Monday, October 12, 2009

Dude - I am totally with you

As the past weekend waned, I found myself trying to plan for the upcoming weekend and another trip to the parent's house to return their dog. As important as it is for me to return their dog, I must admit that I'm heading home for a completely non-related reason as well.

I'm volunteering at my high school's band regional competition.

As my friend Candy said, "How did you get roped into that?!"

I'm actually pretty excited about it. I mean, not only was marching band (in some form) a huge part of my life for four years, I loved, loved, LOVED my band instructor. And even though I enjoy seeing marching bands perform even now, I'm super excited to see my old band instructor. As an added bonus, I haven't seen my high school's band perform in well over ten years... and I'll be in town anyway... so why not?

And as the date approaches, I find myself overwhelmed with high school memories. One in particular stands out from the others.

It happened in the days leading up to Christmas break. Band "class" was never very difficult, but in the week before break, it was basically a relaxed study hall. I was struggling with chemistry homework and (as is my nature) being very vocal about my displeasure with said chemistry homework. My band instructor came over to where I was sitting and asked to take a look. He then gave me some pointers that allowed me to figure out the answers to my problems with no further struggles. Not only that, but I completely understood the explanation he gave me. Thankfully relieved, I proceeded to quiz him as to how he knew chemistry so well.

My favorite band instructor in the world then proceeded to tell my friends and I that he had graduated with a degree in chemical engineering.

Even though I'm sure these weren't the exact words going through my head, I distinctly remember my 18-year-old self thinking something along the lines of "WTF?!"

I'm sure my puzzled expression made his day because I remember him laughing out loud. This broke my stunned silence and I asked him (with my signature Emily tact) why on earth he was a band instructor with a degree in chemical engineering??

At the time, the conversation was one of the more interesting, yet confusing, discussions I had ever had with a teacher. I have always had difficulty picturing people in roles that are outside the ones that they play in my life. The idea that there was more to my band instructor than being, well, a band instructor, was infinitely fascinating. I proceeded to quiz him mercilessly.

Turns out he had graduated with his degree in chemical engineering, worked a couple of years in that field, determined that it just wasn't for him, and then decided to follow his true passion of music and teaching. I remember thinking, 'Well, whatever makes you happy, I guess. But why would you go through all that schooling to be a band instructor?' What I actually said was, "Well, lucky for me you have all that chemistry knowledge. Otherwise I might never have gotten these problems done." (I also made a mental note to bring my chemistry homework to band class from that day forward.)

Then one of my other friends stumbled upon something much more delicious. Our band instructor was dating her violin instructor. This was generally considered "off limits" to discuss with Mr. Favorite Band Instructor, but something about how he revealed his background in chemical engineering and the general relaxed atmosphere of the day must have made her more bold than usual. So she asked, "Mr. Favorite Band instructor - when are you going to marry Betsy?"

Immediately his tone became warning, "Girls..."

So I tried to soften it, "But....why WOULDN'T you get married?"

He thought for a moment and said, "This is not appropriate conversation."

My friend continued to tease him, "But she's so nice! I really like her. You should get married."

Our band instructor then got up to do another walk/security check around the room. "You'll understand when you're older."

After he left, we continued to talk for a while about how cool it was that he had this whole background that we never would have imagined. Chemical Engineering!! How awesome is that? (but why is he a band instructor?) And why WOULDN'T he want to get married? How weird is that?

Looking back, our band instructor must have been around the age I am now...perhaps a bit younger. Light years older than us, it seemed at the time, but now? Notsomuch.

Now? I know I probably won't get the chance, but I want to tell him that he was right. I DO understand now. In fact, I am totally with him. Changing the entire course of your life after discovering that the first choice you made just isn't quite "you?" Check. Not quite ready to be married yet? (even though all signs say that it's the "next step?") Check. All those things that I couldn't imagine happening when I was eighteen? Check. I wish I could sit down with him and tell him that I remember that day. And that it's nice to remember that if someone I admired went from being a chemical engineer to a band instructor, perhaps it's not so crazy to think that I could go from a marketing major to a veterinarian.

Years later (perhaps even after I graduated from college) I heard that Mr. Favorite Band Instructor did, in fact, marry Betsy and last I heard they had started a family.

Guess there's still hope for me yet.


zlionsfan said...

With respect to major and career, I am the exception, not the rule. Remember that.

Also, I think your band instructor's comment would have meant something entirely different to a guy.

Candace said...

Please...Please...Please show us high school Ems in her band uniform.

AnnD said...

Awww, I loved that story! Have you looked for him on FB? I bet he would LOVE to hear what an impact it had on you!

My narcissistic side has to step in with a similar of my earliest mentors in Marriage and Family Therapy had a degree in Electrical Engineering and was in Russia doing work and decided he just didn't want to be an engineer. So, he went BACK to school and got a PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy.

He and I got pretty close; getting lunch together from time to time. He was also teaching a class I was taking at the time and he had a guest speaker speak to us one day about some topic I can't remember. And I am seriously NEVER this bold but I walked up to him and basically joked that I could tell that she (the guest speaker) was so into him! It was so obvious! He kind of blew it off and smiled.

Years and years later, I saw him at an AAMFT conference and he introduced me to his wife and it was THE GUEST SPEAKER! I wasted no time reminding him how I called that years ago! And he said: "Oh my gosh! You did! I forgot all about that day in class!"