From marching band to mental health

August 18 2016

After 4-years on The Listserve, eagerly waiting to speak with THOUSANDS of readers... I find myself handed this Golden Ticket at a time when I truly wish to simply fade into the anonymous masses.

So, what to write?

How about some honesty... something I have been keeping from myself for quite some time.

--

At the age of 24, I was handed my dream job. Barely out of college, and based purely on my performance working with local groups, I was selected and hired as Director of Bands for a gorgeous university. For as long as I could remember, this is where I always wanted to end up -- working with bright, motivated students to create entertaining field productions, perform expressive concerts, and spread the message that life is all about finding what you are PASSIONATE about and embracing it fully and without repose.

Life was suddenly perfect. I immediately knew that every day moving forward, I would awaken, put on a spirited polo shirt or suit and tie, walk to campus, and spend 8-10-12 hours SURROUNDED by everything I loved most in life. It was going to be.... perfect.

And so it was.

But I didn't appreciate it.

I let things get in the way.

I let EGO get in the way.

~"Our budget has been stagnant for a decade! This is a reflection of their lack of respect for me!"~
~"A student doesn't like the show design! They obviously hate me!"~
~"These alumni don't like the Homecoming plans! They must not care about the Band!"~

I focused exclusively on everything that WASN'T working, and allowed myself to forget exactly how perfect everything actually was...

All the ensembles were growing!
MULTIPLE-times more performances than this school used to do!
NEW ensembles started!

Heck, we CREATED and HOSTED one of the largest band festivals in US history!

But it didn't matter. Ego. Ego got the best of me. And it all came to a head at a homecoming game. As we took the field at halftime, the Athletic Director wanted to change the timeframe, and expected us to change our show...

~"He doesn't care how much work they've put in! He doesn't care about us!"~

So I refused. I had the Band continue on, as rehearsed. And halftime went off without a hitch.

And I lost my job.

--

Here I am, 2-years later, in my 30's, working in the field of mental health. Every day, I go to work and ask one question of myself:

~"What is best for the person in front of me?"~

Some days, patients smile while I listen to why they're happy with their new meds.
Some days, patients cry while I listen to why they're hurting.
Some days, patients yell while I listen to why they think I'm worthless.
Some days, patients thank me for staying with them despite everything they've said.

Gone are the days of thinking of my ego. I keep it in a box, in a storage locker, alongside most of the belongings of my 'old life'. I visit the locker every few months to get a knickknack or trinket, usually something to pass along to a niece or nephew. Every time I open that door, I am reminded of what I used to be, and what I try every day to never return to.

"It is never too late to be what you might have become."


N.J.
njmckenzie86@gmail.com
New England, USA



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