may merge several related memories together.
I mentioned a while ago that I was home schooled throughout my high school years. The only social interaction I had was with those in the church I went to. In that church, there were two ways to earn a form of respect, and one of those ways was to be good at music.
So, at 15, I began to learn to play the clarinet and piano.
I had some innate talent, don’t get me wrong. I had an insurmountable handicap from the fact that I started so late (among other things) but I was good enough, with some help from another church member who was the wife of a member of the board of trustees of the college, to get into college as a piano performance major.
(If anyone who recognizes me from this story was wondering, yes, that’s how I got in. My choice of major was a terrible decision, and know that I regret it terribly.)
Quite frankly, the reason I chose this major was to gain respect. I do love music, and I will admit that I’ve been able to use many things I learned there in my life so it wasn’t a total waste, but it was the potential for “being someone” that was my motivation for choosing that major. Looking back on it, this pretty much doomed me to failure from the beginning. I approached music from an engineering mindset, and that simply doesn’t work.
My first day in college I was fighting off something of an anxiety attack. I kept mumbling to myself, “it’s just like elementary school”. And, truth be told, I wasn’t exactly wrong. It was like coming into a whole different world where everyone was at the same time far more mature than me, and annoyingly immature.
There are some memories from college that actually give me PTSD flashbacks (yes, they are THAT bad) so I won’t repeat them here. But I can come up with a few that don’t.
There was this student named Dax who was basically the adult version of a class clown. I was taking an accompanying class and was assigned to accompany this student, he was on the clarinet. We were doing a Mozart clarinet concerto (I think) and the piano and clarinet handed off a theme. While I was playing, he was chasing women with music stands, kissing them, and basically just making an entire mess of it – but neither of us missed a note. That was one of my funniest experiences at college. (That was 27 or so years ago, good luck getting away with that now!)
One of my proudest experiences at college was a women who was singing “Sebben Crudele” for her juries or something, but her accompanist didn’t show up. I was not well practiced on that song, but I was good enough that I thought I could handle it. We had never worked together before, but we did pull it off. Not perfectly, but good enough. I learned at that moment that I had a particular talent for following soloists.
I remember signing up for concert chorale in the Christmas trimester, completely unaware that it involved a tour of Northwest Ohio high schools. I immediately regretted taking the class the moment I found out this was the case.. That was bar none one of the worst experiences I have ever had in my life. Spending that much time with people my age who I can only describe as immature frat boys was a kind of torment in its own way. I made do – I’m a survivor and I always make do – but that is one of those things where I should have just taken the damn F. I hope I never have that kind of experience again. That isn’t so much a PTSD moment as it is just a “I regret that with every fiber of my being” moment.
But, the rare funny or proud moments aside, college was mostly an experience in isolation and embarrassment. One of the embarrassing things that is not a PTSD triggering memory (I’m not being dramatic on that – it’s literally true) is the time some German students came to my school, and I dressed up and was trying to be welcoming, but instead just made an ass of myself. I made an ass of myself in so many different ways, and I regret so much. All of the good memories aside, and there were, as I mentioned, a few, I wish I’d never gone. It was, a told, a terrible experience and I ended up dropping out due to anxiety. I’d just get sick every time I’d even think of going.
I shouldn’t have done it.
But i did get exposed to a lot of music I learned to love. I did get a lot out of music appreciation and music theory (sorry Dr. Heritage), and there are some things that I take with me to this day that I learned there. I was never destined to be a great performer, or a great musician, I was never even destined to be a mediocre performer. But I do love music, and knowing how it works to even a small degree has helped me to appreciate music even more. I don’t feel like I owe my teachers there anything – they weren’t particularly great. But they weren’t awful either.
But I still wish I’d never gone. The memories, on balance, hurt too much.
There may be one of my former costudents who could come across this someday. I hope not, but this is the risk of posting something like this publicly. I will only say this: no matter what you thought of me, I thought worse of myself. I hope someday I can look back on these times without literally cringing.