"Don't Be Afraid to Give Up the Good for the Great"


[Sometimes I like to send myself emails using FutureMe. I get them a year later and instantly remember what it was like to be me a year ago.]

Dear FutureMe,

Yesterday it happened just like in the dream I kept having over the summer.

I was motionless on the sideline, in front of a wall of music that was staring me in the face. I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t run out there and be with them, and I couldn’t turn back time and change my decision, and I couldn’t cry and risk everyone seeing.

Three small miracles changed it from the dream version, though. It was daytime and not night, I wasn’t alone, and I didn’t feel the overwhelming sadness.

But this isn’t going to be the picture-perfect ending. To turn it into that would do the whole story a terrible injustice. If anyone – and by anyone I mean me – is to learn anything from this, I’ll have to see it exactly as it is. So sure, I didn’t collapse into hysterics right on the sideline bench like a freak. I have more self-control than that. But it wasn’t this brilliant moment of clarity when I realize that everything I did turned out for the better, and that I’m happy even without marching band in my life, and blahblah.

Reality is much deeper and grayer and more multi-faceted. Yes, I made the right decision last spring. It was the technically correct decision.

But it was like punishing a man who steals food to feed his destitute family, or like turning your own mother in to the authorities for, say, accidentally hitting a parked car and then driving off. It was THAT sort of justice. Correct, but not right.

I wasn’t happy in any way, shape, or form. No. God, no. I couldn’t see the look on my face, but it must’ve been a most paradoxical combination of misery and enjoyment, because I saw the way my friends looked at me after it was over.

Truth is, even though I made the correct choice – or even the “right” choice, depending on how you look at it (hey, everything’s right if it gets me into college) – the other choice would’ve been just as correct and/or right. I can see what would’ve happened if I’d chosen differently. It would’ve been me with the leadership position, me spending the summer writing drill and practicing my music. It would’ve been me working hard and getting blisters at band camp, me dragging my black band bag to school on the first day, me saying “Gotta go, I’ll call you after practice”. Maybe I would’ve won a game helmet and gotten the chance to call the band to attention at awards, like my friend did.

Yesterday, in the last fading sunlight of fall, I too would’ve donned a brand-new uniform and marched while my boyfriend sat on the sideline bench and tried (with success, of course) to pick out which of the flutes was me.

And today, it would’ve been me marching for the last time at State, and I would’ve cried afterwards and felt the stinging disbelief of the season’s end, and then finally wiped my tears off and gone to Marion’s with my friends and got high on sugar.

But I didn’t. In fact, I didn’t even go to State at all. Yesterday had such a golden finality to it that I didn’t want to ruin it by giving myself another chance to be sad.

I can say now with honesty that I made the most out of this fall. I grew, I absolutely thrived. But that doesn’t make me happy. All that does is give me closure, other than the biting unfulfilled feeling that I got when I came home at the end of the summer. Now I have my closure, my ten minutes in the fading light in front of the band I used to call my own.

Thinking back on it, this must be the whole reason I invented that weird religion of mine. All of the world’s faiths are based on the need to have explanations and security. I have that now. Due to my faith, I completely believe that somewhere out there, in a separate reality that not even the most determined scientists will ever find hard evidence of, I am living a life that took a different path. In that life, I never submitted the application at all.

In that life, I’ve just gotten home from marching at State Finals.

In that life, I’m happy, and not merely complacent.

Maybe I’m less mature and less accomplished, and I cry a lot more easily, but…I’m so happy right now.

M

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