Education: Part One

I came across this article today, and it brought back the memory of how I was almost denied graduation. 

My sister was here last week, and we somehow got on the very same topic. We grew up in a very, very remote town in upstate New York. In our community, everybody knew everybody else, and the principal at our high school was beloved, easy-going, light-hearted, and overall just a kind person. He retired at the end of my junior year, and there was a bit of controversy and gossip around our new principal. Though I missed Mr. C, I was pretty neutral about the new guy, and even enjoyed interviewing him for our school paper.

Senior year was a rough time for me. Shortly after the year began, my family went through a series of deaths, much like in 2000, which took me out of school for a few days. It was also at this time that my then-boyfriend decided that dealing with that was too much for him, and he peaced out after nearly a year of us being together. He broke up with me in a text message. I was pretty destroyed. 

Though there wasn’t much of a local music scene to speak of, I was actively involved in music, which also took me out of town from time to time. I tried to stay mindful of the days I was missing, but my grades were not suffering in the least, so I didn’t see it as being that much of an issue. As the year was beginning to wind down, a friend and I left school early on a Friday to head down to New Jersey for Bamboozle. We probably missed school Monday, but I forget. I’m going to assume that we did. 

I went back to school elated from being out of town and all of the fun we had had. I was in my 7th period calculus class when a call came in that I was wanted in the office. I left the room unconcerned, just happy for a chance to escape. When I got to the office, I was surprised to find my guidance counselor – a very sweet and fun guy whose office I saw much of during that hellish year – was sitting at the conference table with the principal. They sat me down and the principal informed me that I had been absent for 20 days, and as such, was in jeopardy of not graduating, and having to repeat my senior year. I’m not a very confrontational person, and I don’t recall arguing much, but I pointed out that my grades were just fine. I’m not sure if I actually said it aloud, but I was thinking to myself that so, so many students in the past had gone over the mark, but still graduated without any problem. 

My guidance counselor gently pointed out that I had had a series of unfortunate events occur at the beginning of the school year, which had caused me to miss a good chunk of those days. The principal took the “rules are rules” stance, something that our previous principal never, ever stood by. I tried not to cry as I thought about what it would be like to remain in high school another year. I had hated school since the very first day of kindergarten. I still resented the fact that my parents didn’t let me skip the 3rd grade as the school had advised them to let me do. I declared to myself that I would rather drop out than spend another year there. 

Prom was the coming weekend, and my principal informed me that I was not to leave early on that day, even though prom students were allowed to leave at 10:30, as our prom took place on Friday night. I protested, saying that I had already made my hair appointment, I had to get ready, etc. He stood his ground – it was not an excused absence this year, though it had been in all the years previous. 

I still remember prom day clearly. I sat in the cafeteria during study hall with my cousin, who told me that she thought she might be pregnant. (She was. Her son is adorable). I watched as the entire body of junior and seniors left school at 10:30, with the exception of me. I ate lunch alone. I went to my 5th period class and my teacher walked in, told me he hadn’t had anything planned for the day, and that I could just hang out and do as I pleased. It was torturous, but at least I got some pleasure reading in.

I went to prom that night and the principal smirked at me and made remarks that I forget now. When I walked the stage to get my diploma a month later, he said to me “See? You did it.” Man, it took everything I had to grin and thank him as he shook my hand and offered his congratulations. 

I was just so happy to get out of that hellhole. That was only the first of many occurrences that have made me realize that traditional education is just not for me…

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My Own Personal New York vs. Nashville

I vaguely remember joking about moving to New York many times before I actually made the decision to do it. I like to refer to my years between the ages of 17-20 as the “lost years”, because that’s what I basically was during that time. I know that’s the typical time to be “lost”, but it’s really a terrible time. I made the wrong college decision, the wrong job decision, wrong major, wrong life, wrong boyfriend. It was all wrong. And now I’m still finishing up my degree years later, even though I’m not actually learning what I want to or need to be learning, because I’m getting all of that in real life.

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Freshman Year

During my freshman year, I was in a journalism class. I became pretty good friends with the guy I sat next to. He spent a lot of time making fun of me for rolling in late and being half-asleep nearly every day; I spent a lot of time making eyes at the senior on the other side of the room. I feel like the relationship I have with my guy friends often is more challenging than the one I have with my girl friends, because they’re not afraid to disagree with me and challenge me. I’m not afraid to get into an argument with them when they try to tell me who I am or what I’m capable of. So, when this particular friend told me he “didn’t see me” in New York, I became livid. I’m not sure what it was about me that led him to that conclusion, and it’s been too many years now for me to remember exactly. 

This was the general attitude about me living in New York, though. Most people thought I couldn’t “make it”, and not even in a succeed-in-your-chosen-business kind of way. They thought that I personally would not be able to handle it. It wasn’t a supported decision, but that never stopped me. I moved to New York and I loved it. I still love it, nearly nine months after moving out. I learned more about myself, the life I wanted to live, and how to heal my old wounds better there than I ever could have imagined. 

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Typical day in the Village

It didn’t stop me from dreaming about where I wanted to go next, though. When I moved to New York, I thought it was where I would be staying for quite some time. Two months in, I started to talk about moving to Nashville – a wildly out of character move, for me. I’m a fast-paced girl who has never had the patience for the south, or for the “country” music that’s coming out of Music City. But, that didn’t stop me from where I wanted to go next. I sat with the idea for a few months and revisited it from time to time, but by the time spring rolled around months later, I was sure that’s where I was headed. I made plans, and they fell through, but I made new plans and ended up exploring somewhere else for awhile. And that’s fine. At that time, no one really was behind my Nashville move, either.

Now it’s been a year since last spring when I made my decision, and I’m finally doing it. It was a struggle when I brought it up to my family again. There were a few weeks I spent tip-toeing around the word “Nashville” while on the phone, because I was sick of being met with awkward silence or “what about New York?” But it wasn’t like last time. No one told me I couldn’t make it there, or that they didn’t see me there. My family has even warmed up to the idea.

When I said I was moving to New York, I was met with snide remarks about how I couldn’t make it, or questioning my knowledge of how expensive it was to live in Greenwich Village (trust me, I know, and it was worth it). When I say I’m moving to Nashville, people can’t stop telling me that I’m going to love it – even mere acquaintances with whom I’ve shared only one email exchange. 

I guess time will tell. 

Aside

Do you know what music is?

Or rather, what music does.

Music is arriving at my the camp that’s been in my family for ages in the first time in years, and hearing that my long-lost cousins are listening to “The Weight”.

It’s discovering a new band whose sound is great, and then hearing them cover one of your favorite songs. 

It’s that instant connection you feel when your souls reach one another across the bridge of a song from the dirt.

It’s falling in love and feeling your heart expand each and every time you’re introduced to something both new and old.

Because this is a wheel that just keeps turning.

And the music will never die.

Not as long as we’re around.

Why I’m Not Sad About Being Single on Valentine’s Day

Oh, Valentine’s Day. When I was a kid, I longed to be given a gift by my latest school crush. Then, I grew older and fell in love…which led to putting way too much pressure on this day.

Now here I am. This week, I’ve been seeing posts about the sad playlists to listen to, the rom-com’s to sob to, and the candy to shovel into the mouths of every single girl (or guy) out there. I just don’t buy it.

Being single isn’t such a bad thing. You hear it all over, but it really is true – you need to love yourself before anyone else can love you (or you can love anyone else). It took time, but I learned to love myself. I don’t need to feel bitter about being single on Valentine’s Day. I may not be in a relationship with anyone, but that doesn’t make the happiness I feel on a day-to-day basis any less validated, does it?

I don’t need someone to shower me with gifts and attention on this day to feel good about myself. I’m going to wake up in the morning, paint my nails with some cute little pink heart design because I’m a sucker for nail art, and go about my Friday just like every other. I’m not going to feel sad about heart-shaped balloons and couples in love. I’m going to be happy for them, and happy for myself, too.

At this point in my life, I have everything that I need. I’m working in the industry that I love. I have an awesome, crazy family and some (but not too many) good friends who always have my back. I have several self-improvement projects that I’m working on. I’m perfectly content within myself.

Honestly, I prefer to be single. I have too much going on in my life right now to worry about making time for someone else. The problem with dating is that sometimes we’re too easy to just jump into dating for dating’s sake. I’m not into that. Why should you spend your time hanging out with someone you’re not even really that interested in, when you could be channeling that time and energy into working on whatever it is that you’re passionate about?

I find that too often people aren’t dreaming enough. They’re so hung up on validating their worth with a relationship or the amount of love they receive that they let go of what’s really, truly important to them. It’s an ugly part of our society, and one that we too easily accept.

So, if you’re single today, join me. Celebrate loving yourself. Celebrate using your single time to paint, play guitar, bake, write, or invent. Do the “Single Ladies” dance around your apartment if you want to – because having the time to love yourself is surely something to be happy about.

The Move

It’s hard to move past something that was once your dream. We all experience this time and time again.

I haven’t been shy about expressing the sadness I felt about moving out of New York. I channeled everything I had into my future plans – which was a great idea, but then that plan didn’t work out so well, either. Of course, nothing goes smoothly when it comes to moving. My move to New York was far less than ideal, too, and I paid for it (both literally and figuratively) when I decided to jump into the deep end anyway. But, this time, when I saw that my new dream simply was not ready to be put into action, I found another plan.

It’s still a little weird not to be living in New York. I miss it a lot. I miss not having to worry about the weather, cleaning my car, or the bad roads. Hopping out the door and into a cab/down to the subway was all I needed to do to get anywhere. Entertainment was everywhere and on any given night I could go to any kind of show I pleased. It was wonderful, and I thought that nothing else could fit in my heart because New York expanded it so much.

I was wrong. I’m not in New York, but I’ve still found a community. There’s an alive and well music community – an absolute must for me. I’m still surrounded by interesting people who inspire me, are comfortable to be around, and generally fun to be with.

I’m happy here, and I know that as always, nothing is permanent. My next dream is still out there, and this place is just one step that may finally get me closer to where I want to be on my never-ending quest to grow as a person.

I’ve always been known as a stubborn person; a person who always goes after what they want until they have it. But, what I want just may have to happen in ways I didn’t originally plan. And I’m finally starting to learn that this is all just a part of the journey.

Documentary Inspiration: Sound City

You know what I love? Being inspired. It’s like a fire being lit inside of me, and I just go crazy. 

I’ve had it on my ‘to do’ list for quite awhile, but Monday I finally got around to watching Sound City.

My childhood is kind of a blur. There isn’t all that much that sticks out in my mind. I have musical memories, though. My favorite band as a kid was The Beach Boys. When we went on vacation, I remember being squished between my sister and brother in the back seat, with one CD player that we took turns listening to. I had a few options, but I most often chose Queen. Not because I liked Queen (although I did sing their songs all of the time, so I must have), but because it was the longest CD we owned and I wanted to make my brother wait. 

I remember having my older cousin over one day and asking her what kind of music she liked, and she responded that she didn’t like music. I remember being stunned into silence. 

After a very short stint in late elementary school listening to Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, The Backstreet Boys and N*sync (did I do that right?), my musical tastes were pretty much locked in. 

We were leaving Washington D.C., and stuck in horrendous traffic. At this point, I think my brother and I had each our own CD players. I believe that I was 10 or 11, and he was 17. He recommended CD’s out of his case for me to listen to. 

Nirvana, Everclear, Lit, Smash Mouth, and many other bands filled my ears, and I became insatiable. Growing up wanting to go to concerts all of the time (especially when they were all 3+ hours away) became tiresome for my parents. I always made sure to tell my mom to blame my brother for my “obsession” with music. 

And it wasn’t long after that that I decided I wanted to make a career in it, somehow. I took guitar lessons, attempted to teach myself to play the drums, and dabbled with the piano, too. I wrote songs at that age that now make me cringe. 

It’s a hard road. No one can be sure of themselves all of the time. I’ve still yet been unable to find myself a steadily-paying gig in the industry, but that hasn’t stopped me from working feverishly at it. 

Over time, though, I find myself getting more and more disgruntled. At one point, someone tried to get me into Pro Tools and Garage Band and I just hated it. I didn’t want to use technology as a crutch for making music. I only like music that comes from the soul. I don’t like “perfect” music. Nobody is perfect, so how is music supposed to be perfect if it’s a reflection of the soul? Is your soul perfect? I think not. 

I had heard of Sound City before. Watching the movie brought me through more emotions than your standard tear-jerking Nicholas Sparks production. The whole thing was just so damn beautiful. Seeing people who care so deeply about music and what goes into the music they make is heartwarming to me. It inspires me because it makes me want to fight that much harder for a part in my career. Because I want to be a part of making that music, even if I don’t see myself as a musician. So much greed is in the world, and it has seeped its ugliness into the music industry more and more. Seeing all of these musicians come together to make music on the board that they all loved so much… How often do you see that? Really. Tell me. 

Maybe if you’re not into the behind-the-scenes aspect of music, you might not like this movie. Maybe you will. You should give it a try, either way. For those of you who hold a deep appreciation for music, especially music made from the soul, you should check it out. Please do, and report back. 

http://buy.soundcitymovie.com/

“Blue Monday” and Being Present

Aside

Apparently today is the most depressing day of the year, or “Blue Monday” as I’ve heard it referred to. I can only guess that it’s due to the holidays ending, and the bleak prospect of winter ahead…

We don’t have much for holiday traditions, but there is one constant. The day after Christmas, my sister and her kids come up for the week. It’s stressful, it’s chaotic, and often makes one want to run away. The kids aren’t bad. But, then you have both of my brothers and their kids here, and suddenly there are eight kids running and screaming and playing games.

This year was a little different. I had anticipated getting a lot of work done. It was a pretty crazy fall for me, and I expected my time off to be fruitful in that I would finally have time to get to some projects. As it turned out, I started living my resolution before I had even made it.

I found myself not spending a whole lot of time hanging out in my room. Instead, I was spending a lot of time hanging out with my nieces – something I always plan to do, but just never happens due to the madness. One night while my siblings and parents were hanging out and playing games, I was sitting with my eight-year-old niece, reading an American Girl mystery book with her.

Another night, I had a wonderful heart-to-heart with my ten-year-old niece. Then, I proceeded to give her and her four-year-old cousin my Lush conditioner to use, which I don’t normally do. They likely wasted a lot, but whatever, their hair smelled like strawberries and vanilla after. I even had the bonus of having to wash the four-year-old’s hair again once I started combing it and realized that she had not rinsed the back of her head at all.

Of course, there was the big night. We were having a sleepover and the girls really wanted to have a beauty salon. When I’m not around and they visit my parents on break, they always use my room as the “salon”, and so that’s where we went. I expected it to take, like, a half-hour, tops. We were in there for two hours, at least. My nieces paired off and painted their own/one another’s nails, and I pained my youngest niece’s. Then, I let two of the girls paint my toenails:

Yes, they are different colors.

Yes, they are different colors.

They also convinced me to do their make-up (after their parent’s permission). I gave them eye shadow and some blush, and I had given them each a mini lip gloss for Christmas, so they used those.

And you know what? It was so much fun. I wasn’t feeling anxious or annoyed like I have found myself feeling sometimes in the past. I didn’t get that overwhelming feeling of needing to be doing other things, no desire to working on something else. I was living in the present moment, and thoroughly enjoying each moment of time I spent with those girls. When I was younger, I was very aware and proud of the influence I knew I had my nieces. As I grow up, and they grow up, it’s just such an amazing thing to witness our relationship grow along with us. I can’t wait to be a part of their lives more and more, and help them along the way. Being an Aunt is such an incredible thing.

But I would have missed out completely if I hadn’t been living in the moment. And that is something I strive to do more and more this year, and for many more years to come.