I’m hearing that a lot lately. But people have to be careful about saying a phrase like to a musician, or in my case former band kid. These are not shallow breaths, the ones people are trying to get me to stop by saying “just breath.” Breathing in to support music is no simple action. It starts in the belly, expanding the whole front to support that massive breath. It’s holding in so much air until you’re practically quivering – or maybe that’s because I’m more than a bit after practice. But then you have that air ready to play, sing, make some sort of joyful noise.
But breathing isn’t the only reason Marching Band is on my mind. If you’ve been there, you know… you don’t do Marching Band in halves. When I was in high school I did Marching Band four days a week, and lets be honest, that Saturday was all day long. Practice, pep band and show for the Football game, then travel to a competition, sometimes two early in the season. I lived with my peers there, they were my family. Even when we had time to be apart, why want to be?
Those were more then friends. To perform well we aren’t just all in sync, we are literally in step. To execute and convey those different pictures, and flip between them well, you have to be in the right place at the right time – and that was all relative. It could be as simple as memorizing your position, but we don’t live in isolation. It was about how we all stood and stepped amongst each other. While we were a kind of family, the dynamics are still unique. I distinctly remember tapping a yard marker to hit a mark, and slipping. The split second as I fell back I realized the tuba line would be coming through that point next. To this day I don’t know how I did it, but I rolled back, got back to my feet, and kept moving. Probably because I knew if I didn’t I was gonna die. Not because they wanted to hurt me, but they knew, we all knew, we were going to do that show right.
Then at one point I left. Early in the season. I had my reasons, I’m not proud, but in some ways I was. The band director wanted to share, and I told him no, he could not. This wasn’t just about a group of kids doing something. This was the most unique team I’d been a part of, and that information wouldn’t helped anything. But it is hard to go from something being your life, to not anymore. I couldn’t avoid the band, I friends with a lot of my band mates. Heck my brother was still in band, sometimes I had to outwait practice for a ride home.
A short time after leaving I was walking the field by during practice, and the director was yelling about the positions. There was a hole in the formation.
“Close it up!”
I was effectively gone. I hadn’t moved on yet, but my place was literally eradicated.
I drifted apart from them.
I made new friendships, I found new groups – but none so tight. So in synch, where everyone had your back. Individuals, yes, but never a group of friends like my marching band.
Not until recently. And it’s strange, because when I started taking my writing seriously I didn’t think this would be such a collaborative community. Marching band – a band – we needed to work together to execute a single whole. In writing communities, aren’t we all competing for the same readers? But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are plenty of readers, frankly interested in a lot of different things. But even if we’re writing the same genre, the great fans are voracious. People always want more stories. So working together, we can all improve, and bring readers stories better, faster, and more plentiful then before.
And then this all comes full circle. The breathing might calm me down in that moment, but that band of people that I know have my back, that’s what gets me through the day.
Find your Band.
Find your Tribe.
Breath… and March on toward your goals.