Regina G Beach

The only constant is change.

Choosing Fun over Practicality

I’ve been sorting through a lot of old things lately and came across a series of essays from 2003-2004. I thought they deserved to see the light.

Every day is full of decisions. From what clothes we wear to what people we associate with, choices are a prevalent part of our lies. I am usually hasty in my decision-making. I choose the most convenient or most obvious choice instead of weighing the pros and cons of each possibility. This method is quick and easy, but often leads to regret. Sometimes I hold off on making a decision until only one option remains, and I am forced into a choice I may not have wanted. Many times I let my parents or friends make decision for me. While this method relieves me of the stress of making decisions, it also leaves me without control of my life. I made my worst decisions when I made choices based on fear. Mostly I fear what other people will think of me if I choose outside what is considered normal or socially correct. This method leaves me with the most regret because it keeps me from taking risks and doing what I really want to do. 

Fifth grade is a year of decisions. As top dog of the elementary school scene, it is the fifth grader’s responsibility to be as cool and sophisticated as a ten-year-old can possibly be. Among the infinitely long list of fifth-grade responsibilities including having a first crush, savoring the final days of recess and mastering the book report, fifth graders must make the life-changing decision of whether or not to play an instrument. Two fine instrumental groups exist at the elementary school level the band, and the orchestra. The orchestra consists of very squeaky, out-or-tune violins, equally out of tune but not quite so squeaky violas, cellos and sting basses that are twice as tall as the kids who play them. I knew I didn't’ want to be in the orchestra. I simply had no desire to play a stringed instrument, and besides, all my friends were going to be in band. 

Being in elementary school band means giving up recess. Being disinterested in kickball, football, and soccer, and having spent more than my fair share of time on the swings and jumping rope, skipping recess was not a problem. I chose to play the flute. My mom had played the flute and she still had hers. I don't’ remember even considering any other instrument. I didn't’ so much as try out a trumpet or a sax at the information night. My mind was set in stone, and I would not change it. I’m stubborn once I made a decision, and I blind myself to options without one iota of consideration. I wish I were more open minded. 

Years went by, and I very happily tooted away on my flute. Weeks of private lesson, hours of practicing, and countless band concert came and went. I was always very good, one of the top chairs. It never occurred to me when the band directors were recruiting kids to play color instruments like bassoon, baritone, and tuba that they could possibly be talking to me so I never really paid attention I signed up for marching band as a freshman and switched from the flue, which is barely audible and quite worthless on the band field, to the piccolo. Piccolos are shriller and more out of tune that their cousin the flue, but as I soon found out, they too are barely audible during halftime, but not being heard didn't’ bother me. Hight school was a totally new and overwhelming experience. Switching instruments didn’t even cross my mind. I had aspirations of become section leader, of being the most competent player in the section. Switching to an instrument I couldn't play seemed silly and first, but as football season went on, the thought became more and more appealing. 

The vast majority of the flue section consists of girls. Only one male has graced the section’s pieces in the time I have been in the band. We are a very catty section. Drama is a huge part of every sectional. Sometimes I love having forty sisters to share my deepest secrets with, but most of the time I’d rather be anywhere than in the middle of their whining and moaning. The middle of football season of my sophomore year, I began having serious thoughts of abandoning my section. I tried trumpet. One of my friend offered to teach me, I I took her up on the offer. My days of idolizing Louis Armstrong lasted about two months. The embouchure was so very different than the flute, and playing gave me headache. Although marching front and center greatly appealed to me, the thought of suffering through discomfort kept me from pursuing that idea. I briefly thought about taking up percussion. In my next life, I will be a drummer. They are the most cohesive, elite, and revered section in the band. Drums can move even the tone deaf to dance. Their cadences become stuck in my head and their beats reverberate in my heart, but I haven't’ the rhythm nor the steady beat necessary to be a drummer. I really had no desire to play sax or clarinet, but one instrument did strike me as being just as impractical as it was alluring, the tuba. 

Twelve tubas march proudly in the back row during halftime and behind the drums during parades. They are never in line with the rest of us. They get to do “tuba turns” and rotate left to go right, and they wear very sleek berets instead of clunky hats. They tubas always seem to be having more fun than the rest of the band. Most of them don’t even play; they just march around with their tubas looking cool. They get to enter the building first, and they have their own room, the “tuba room,” that only tuba players may enter. I envy their special privileges and laid-back attitudes. I wish I had had the guts to switch instruments in tenth grade. I wish I had listened to the irrational, risk-taking side of me, instead of choosing the strain and narrow path. 

Not switching from flute to tuba is only one example of a decision I’ve made based on what I thought was right at the time. I have had fun playing flute, but I will never know how much fun I would have had playing the tuba. Often I make conservative choices base on fear. I’ll choose not to introduce myself to someone I don’t know, or do homework instead of going out with my friend.s I wish that I were able to justify activities solely base on how much enjoyment I’ll get out of participating instead of how productive or worthwhile the activity may be. I feel like I”m running out of childhood and won’t have enough fun stories and memories to show for being a kid. Chances are I’ll never play the tuba. Chances are I’ll always make decision base partially on what others will think of me. The more aware I am of my motivation, the more likely I”ll be to examine and change it. I have always wanted to take up the accordion…