“You know what you should write about? Passing notes doesn’t have to be about physical notes, it could be musical notes. Get it? You should write about the fact that you can’t watch our old band competition videos because you’ll get too sad because you’re afraid you’ll never feel that happy again.”
I can’t forget our last band competition as seniors. The wind was blowing warm air full of multicolored leaves all around us, and our directors were giving a pep talk right before we marched over to the stadium to compete. During their speech, my eyes locked with Steven, this shit ass I was fooling around with at the time. His eyes were glassy and the smile he gave me was so soft and sweet, and then my eyes were glassy.
Every year end competition I experienced with marching band had the same weather. Every year. Mild, sunny, blue skies, light breeze from the SW at 5-10 MPH.
Four summers in a row, we worked on four different 15 minute shows. Day in, day out. Before lunch, after lunch, after school. So when we realized it’d be the last time we’d ever march, there was this level Sense8 camaraderie between everyone. And the pride… oh the stupid pride. I was beaming. I was so happy. I patted my white coat and pants that created the itchiest of ensembles. I was going to miss being drum major, I was going to miss knowing everyone and their parents and working at a fair booth so we could raise money for our Florida trip, and I was gonna miss that stuffy uniform.
Now I cry when I watch the videos, no matter how good or bad our performances were, because I am seeing with my heart, not my eyes. I am feeling something I can no longer touch or grasp. When I look back on those days, I look through rose-colored glasses. Nostalgia sometimes feels like my worst enemy. Looking back on something is easy. That’s where I get stuck sometimes— looking back. There are endless possibilities on where my life will take me but it feels like I’ve been stuck in the rear view mirror of my mind these past couple years. But not looking too close, oh no. If I look too close, then it gets too real that I’m not apart of something that big or tight knit right now and I’ll cry. So I don’t watch the videos. Or listen to our recordings. Or look at pictures.
This fear of never experiencing that kind of happiness again is utter bullshit. Happiness isn’t something that’s a constant, despite what my softened version of high school memories insist. Happiness can’t be caught or maintained or replicated. It’s fleeting and you can’t expect it to always be there. I was happy then, but I’ve been happy since then. A different kind of happy. Actually many different kinds happy. Like when I lost my virginity, when I tried bacon pizza for the first time, when I went on my first Valentine’s Day date, when I came out during a performance, and when I went to one of my best friends’ wedding last October.
Then the other day, I watched a video. Just one. Something came over me and I randomly searched it without thinking about the repercussions. It was junior year but I couldn’t tell where we were in the course of the season we were.
All I could think about was how uptight I looked. Was I having any fun? I was chuckling, sitting there on my bed, watching my rigid body. But, as soon as I get up on the podium and get out of my head for like 3.5 seconds, you can tell I’m enjoying myself while conducting.
But holy shit, I took that so seriously. Not like I shouldn’t have— we were all so invested. But I sincerely don’t think that I thought there was a life outside of band. Now in my own apartment, two years out of college, I wish I could go back in time and shake myself. Shake myself and say, “Jesus Christ, enjoy this! Smile for God’s sake. Laugh a little, because for years I’ve been looking back on this thinking it was the best time of my life.”
But there’s nothing back there for me. It’s just a really good memory.
“Are you crying, ya baby?”
“No, I’m not. I believe I saw your eyes getting glassy though.”
“Well, uh, it’s sad.”
About the author...
Sarah McCarten is a Chicago-based actor, comedian, and writer. She is currently in The Second City's Conservatory Program. A graduate of Columbia College Chicago, she can be seen around the city making jokes and telling stories. Catch her at the next You Joke Like A Girl open mic on September 27th, hosted by Volumes Book Cafe.
Want to see more of Sarah's work?
Check out Sarah's work from previous issues:
- All For Women from Issue I: First Impressions