Changing the song

“I thought your quiet, laid back nature would be overwhelmed, but I’ve never been happier to be proved wrong.”

*****

I’ve been out of high school for twelve years. This used to be something that startled me, but it doesn’t as much, anymore. It’s not that adulthood feels any more real. If that’s the case, it’s been incremental, as most things in life are. More that I can look back, and more clearly see the differences between myself now and then.

The opening joke is that I had more hair, bigger glasses, and was even more awkward than I am now. And all of those are true. There are elements that remain: the appreciation of a good, repeatable process for things, the internal monologue, the steadiness which I still try to maintain, my preference for avoiding conflict.

It’s funny, thinking of the things that bothered me then, kept me awake worrying at night. Some haven’t changed, but so much has.

I wasn’t comfortable with people, mostly. The wit, it was there, in its natural beginnings, and I had a stable group of friends, but going outside that was still very difficult. I was quite shy. Emotionally, I internalized a lot of things I couldn’t handle.

I played basketball a lot. I remember when our church had a gym, and we’d have a youth event, and if I was going alone, I would go and shoot, dribble the ball around and take shots. Even if there were people I knew, I would do this intentionally.

Why? Because that was easier. That was straightforward. That was a process.  It’s strange in some ways, because basketball as a team sport is more free-flowing, more unpredictable, with instincts and reactions and quickness that run counter to what a straightforward mind like mine would enjoy. A lot like jazz (good for a sax player like me)- creative, instinctive, and with potential to be beautiful, or ugly. The song could be anywhere.

But there, alone, it made sense.  Sometimes it allowed me to think, to order my mind, to settle down before facing the fear of being social. The process was simple, even as the journey wasn’t. Take a shot, either it goes it, or it doesn’t.

The thump of the basketball, the swish of the net, the light sweat being built up, they were all sidelines. The rhythm of those things was different with each shot, but the song, it was the same.

*****

“You’re vulnerable and honest up there… people need to see that.”

*****

Life changes, as it does. I wasn’t a programmer. The straight ahead, logical, geeky looking high-schooler who spent a lot of his time in front of a computer wasn’t going to be compiling code for the remainder of his life.

This was a relief when I realized it. But still terrifying.

This wasn’t in the plan. This was outside the process. This was what I was SUPPOSED to be. How could I face that? Letting my family, my friends, those I loved down?

Of course, the worry was bigger than the result, as it always is. My family supported me, through all the changes and uncertainty, not wavering once from their belief that I would turn out alright. Through different jobs, different thoughts, and occasional breakdowns, they didn’t stop once in supporting me. That is an amazing and precious gift, which I won’t ever ably repay (but I won’t stop trying).

I like to think that it was when Mike first asked me to MC his wedding reception that everything changed. And while that would make for a compelling narrative, the seeds were there before, for one that knew. 

Writing creatively even as I was the studious, awkward geek in front of a monitor at high school. A thoughtful nature, prone to long discussions on minutia with Dennis or Alex and worrying at night. Playing saxophone, and being good at figuring out a melody/harmony by ear, or “improvising”. Discovering that people appreciate a sense of humour when we lived in Newmarket, and using some of my brainpower in developing sarcasm. That caustic wit allowing me to separate from the moment (for good and bad), and getting more comfortable speaking in front of people. 

It’s a journey, like all things, and it’s fun to look back and see the roads you’ve taken. I often wonder about the decisions, the things that have shaped me. Where would I be without them?

*****

“You’re overthinking. Relax.”

*****

I do overthink things. That hasn’t changed too much. Isn’t likely to, barring a lobotomy, or a drastic change in approach in just about everything I do.

Part of growing up for me has been coming to terms with who I am: strengths, weaknesses, failures and successes. That’s part of being good with people, as well: accepting who you are. The self-aware, analytical nature makes for too much dwelling on things at times, but keeps me grounded, as well.

I remember the high-school kid (and miss his hair- not the style, that he had more of  it). I remember his struggles, and still share some of them. I’ve never wanted for anything materially- all my struggles, they’ve been inside, been my own.

My brother and I used to play basketball, and we’ve talked about doing it again- in the summer, when we struggle to find things to do and people to gather. One-on-one, like we used to. Find a court, go at it, probably not as long as we used to.

That has changed, too. It used to be I knew how it would go, that I would often beat him in our contests. He got better, and now, it’s more twin-appropriate: He wins sometimes, I win others, and it probably comes out close to even at the end. 

Basketball is different with someone else than shooting hoops by yourself. There’s not a process, and there’s so much out of your control. But that’s part of the fun. The immediacy, not knowing what they’ll do with the ball, or how you’ll react, there’s not as much time to think. We have some control over the rhythm, but not the song.

If there’s one thing that twelve interesting years of adulthood has taught me, it’s that we probably have no idea what the song will end up being. And I think I’m okay with that.

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