‘Do not go gentle into that good night.’ –Dylan Thomas
I do not believe in going quietly through life. I do not want to be pushed into the river of life in a row boat and end up where I do not choose to be. If I do not have paddles I will use my hands. If I do not have hands I will use my feet to steer myself. If I do not have feet I will roll out of the boat and control my destiny the instant before I drown instead of letting the next rapid take me. At least then I am in control of my life for one moment in place of never at all.
In 7th grade I decided to play the French horn. It is one of the hardest instruments to learn and perfect. Of course, when I started playing it I did not know that; to me, the French horn was an idealistic image of heroic movie themes.
My first band concert was blatantly scary. Try playing 10 chainsaws all at once and you might get close. But I stuck with it all through 7th grade (want to throw up) band, skipped 8th grade (really, really noxious) band, and played in 9th grade (everyone thinks they’re good) band for two years. I survived. But in 9th grade devastation occurred – I needed braces.
All my years of hard work were gone with some wires and glue. I couldn’t play high, I couldn’t play low, I tried to play a scale, 8 notes, for my teacher and failed miserably. Nothing could make the spited stainless steel go away.
Then it got better.
I never gave up, even if my lips were bleeding from the wires tearing at my flesh, even when I cried because I could not hit that stupid note that I had always been able to hit. Through perseverance, I was slowly able to regain my old skills and even excel. But it was all for naught, I then had my braces removed.
Once again I had to sit through the depressing practice sessions where it seemed like I was trying to swim through syrup. No one else could help me during this time. I rehearsed a part over and over until I could play it. At times I would get so mad my playing would get louder and more pronounced. I was waging a war and I was not going to lose. I knew I would not improve if I acted as if I was lazily floating down a river, fingers trailing aimlessly.
Today I have exceeded to a skill level higher than most of my peers who never have had braces. I believe in controlling my life even when it is hardest. Even if I am about to go over a waterfall in my tiny boat I know that I can conquer it — because I control my life not the waterfall.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.