Daily Prompt 12/26

Who are the biggest influences in your life?

This is a tough question for me now. I have been on a journey these last two years that has changed my perspective on my past. As I’ve healed, I see my life in such a different way and who has shaped who I am now. I do feel like most people think about this question in a more positive way, rather than focusing on the negative influences in your life.

The biggest influence, by far, is my parents. In some ways, it was a positive influence, but there are some negative aspects as well. They read to me from birth, emphasized the importance of education, and didn’t let me quit playing trumpet when it got hard. They showed me the value of hard work, and always made sure I was in at least one activity outside of school. Even though I didn’t love the things they chose for me, I did have things to do. On the negative side, they were and still are very insular and don’t have a ton of friends outside of family members. They are working on that, though, which is nice to see. I am more social than they are, and feeling trapped in the house with no friends would be too much for me. But they are very close to each other and have overcome a lot of tough times in their marriage.

Another huge influence is my mom’s sister. She is fierce, zany, and so much of an individual that I have never met anyone like her. She loves books and reading and learning new things. And sewing. But she’s stubborn, set in her ways, and can be unfriendly at times. She showed me what independence looks like and how to live my life for myself. She has never cared what anyone else thinks and I really admire that about her. I once asked her why she never married anyone and she said “I never met anyone worth giving up my way of living and settling into something I may not even like.” Um, ok. That’s intense. She’s 5 years older than my mom and as long as my mom can remember, she was always this way. She knows who she is and nothing will change that.

I moved to a different city when I was in high school. I was in marching band in both schools and the drill instructor and designer was someone who changed my life forever in one moment. In NY, there was a field band competition the first weekend in November every year. Our show my senior year was amazing. Great music and a very challenging drill set made it a really fun season. We had people singing at a microphone and a sax player do his solo into the microphone. During the singing there was feedback and then the sax soloist squeaked out a note. It was terrible. And even though it was parents setting it all up, it counted against us. And out of seven bands, we placed seventh. It was a terrible moment when they announced that. Tears were just streaming down my cheeks. Ron, the drill instructor and designer started pacing in front of us, yelling, “do not cry, do not give up, our season isn’t done yet. We have our last stand in Jacksonville, Florida. Don’t give these people the satisfaction of showing them how broken you are. We are not broken. We will rise again in Florida. We know who we are and this one show doesn’t define us. You will learn from today and you will grow. And we will go on to do great things.” I get chills just writing that even now. You have this large group of 14-17 year olds crying, some more obviously than others, and you have to comfort and inspire them at the same time. Ron was brilliant. I am still friends with him on social media and I have written about this to him and he doesn’t remember being quite so inspirational. He mostly remembers being angry and thinking we were robbed. But that’s now who he was for us that day.

And to top this off…we went to Florida and won best band on the field, in the parade, best drum line, and first place in a bunch of other categories. We got to perform part of our show during halftime of a bowl game and receive acknowledgement of our win on national tv. It was exactly what he wanted us to do. We grew. We recovered and learned important things from our failure. It was truly amazing to live through. Even though I’d never known disappointment like that before that day, it was a lesson I would need to fall back on more times in my adult life when I stumbled and even failed. Ron gave us so much that day without even trying.

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