The other night, a friend i’ve had for 10 years heard me sing for the first time. I giggled when she looked at me with wide eyes and said, “I didn’t know you could sing!”
I mean, I’m not a singer, by any means. But the next morning, on my run, I reflected some on how I did sing for most of my life, first in school, then in a number of churches. This led me to remembering why I gave up choir after ninth grade.
Our schedules had room for two electives. I needed one more year of a foreign language, and I refused to give up journalism (still the most important and useful class I ever had). The only way I could stay in choir was to give up honors math – GEOMETRY – and I choose math. I did it again in 11th grade, the only time in my life I would actually fail one quarter of a class (TRIG!).
I know enough math to function as an adult. The complicated sort that might be presented in loan documents or contracts throws me for a minute, and I am notorious at work for forgetting sums, or any numbers really, almost immediately after hearing them. I still use Mr. DeVore’s “is over of equals x over 100” formula from seventh grade to figure out percentages. But neither geometry nor trig have ever played a role in my life, certainly not the extra few chapters I might have temporarily learned in an honors class. And even though I graduated #3 (come ON!) in my high school class. Those little extra grade hundredths in my grade point average earned me nothing. The scholarships I got were for writing.
Meanwhile, music has been in the backbone of my life for all my life. I married a musician and singer. Some of my closest friends are musicians as well. I have worked in marketing for music and entertainment, managed a live theater for one unforgettable summer, edited a gospel music magazine for two years, and produced a gospel music festival with my husband for three years. These days, I mostly just sing along, but I love music, and we have passed that on to our kids.
So as my first-born daughter enters high school, with her core four academic classes listed as “honors,” two electives in music, and another full slate of dance classes in the evenings, I am going to be watching and helping her swerve with this perspective fresh in mind. She talks of teaching dance, of being a mental health counselor. Some of that may change in the next years, some may not. But I will guide my daughter, and her sister who is one year behind her, with this fresh perspective in mind:
·What is conventional is not always for us.
·What is viewed as “best” isn’t always best for us.
·Academics are important, but not more so than art.
·Honors classes are a construct of school, not real life.
·Use your brain, but also listen to your heart.
·I should have chosen choir.