Life Lesson Learned

Last weekend I had the opportunity to go to a retirement event for my high school band director. Band was huge at my high school. We had student officers and dance royalty who did band. I even knew cheerleaders who gave up cheerleading to do band or color guard. It has one of the most successful band programs in the state. A huge part of this is because of a motivated, dedicated and loving band director.

Over the last week I’ve been thinking about my time in marching band. I think about it often—yes even seventeen years later! I can still say it was one of the best experiences of my life. Besides being able to play and be a part of some amazing music, which was food to my soul, I met some of my best friends from band. One of the most valuable experiences I gained, however, was leadership skills.

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I had never really been in a leadership position before, other than as a president in my Young Women’s class at church when I was twelve or thirteen. I had always been a shy, quiet person. As I got into high school I didn’t want to be that person anymore because I didn’t feel as though it was me anymore, yet I could never find the courage to break out of the mold that I felt others had formed for me. I had to live up to other’s expectations of who I was. I thought I had qualities that would make me a good leader, but I wasn’t sure how to, or if I ever did, show it. I was a fairly good flute player, not the best, but good, but that wasn’t necessarily enough to be a section leader, which was something I wanted so badly my senior year of high school.

When it came time to vote for section leaders as I approached that last year of high school I was afraid people would only see my mental illness instead of seeing me—that they would see it as a hinderance and something that made me not good enough. I guess I forgot what amazing people they were because they were able to see past it, they did see me, and I was voted as section leader.

What an amazing experience it was! I came to love each of those girls—yes, I had twenty-nine girls under me! However, the band director and I sometimes had our differences. Part way through the competition season I became upset about a decision he made. Without going into the whole long story, I pretty much defied him and rebelled against what I was supposed to do. I was this hippie-like character after all!

Obviously I ended up getting into a lot of trouble for it. As the band director was discussing my discipline he suggested taking me out as section leader and putting someone else in. The thought was devastating. He asked me what I thought about that. “Well, you have to do what you have to do,” I said, “but I will tell you that (said person) isn’t a good leader.” He thought for a second, laughed then told me, “You’re right. She’s not. I’m not going to do that.”

I did end up having to explain to the band that afternoon at rehearsal what had happened and apologize, which was extremely embarrassing, but I got to stay in as section leader. Knowing that he had that kind of faith in me, despite the fact that I had messed up, meant so much to me. It still means so much to me. And it has become an incredible life lesson as well.

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I can use this as it applies to parenting. When a child does something wrong, it’s okay to reprimand and discipline, but it’s also important to let them know you still love them and have faith in them. Let them know that even though you are disappointed they did the wrong thing you know they are still good and of worth and can do better.

I can use this when looking at mental illness. Sometimes we have setbacks, but that doesn’t mean we have failed and need to be completely devastated. Awhile ago I had a very low point in my life. I had lost all hope. But guess what? I got it back. I kept going, I kept trying, and I got it back. Just because I hit rock bottom didn’t mean that was the end. I had to have faith in myself. And I did. I picked myself up and tried again. And right now I’m in an incredibly good place mentally, emotionally and physically.

I’m so grateful for a band director who was able to see past my deficiencies and continue to let me grow and develop and do something that meant the world to me. And I’m grateful for the lesson it taught me, that I’m still gleaning from.

Failure and Success

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Failure and success. Both have been on my mind a lot lately. I’ve been in a funk with my writing, my goals (which are very few) and just my overall life. Last week I did my first party, that was not my own, for the company I am now a consultant for. I was all geared up and excited to get going, and it ended up bombing. Not a single person ordered anything. Epic fail. There are a few reasons why I think this happened, some my fault, some not, but whatever the reasons I was miserable, and, of course, my first reaction was to want to give up. “What am I doing?” I asked myself. “Why did you think you could actually do this?” I had two more parties scheduled in the next week and figured they would be failures as well. I wanted to cancel, to tell the people hosting them I couldn’t do it. Then I found this quote attributed to Winston Churchill. “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Failure is not fatal. I’ve failed at a lot of things in my life, but I’m still here. I’m still fighting, and I’m stronger for everything I’ve been through. I decided to fight back, to continue. I went to my next party and had a blast! I found that my usual social anxiety at talking to strangers quickly evaporated as soon as I started talking about the products, because I love them! I truly believe in them, and that helped me stay happy and positive. I think my passion showed through! And guess what? I got a few orders that night! It wasn’t much, but it was something. I considered it a success.

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My next party was a few nights later, and I also had a great time with it. It was just on Facebook. I went live for twenty minutes or so, had a few people join in, and it was great! One person ordered right then and there. I was feeling better, but still not as good as I had hoped. I looked at others who are extremely successful in this business, making a lot of money, and I felt pretty insignificant next to them. Then, just this morning, another person ordered from my party last week—a big order, too! That’s when I realized I just needed to be patient. All of these little things are definitely successes, but success is not final. I still have more to do, a longer ways to go. If I just wait, act and have faith, I can do this! And I can be happy doing it! Success is a rush! But I’m also grateful for what I have learned from failure. Both are important, and both I can live with!