i loved it all. the halls of john glenn high school, the walls of the classrooms i sat in, most of the extraordinary teachers i had the pleasure of studying with, most of the classes i took. i loved math, i loved science, i loved english and creative writing. i even loved my jewelry class, though i was not particularly skilled at it. i took no music classes in high school. none.
the guidance counselor didn’t know what to do. what direction do i go? what path do i take? what major do i pursue? the emphasis was on the decision. make one, i was told. it is quite possible this is one of the reasons why, years later, i completed a guidance and counseling masters – to scrap the emphasis on the decision and shift it to the process. at a time in the late 70s when college was ever-important and i was top-of-my-class i was underserved. it does not matter where you are in your class if your spectrum of curiousness is dowsed by someone pressing you into a mold, narrowed into a this-or-that.
in my first years of community college i still loved it all. philosophy classes were a stand-out. economics were not-so-much. business law was a low point. environmental science classes fascinated me. because i played the piano, taught piano lessons, wrote songs, and directed a youth choir, i signed up for a couple music theory classes and met paul simon, the godson of my music theory professor sy shaffer. listening to paul talk about songwriting was a huge highlight. i mean, it was paul simon. but i really still didn’t know what direction to take.
a life-changing event, as life-changing events do, changed that.
i moved when i should have stayed. i left when i should have dug in. i dropped the rest of the curiosity to focus on the familiar, the known. albert einstein would have taken me by my ear. “stay curious,” he would have admonished. “what you seek is seeking you,” rumi would have whispered to me. “wait.”
it’s funny to me now – as i look back – that i did not focus on the inordinate number of hours i spent writing in a tree. it’s funny to me now – as i look back – that i wrote songs and music and arrangements – fifteen albums worth – and never really thought of all the heavy composing or theory classes i took in my second half at university. never once have i gone back and compo-analyzed the structure-texture-tonal-system-consonance-dissonance of a piece of music i have written. it’s funny to me now – as i play with design and photoshop and cartooning and blogging – that it didn’t occur to me, as an editor at john glenn’s art and literary magazine “gemini”, how much i loved what i was doing in those after-school hours-and-hours sessions with one of the world’s best and most expansive english teachers, andrea vrusho. it’s funny. we see and we don’t see. twists and turns, paths taken, paths not taken. our stories all different. stages and flatbeds, classrooms, church chancels, the state side of the courtroom, piano benches, recording studios, choir rooms, department-store-holiday-wrapping in lean times. all part of the curio cabinet, never full, never finished. we take paths and, if we are scrappy and confident and lucky enough to be supported and even mentored, we make the best of them. anyway. there is a richness to each story and each path.
no special talents. passionately curious.
we all have something. something that sets us apart from each and every other person. something that the world we are in cannot do without. for every spoke in the wheel counts and every gift, every talent, every nurturing soul, every fixer-upper, every engineer-brain, every teacher, every scientist, every laborer, every inventor, every chef creating magic in a soup kitchen or michelin-star-bistro, every artist, every athlete, every skilled-trade expert are necessary in this place, at this time.
it is exactly that – that is brilliant. it is exactly that which is genius. it is the appreciation of that – so much to learn – which is the gift of being human. it is the imperative of humanity.