Power of Words and How They Changed My Life

I’ve come to an important realization. I am utterly clueless about music these days. I submit the following facts as evidence:

–  I don’t own an iPod or any kind of a decent music system
–  I probably have less than 20 songs on my phone and I listen to them like once a week.
–  I listen to music less than anyone I know.  Rarely in the car or around the house, and at work I listen to the same handful of CD’s over and over.  In the car, I mostly listen to comedy routines, books on CD, or just nothing.
–  I’m pretty good on oldies, but when it comes to current music, I am seriously clueless.  I don’t know most of the words and I constantly get the artists all mixed up.  

Do you know why that is so weird? 

When I was in school, music was my LIFE.  I was a bona fide Music Major in college and from early childhood, I devoted major hours of every day to singing, playing, listening to music or dancing



I was literally a real-life Glee kid.  The biggest dream of my life would have been to go to a Performing Arts school, but there were only a handful of them back then.  I sang in many choirs and danced in performing groups from second grade probably every single day into my second year of college.  I acted a little, did backstage work, and I played 5 different instruments. I had the dream to have a career in some type of musical field, probably a choir director.  The funny thing – almost no one who knows me today would even believe that about me because they’ve never seen that side of me.  

When I was about 19, it all came to a screeching halt.  I just stopped living a musical life completely and made a complete U-Turn all because of the words of two teachers.  They said I wasn’t good enough – and I believed them.  Words like that are easy enough to believe, especially coming from someone you think is an expert.  

It started in High School.  I set my sights on getting into the top music group.  I idolized the teacher and getting into that group was my only goal in life.  But I auditioned and he didn’t choose me for the group.  That was literally the biggest, most devastating disappointment of my entire life. It’s been decades, but I don’t think I ever wanted anything in my life so badly before or since.  And I had it rubbed in my face every day of my Senior year when nearly every single friend of mine headed off to that class while I had to go elsewhere.  I felt like I had “not good enough” tattooed on my forehead.


But I had great hopes for college and I was so excited by the array of classes available to me for practically free – this was a Community College and it was dirt cheap, which was about what I could afford.  I took dance lessons, musical theory, acting workshops, conducting, performing groups, I loved all of it.  And in my second year, I made the top choir.  I was over the moon.  

Until three months later when the teacher booted me out. He said he had misjudged my talent and that I was messing up his perfect harmonies and his world-class performing group.  That was all it took.  A conversation that probably lasted less than a minute.  The teacher probably doesn’t even remember it, but it literally broke my heart.  I dropped his class and the next semester, I packed it all in and dropped every single music class I had in favor of computer programming classes.   

I think it’s had a happy ending.  I took those piano-loving fingers and put them to better use on a computer keyboard. I’ve made a good living at it over the years, probably better than I would have done as a music teacher or choir director.  He was probably even right.  I think I was likely pretty decent, but I didn’t have that American Idol-caliber talent and that’s what it usually takes to make a successful career in the competitive music business.  

But it was sad what those words took away from me.  I never sang again until decades later when I got up enough nerve to join a church choir (no scary audition required).  I sing in a gospel choir now for a few months out of the year.  I enjoy it, but I’d never try a solo and I clam up if someone around me frowns in my direction or moves away for some reason. I’ll never have the confidence I would have had if I hadn’t heard those words.   

Teachers have an awesome responsibility and some of them just do not know how to use that power wisely.  I still remember my 5th grade teacher exclaiming sarcastically – Well, even Adrian got the answer right to that one.  Ouch!  Fortunately, my English teachers loved me, or I probably wouldn’t be writing a blog either!  


I wonder sometimes how my life would have been different if I hadn’t made such an abrupt right turn.  I won’t ever know, but maybe I’d at least have an iPod!  Or be able to recognize a Katy Perry song once in a while… 

Photo credit:  Image courtesy of [StockPhotos] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 


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Comments

  1. Okay, this is a very thought provoking post. Such a great reminder of the power adults have on impressionable young people. I have a daughter who LOVED art, and some art teacher (at an extra curricular class by the way), gave her negative feedback. I wasn’t there, so I don’t know if it was intended constructively or not, but she dropped art cold turkey after that. Still makes me sad.

  2. A few words can change the direction of a person’s life and I thank you for this post. I’ve been in the same situation and it has often taken years to get those voices out of my head.

  3. Isn’t it funny how small words like those you got from you teacher, will last a lifetime. I have similar memories & yes, even after so many decades, they still sting.
    I’m glad to know I’m not alone with those “little” hurts; and I also found comfort in words–a different kind of art.

  4. I have a couple thoughts on this post. One, I recently wrote a post on the power of words to change our lives too! It approached the topic from a totally different angle, but I think both angles are equally good examples of how powerful words really are. Two, I was a music major too! And I, too, didn’t stick with it. In my case, it wasn’t so much others’ words as it was my own. I was a percussionist, and while I was a “big fish in a little pond” in high school, going to a top caliber music school (Indiana University in Bloomington, IN) made me realize that I was much more mediocre than I previously thought. To this day I wonder how my life would be different if I hadn’t given up. Did I really have the potential to be better, or had I gotten as good as I’d ever get? But at the same time, I am SO happy with how my life is turning out that I really do think the change was for the better, you know? Anyway, I’m glad you’ve found ways to incorporate music back into your life! It’s nearly 10 years later and I have yet to figure out how to make music a part of my life again. And you know what? As powerful as words can be in our lives, I think music can be just as powerful (perhaps in different ways). So having music in your life is a really good thing!

  5. I am a teacher and will keep this post in mind forever. I have been in a similar position, devoted to music wherever I could, and luckily have been supported all the way through. But to me, realization came that I might be a good singer, but I don’t have the most angelic voice, while some friends really had. So I focused on backing vocals and I enjoyed it a lot. But I would surely have been devastated if someone would have told me I was not good enough in what I utterly loved. I’m glad you have found peace with it, and write about it now. I’ll remember!

  6. Adults in general and teachers in particular need to realize the life-long impact just a few words can have on kids. Words have so much power to change a person’s life. I try to keep that in mind when I work with kids.

    I just don’t have an ear for music. Like you, I rarely listen to music. I much prefer talk radio like NPR or a book on Audible.

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