I walked off the stage with an overwhelming sense of mediocrity. I felt like I wasn’t supposed to be here – as if somehow, as a person, I wasn’t qualified to be in thee same room as the other people.
Our seats are at the top. We walk up the gradually rising staircase, and our vice-principal greets us with his words of reassurance.
“Good job, guys. Very nice.”
He says it with genuine appreciation. I I keep my head straight; unmoving. He’s like the supportive parent that comes to every one of your ball games and cheers you on the loudest. You can hear his voice over dozens of others in a crowd. Even when you’re losing, he doesn’t stop. Even when you’re getting stomped to the curb. Even if you lost.
“Chin up, bud! How about we go get something at McDonald’s? I’ve got coupons.” He pulls out one of those McDonald’s coupon flyers out of his pocket. The promise of the smell of french fries is tantalizing. The rain makes your hair go flat.
“Sure.” You say, in that sore-loser tone of yours. It’s not all bad, he wants you to think. You’re not always going to be losing, he wants to say. He doesn’t, because he knows that he’ll look preachy.
He’s a perceptive guy. He knows when to hold his cards close to his chest, and he knows when to reach out for a hug every now and then. He means well, and everybody can see it.
It’s just… when “moral support after losing” is the only constant pervading force in your life, you start to get tired. Even if you know that he wants nothing but the best for you.
The teachers want nothing but the best for the band. But it’s hard to recruit anyone when you’ve been “losing” for the better part of a decade. It’s hard to convince anyone to join your side when there’s so many better choices. Why should I stay? For the hope of something better “in the future?” Why try to “rebuild” when that’s not part of your job description?
Everyone loves the underdog, but only when they have a chance.
The band has none. There’s nobody here. Nobody good enough. We’ve already plucked out the “best of the best,” also known as “anyone who can play the Bb scale.”
It’s hard to be optimistic when every other band has double our members. It’s hard to want to get better when all we’re playing is elementary-level music. It’s hard when you’re sitting there with your instrument in your lap and clapping for a band that’s leagues better than yours. When the high school just after yours has played in Carnegie hall, it’s hard not to compare yourself.
You can try to dissaude yourself from doing so – you can try to look past it. You can try to ignore the fact that absolutely no mistakes were made. You can try to ignore the fact that they’re the same age as you are. You can try to ignore the fact that they’re better than you.
But you can’t. You can’t do it, because music is ringing in your ears, and you can’t help but concede defeat.