Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Legacy

The past week, I have been extremely discombobulated and off my game in most things--writing, reading, coding. High school is about to end and somehow I think that means that I can slack off in everything, including my own personal pursuits. Add to that some personal events which generate extreme confusion, and...well, what I mean is that I forgot about blogging, so I don't have much of a post for you today, just some personal musings.

I've been retrospecting a lot lately, which makes sense, and I realize that I have actually attained some success in high school. I also realize that I owe my greatest successes to the miserable freshman I used to be.

Related reading: kintsukuroi (by Justine Musk; inspired the post image) and Challenges and Strengths (by Theodora Goss, as usual).

With the passing of time, the extremes are all that we remember. I am sure that I was happy sometimes during freshman year, but, without wallowing too much in the bad memories, rest assured that for the most part it was a bad year. I became estranged from the friends I'd had since elementary school; the friends I fell in with were a rowdy bunch with whom I always felt marginal; I tortured myself thinking I liked someone I hadn't had a class with since fifth grade; I was for most of the year a flute player in a section where the upperclassmen don't even know the freshmen's names.

What I remember most of all is loneliness. I have always been an introvert, meaning that being around other people usually drains my energy. But then, I was also afraid of being alone with myself, so I looked to other people to give me validation, which they did not, which made me an anxious people-pleasing wreck.

Sometimes I still have days like that, to be honest.

But last Thursday was the final music potluck, and I was honored with the Perpetual Music Award, given to the senior(s) (usually there are two winners, and I shared the prize with my tuba brother who is also going to Stanford) with the largest four-year contribution to the band.

The band director said some nice things about us. What stuck with me, though, was how he highlighted my connections to the underclassmen. Apparently it's "inspiring."

I don't know how much of that was hyperbole, but I do think that I've done right in mentoring underclassmen in band. Or maybe mentoring isn't even the right word--more like, making sure I know their names, greeting them in the halls, all those tiny things that I never got as a freshman and which appear to have carved a certain pattern in my psychology.

To a freshman, upperclassmen are intimidating. I have actively tried to be more accessible to the underclassmen; I've tried to get to know them, to make them welcome. My favorite person in North America, the Teal Knight, does the same thing, and I think that between the two of us we've made band a lot more open and friendly than it has been in previous years. Because this is a community, not just an organization, and there's no reason the lower brass should have a monopoly on the good relationships and mentoring.

Perhaps I am still seeking validation through other people. But the difference, and it is a cliche one, is that I'm looking to what I can reasonably give to people who need it.

I'm not advocating selflessness; on the contrary, I am an extremely selfish person. But it costs nothing to smile and wave, and most of the time it is worth it to be kind.

I haven't succeeded entirely. There are many underclassmen with whom I have never spoken, with whom I do not exchange greetings in the halls. I worry about them, too, because I was also an invisible freshman. I just hope the best for all of them. And I don't want to overstate my impact on the freshmen: I can't help them with their classes, with their friend problems, with family issues. All I can be is an upperclassman who lets them know that they are valued.

On Friday I'll have my general graduation post, but I wanted to think about the legacy I've left in band separately because band has been the most important part of my high school life. I'm going to miss my lower brass far more than I'm going to miss high school minus band.

Then, what is my legacy?

I think the most important part is being a sounding board for and champion of the Teal Knight, who will now be the Drum Major. I cannot quite believe I have only known this girl for two years, and I consider myself incredibly lucky that I have. Even this year she has proven a top-notch leader: organized, responsible, decisive, kind, and generally wonderful. I tend to get emotional when I think about her so I'll leave it at that. I should also mention that I didn't really mentor the girl who will be TK's assistant that much, but that I consider that a solid friendship on its own.

The junior who was my co-captain last band camp will now be band president. Though he, like me, is rather introverted, I believe that he will step up to the challenges. I didn't push him toward responsibilities as much as I should have--or he didn't take the initiative as much as I'd expected--but still, he is organized and intelligent and will learn what he doesn't know.

Sadly, some trombone boys are leaving band next year because they want to take two sciences (so I can't really get mad at them). But I hope they take with them the camaraderie that seems unique to our section. And I know that next year's trombone section leader, whom I will call Princess Fire Marshal, will do a smashingly good job at rallying the troops.

The freshman girls I know through my volunteering club will do fine. They are supremely reliable and hopefully more aware of societal problems. (Also, many of them are joining robotics, which is exciting.) I have a lot of hopes for this bunch--they're good ones.

On two separate occasions over the past month, my hero and mentor the Trombonist has told me that he's proud of me (and the Stanford Tuba Brother). I'd be lying if I said that it's all I've ever wanted, but I remember that after I wasn't elected band president and after I lost band camp, I was sad not so much because of the actual defeats but because I was afraid I had let him down. So this is one of those rare and wonderful instances when you want something very, very much and find, to your surprise, that you have obtained it.

I am incredibly grateful that I've had the opportunity to be in band all four years of high school. I really cannot express how much it means to me, how much I owe to it, and how much I am going to miss my people.

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