Posted on March 11, 2018
So, here we go again. I can't believe that we're headed into March and looking at spring break and then, soon enough, the end of quite a whirlwind of a year. I wasn't aware until a bit into the year but enrollment from year to year is not guaranteed. Yesterday was the day everyone found out whether or not they are invited to return next year and also get that other letter, that ticks like a bomb in the background, telling you how much financial aid you were awarded.
I've said this several times before and I will continue to say it -- thank you to everyone who has supported her in this adventure. It's not overstating it when I say that she takes your support very seriously and every day, with everything she does, she does it knowing that it's because of so many that she's able to be there and that anything less than her best is disrespectful to those who have been so generous.
This year has been full of many lessons and transitions. There has been a lot of growth and development both in ways you would expect as well as in ways we could have never predicted. Her schedule has been packed. She has what there is considered an academically heavy load given she's an instrumental music major and with that comes additional hours of practice and performance. Six academic classes plus her arts block make for hectic, long days.
The smaller class sizes have made a tremendous difference in her learning in math and science. They used to be two areas in which she struggled, often due to distractions and class sizes. She had been wholly convinced she was not a "math person" and fell into the trap many of us have of that fixed mindset. She found out that there's no such thing. She simply learns differently and when the environment is one where she can focus and remain engaged, it makes a world of difference. Guess who now has a 100% in math and proved herself wrong. She's been doing well academically and considering being so far away from home at her age, I'm very proud of how well she's handled the transition and increase in expectations.
She's also been developing well as a musician. Being surrounded by kids who have been playing since they were three and four is both humbling and inspiring. What's lovely about her section is that they are supportive of each other and cheer each other on in their growth and successes. It's comforting to know that her peers are as supportive as her teachers.
One really proud moment was some great feedback she received from her orchestra conductor. He is an incredibly talented man who is kind but honest when it comes to his assessments. He's passionate about his work and cares a great deal about the quality of the work of the students. I appreciate that about him. There's no growth to be had without honest, constructive criticism and high expectations. This past concert she received the highest grade he gives and was told she's been a real leader in her section, advancing past some of her peers, and that he has been impressed by her progress. He knows she's working hard and having to make up for time others have on her from years of serious study. He told her she's always prepared, can tell she practices and studies her pieces, and that it's showing in her solo work as well. From him that is very high praise he doesn't hand out easily and she felt very good about it and I think she should be proud.
This isn't easy material. And it's material she has to learn on top of her chamber pieces and the solo work she's preparing for summer program auditions and, believe it or not, in preparation for prescreen auditions in the fall and live auditions a bit less than a year from now. Not to mention her senior recital. My spreadsheet game has become strong, with research on schools, lists of repertoire, achievements, information for resumes and bios, and everything you can think of that you need to know to prepare for applications. SATs and ACTs are scheduled, prep ongoing, community service hours to maintain, and every once in a while, a bit of a break, hitting Traverse City with friends to decompress and be normal teenagers for a few hours a week.
She's coming home next Friday for two weeks for spring break. It reminds me of when I visited her after four weeks of her being at camp. I knew then that if she was still enthusiastic about the experience then it was something she was going to take seriously and give it all she has. We've had milestone moments like that along the way where we check in and talk before we move on to the next big step. This will be another one of those moments. Although, I'm pretty sure I know how it's going to go based on a conversation we had earlier in the week. We were discussing some things and admittedly, being so far and disconnected versus seeing her daily before, I was feeling frustrated. It's a lot harder to gauge where things are when you aren't sitting there for the lessons or spending hours in the car having conversations. I was tired and she was tired. I was stressed and she was stressed. I was feeling disconnected and she was up to her eyeballs in obligations and missing home. I felt like I lacked much of the information that I needed to help me frame where we were and what I needed to know to plan things I needed to plan. We don't get to talk that often and when we do, it's quick texts. It's certainly not how it used to be. Feeling frustrated and tired and overwhelmed, I bluntly asked her, "Is this something we should keep doing?" Her answer was a solid and complete yes. Not one second of hesitation.
Why does it remind me of when I visited her after four weeks at camp? Well, to begin with, at camp she started her days at 6:30am with reveille immediately followed by PT. When you're 15 and in no way a morning person, four weeks of that when it's summer break has got to get old. There were cabin chores and hours upon hours of practice, rehearsal, and performances. Yes it was camp but it wasn't the type of camp where you spent your day doing nothing but swimming, doing crafts, and hiking. Not that they didn't do that as well, but it was less a vacation away than it was six weeks of constant orchestra rehearsal with days that were as long as they were while she was in school. I knew that if after four weeks she wasn't totally over it and was still enthusiastic about the experience then she truly loved the music and the work that came with it. It was always something I insisted that she want and not something she did to please me or because it would look good on a college application. I saw far too much of that and I knew enough to know that if you really loved the music (or anything, really), it was inside of you and that is what pushes you. I knew that if she wanted to do this on a grander scale, being over it at that point would not bode well since that path would only get harder. So when I asked if this was something we should continue and she answered without hesitation, despite the months of missing her family, the hours and hours of work, the stress of keeping up grades while practicing and being prepared for performances, the cafeteria food, the mountains of snow, and everything else you'd not blame a kid for not wanting to continue, that told me what I needed to know.
We'll talk when she gets home but I already know that this is something she is going to want to see through until the end. Not everyone does. She's known kids who have decided that by Thanksgiving it just wasn't a good fit. No one judges those kids. Not anyone raised with empathy anyway. This isn't for everyone and that doesn't define a person. It simply means that they tried and found out that their path would lead them elsewhere. And that path may not be easier as far as effort and expectation but perhaps a better fit being closer to home. There's no shame in that. I give those kids a lot of credit for trying. In fact, that's something I find more impressive than being the best. I have so much respect for those that try and keep trying. I also have tremendous respect for those who try and realize something isn't working and their resiliency allows them to adjust that path. Sometimes knowing when to admit something isn't working for you and figuring out an alternative is very hard. People feel as if it's a failure. It's not. Failing is when we stop trying or when we force ourselves onto a path that wasn't meant for us. It takes a great deal of wisdom and courage to assess where you are, weigh your options, and know when to readjust the plan. It's okay.
If anyone who has read this far has ever found themselves in a situation where they realized it wasn't working and changed their path, I hope you've never considered yourself a failure because of it. Forcing yourself to do something that isn't a good fit for you is failing yourself. Going another way and making another plan is simply that. And when we speak of plans, know that life has a funny way of forcing you to adjust what you thought would be anyhow. They say God laughs at plans. That's not to say we shouldn't have goals or an idea of what we want to do; it's simply that we have to do it with the understanding that it doesn't always end up exactly how we think we want it. Schools will be applied to, auditions will be held, practicing will happen, hopes and dreams will get so close you will feel as if you could touch them. Have you been kind? Have you tried your best? Have you done anything to make a positive impact on the world around you? If you can answer yes, then you've done what you can do. Maybe you get into your second or third choice of schools. Maybe you decide that dance or theater or voice won't be your primary focus in college after all. Maybe that plan you had carefully crafted in your head or maybe on paper just doesn't quite unfold the way you had hoped. It will be okay.
There are times when you will wonder if you should keep going. You will get tired, frustrated, and see the competition that surrounds you and you will wonder if all that work will amount to anything. The thing is, it already has. And moving forward you will have to find the right fit for you, focusing on constantly improving rather than comparing yourself to those whose journey has been different.
Anyhow, this has turned into a graduation speech more than an update. If anyone found anything inspiring about it, I'm glad. If not, hey, you're a masochist for reading this far. ;P
What now? Well, a month from now is the deadline to officially re-enroll and pay the deposit to hold her spot. If you feel generous and wouldn't mind sharing our link, we would appreciate it. We're still fundraising. I have what seems to be a promising lead on a good job but that is still in limbo for at least a month. When I say that the universe has its own plan for us, I know it from experience. But she's doing well and continues to develop academically, musically, and personally, so to all who have helped, please know that your generosity has not been wasted. And know that every last dime has gone to nothing but Grace and her tuition. We're going to keep fighting to keep this alive and we appreciate your help in spreading her story and helping us prove that there are still good people in the world and positive stories to share. You've helped make this world a better place in a time when we wonder if that's still possible. You've proved it is. Thank you.