When I left Chico, shortly after graduating in May 2001, I was a couple months shy of my 23rd birthday, still pretty sheltered from how the world works, and I took with me a massive chip in my shoulder. I suppose the chip was inevitable; after all, getting a four-year degree isn't exactly easy, and when you've chosen to get said degree in any of the fine arts, you deal with constantly comparing yourself to your fellow scholars.
Chico's music program was small. It was no secret that I wasn't one of the stronger clarinetists.
Looking back on it, I'm okay with that. I am also--now--adult enough to admit I didn't put as much passion into playing clarinet as some of my cohorts did. I always figured I wasn't a one-instrument type, anyway, and in my last two years of undergrad, I did a fair amount of singing, in two choirs. And anyway, as a music education major, my focus wasn't on going out and getting the gig, it was on being able to teach a roomful of kids how to play, sing, read music, etc.
Time, distance, and adulthood bring a certain amount of perspective to things, and when I encountered to professors I spent about a decade being pissed off at a conference a few months ago, I found that...I just wasn't angry anymore. Anger takes so much more energy than peace does, and I have too many other things needing that energy to really care anymore. So I greeted these men with a smile, and was pleasantly shocked that 1) they remembered me, and 2) they both greeted me with warm smiles, a hug, and endless questions about where I am now, and what I've been doing.
How proud I was to tell them, "I'm the choir director at Large Suburban High School in Typical Suburb!" and, "Yes, I really love what I'm doing."
Anyway, today, the yearly invitation arrived in the mail, extended by the music department each year, informing me of the annual Daniel Hiestand Memorial Scholarship fundraising concert, and the alumni band that comes in for a weekend in October to play. In the past, the invite has gone straight in the trash, but today, I set it aside. And I thought about it.
Before I quiet knew it, I was checking, "Yes, I'll be there," and writing, "Clarinet 2 or 3 is fine!" on the application form, and making a hotel reservation for that weekend. It's right after our midterms at LSHS, so I will have the afternoon to make the leisurely drive up to Chico, right in the prime of Autumn, so it will be a gorgeous drive. And I'll have some lovely time to walk around downtown, and the campus. On Saturday after our morning rehearsal, I can catch some of the annual National Yo-Yo Championship in the main square downtown. I find I'm really excited to play my clarinet at Chico again...after so many years of thinking, "Oh, hell no."
It's a little like going home, and it's taken me a while to get there.