One thing that I enjoy doing, probably more than anything else in the world, is playing the electric guitar. When someone can’t help but smile because I play their favorite song, or when I can make someone’s jaw drop with a lightning fast riff, I feel good. I can’t help but smile, either.
Back when I was a sophomore in high school, however—before I learned to play the guitar—I actually spent most of my afterschool hours participating in sports. I lived in a small town in Idaho named Carey, where everyone was pressured to go out for sports, because playing sports meant you that were accepted, and playing sports well meant that you were cool. Our small student body of only seventy-five made it possible for everyone who tried out to be on the team. This being the case, I hopped on the bandwagon and went out for football, basketball, and track, because I wanted to be accepted and I hoped to be cool.
For two years, I had an okay time playing sports, but soon found that it wasn’t my thing. I didn’t really have anything against sports or those that took them, but taking sports wasn’t something that I really enjoyed doing or that I had a passion for, so I decided that I didn’t want participate anymore. I wanted to spend my time doing something that felt more fulfilling to me. It was surprising to me, though, how hard it really was to drop sports. When I told my friends I wasn’t going to take basketball anymore, nearly all of them wanted to know why. Some of them even stopped hanging out with me. It seemed that sports had been a common link between me and many of my friends, and I had broken that link. I felt like I had been forced outside into a bitter cold.
After a few weeks expired, I realized there was no turning back—no chance to change my mind and take basketball. It was too late for me to crawl back to sports and the comfortable circle I had been a part of. I now had to try something new. I had been fooling around with my dad’s acoustic guitar for the past few months, learning to play the melodies of songs like “Happy Birthday”, “London Bridges”, and “Mary Had a Little Lamb” by ear. I was extremely interested in the guitar, and learning to play songs was very satisfying, so I decided learning to play the guitar would be my substitute for playing sports.
As the weeks and months progressed, I learned to play more and more complex songs. The music of the Beatles, the Police, the Eagles, and CCR began to emanate from my dad’s guitar. The tips of my fingers became callused as I practiced an hour or more every day. My fingers became more skilled and I found I could play without having to keep my eyes constantly on my fingers. My dad soon took interest in my guitar playing, and helped me to purchase an electric guitar—a beautiful wine-red Gibson Les Paul, a guitar he knew I would enjoy because of the type of music I’d been playing.
The new electric guitar only expedited my progress in learning. I more freely let others know of my interest in the guitar. I started to establish new friendships with others who were not involved in sports. My confidence began to grow and I became more certain of myself, and I started to be a more open person. Soon I joined my school’s pep band and the school’s musical group, To the Max, playing my electric guitar.
My small school soon became electrified because of the talent I had developed. Some people even wanted to skip out on class to come to the band room during my music hour to hear me play. For pep band, I made my own rendition of the school’s fight song, “Onward Carey”, and put a twist on some of the other pep band songs, like “Louie Louie” and “Land of a Thousand Dances”.
I soon began to realize that everyone now accepted me—not because I was good at the guitar, but because I was comfortable with whom I had become. I wasn’t the most popular kid in school by any means, but I had new friends that respected and liked me. The friends I had made in sports even started hanging out with me again. Our new common tie was in music. I had gained many more friends and started living a much happier, fuller life, because I dared to go against the grain and be myself—my true self. I found that when a person decides they want to be their true self, takes the necessary steps to be their true self, and disregards the consequences, they will be truly happy—this I believe.