Sometime before I decided that band class was the meat grinder of my school’s curriculum, I went on a trip to Chicago with my school’s Wind Ensemble. My class and I travelled to play on the Chigago Symphony Stage, where we faced off against two schools to win the kind of plaque that Moses could have had tucked under his arm. My roommate was the talented sort: she could eat mac and cheese and clip her toenails more loudly than anyone I’d ever known. My crush was busy on the phone for the whole trip, where she played scrabble with her soon-to-be boyfriend as I wrestled over my various, badly-packaged snack bags as well as my sexual orientation. I got separated from my group of friends and explored museums by myself, and sat squashed between strangers at restaurant booths. At the farce known as Tommy Guns, my bandmates were sold old hats, courtesy of Lowes staples, and my teacher was given a lap dance, which was administered both without any sort of consent from him and, even worse, before the whole band. The playful demeanor of the place did nothing to make the scenario seem less like a clip from one of those cautionary sexual harassment videos. My friend texted her to-be boyfriend some more and I poked around our hotel room.
Generally, I felt like I didn’t belong. I liked music, but I didn’t want to pursue music as a career. I had never really wanted to play on the Chicago Symphony Stage, and yet, there I was some days later, with an opportunity that I was sure so many others would sell their kidneys for. Once I’d gotten there, all that the big Symphony Stage made me realize was that I didn’t want to be a musician. What with the plush hotel and the museums and the architecture, I felt like I ought to be happier than I was–and there were still some great times–but somehow, without the right company, I couldn’t seem to bring up my mood, and what with the grandeur of the hall, I felt very small and unsure of myself and my future. What did I really want to do with my life? Could I truly leave band class, where I’d studied music for so many years? Did I like both girls and boys? Since tomatoes were fruits, did ketchup count as a smoothie? These questions–and many more like them–tangled up my head like a pocket tangles up a pair of earbuds. I seemed to have become confused with the world as a whole.? Our school’s performance trumped the other three, and we got our gold plaque of Moses-y-ness. Our teacher looked sick–which he was, unfortunately–but he was obviously pleased. Our bus ride to the hotel was uneventful. We had an extra couple of hours to sleep the next day, and then we punted ourselves home by the seats of our pants. And as the year shlepped on, I quit band, donned a metaphorical bisexual cap, and took up art classes. Slowly, as I fount my art student niche, the upheaval that Chicago had pushed upon my psyche let up. I became more confident where my career was concerned.
The next time I travel, I won’t go for any musical purpose, but for the advancement of my art, and I won’t go as a confused high school sophomore, but as a less-confused high school graduate. Not only that, but I’ll bring better snacks, and you can bet–without any doubt–that my friends and I will not get ourselves any kind of lap dances.
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