I was chatting with an old friend over coffee recently and we began to reminisce about our college days. “What’s the worst subject you ever took?, he asked. “Economics. ” I replied, without hesitation.
When I began college it was a required course. It had to be. No one I knew in their right mind got up at the crack of dawn to take a course in Economics. Apparently more than a few of the 50 some-odd students in attendance shared my sentiments, and made use of their class time catching up on some much needed shut-eye. To avoid detection I buried myself in the back row of the classroom, as close to the corner as I could get. My ultimate goal was to become as inconspicuous as the furniture. On one or two occasions my professor discovered me in repost and tried in vain to get me to utter a syllable or two. A couple of pithy one-liners got me a few laughs but that was the extent of my participation. Somehow to my amazement, and his, I managed to pass the final exam. I believe I received 5 points for putting my name on the exam and 5 more for spelling economics correctly.
As I reflected on my days in college it reminded me of a lesson that took me some time to learn. I had spent a good deal of my life being influenced by the opinions of others. I was told on many occasions by my parents and other authority figures what I was supposed to or should do, at the expense of what I wanted to do. I was ignoring my own wishes and desires in an attempt to seek approval.
At the age of 5, I received a drum as a Christmas present from a neighbor. I fell in love with the sounds it could make but somehow shortly after the holiday it mysteriously disappeared. As I got older I never lost my fascination for drumming. My parents did not share the same fascination. My father would do his best to extinguish my enthusiasm by reminding me, whenever the subject came up, that every drummer he had ever met was nuts. The result, according to his “research”, of being exposed to the constant banging. For years I had been exposed to far stranger sounds coming from my mother’s voice box that she claimed was “singing”. The screech I recall was closer to the sound of pigs being lead to slaughter. Miraculously I managed to maintain my sanity as she squealed her way through Madam Butterfly. I cannot attest to the result it had on my neighbors, although I do recall that on more than one occasion moving trucks materialized in front of our apartment building shortly after one of her arias. Sometimes my father would remind me that it would be best if I took up a nice instrument like the piano or violin. By a process of elimination I fathomed that by his account drumming wasn’t a nice instrument.
At age 19 I finally asserted myself and began drum lessons. Within a few months I purchased my first set of Ludwig, red sparkle drums, replete with Zidjian symbols and Camco bass pedal. I was in heaven. I was finally doing something that I wanted to do. Something I could call my own. Unfortunately many seeds of doubt had been planted by that time and it had taken a toll on my ability to progress. I was reminded all too often that my aspirations were foolhardy, impractical, immature. Apparently only the chosen few achieved success in the arts and I was not among them.
We have all heard the saying, “Where there is a will, there is a way.” But my will had been extinguished over the years and I had to find a way to reclaim it. With the help of a little T-h-e-r-a-p-y I began to find myself. Slowly but surely I was putting the pieces of my shattered puzzle back together. My will began to assert itself. I started to make decisions in my own best interest. My hunger for approval was being replaced by my need to follow the path that I thought the right one for me. I evicted without notice the voices of nay sayers, and any other entities that accentuated the negative. I understood that we can’t always do anything we want to do at any time. But when it came to major life decisions those were mine and mine alone to make. I was not going to be a spectator in someone else’s dream. I had found my path and I was determined to follow it.
For those of you that can identify with any of my sentiments I urge you to live the life that you want to live. Living for others will never bring you peace of mind. No doubt there will be disappointments, obstacles, and hurdles along the way. You will feel discouraged at times but that is the way of things. But the satisfaction and fulfillment you will get from accomplishing your goals, on your terms, is like no other feeling you will ever have.
PS: I began drumming again about 1 year ago. The desire never left me. In fact it haunted me. Right up until the time that I picked up my sticks and my pad and headed out to Williamsburg for my first drum lesson in over 20 years with the fabulous Dave Meade. I’m back!