After almost a year of working on this, I finally finished my latest piano composition! Interestingly, as I plugged my way through this whole process, I became inspired to work on yet another…much larger…project. At some point, I will post an update on that project and refer back to this song, and maybe explain the title, but for now, it will just have to remain a mystery to everyone. ;)
Since about the time I graduated at the beginning of August, I’ve wanted to create a list of the things I learned while living as a student in Auburn—things about being a college student, living away from home for the first time in my life, and learning new lessons from new life situations in general. I experienced a lot of things after leaving home that I somehow managed to skip out on before. These experiences were mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual, and they also influenced me socially. So, I’ve created this semi-silly/semi-serious list of the things I’ve learned in Auburn, in college, and in real life during the past four years…but really, during the past one, two, three, AND four years…because each one brought its own challenges.
- Finding an available parking space at Auburn University after 8:30am is like finding the fountain of youth…with a time limit of fifteen minutes.
- When it rains it pours. Really. Umbrellas don’t accomplish anything on Auburn University’s campus. While waiting to enter my biology class under an awning outside, I witnessed one of my best friends running…RUNNING…by with nothing to shield her from the rain. I’m not gonna lie…she looked like a slippery seal that had just come straight up out of the sea, and it made me laugh really hard. Prepare by investing in a rain jacket and a pair of rain BOOTS. Don’t call them goulashes. It’s like telling people you took your “canine” on a walk this morning or going to a fast food joint for the sole purpose of ordering off the “healthy” menu.
- Suck it up shawty. When your roommate, also named Hannah, finds a parking space at the same time you do, and you attempt to walk together until you go your separate directions for class—upon which you find you have an exceptionally difficult time keeping up with her—you realize that you are 1) out of shape, 2) not nearly as cool as she is because she speed walks and you can’t, and/or 3) short. I prefer to use #3 as an excuse for basically everything. PAH! :)
- You will eat twice as much and STILL be famished. One week over the summer before I went to college, I lost seven pounds because I was in a place in Oklahoma where there was only terrible food to eat. During freshman year, I didn’t gain ANY of that weight back because I had to walk excessively almost everywhere I went. By the end of the day, I would be so tired I would choose sleep over FOOD… Yeah. When I would come home, I’d eat and/or take a four-hour-long nap, do my homework, and then eat and/or get a full night of sleep…survival I tell you.
- From 2009-2011, it was possible for a college girl to survive off $200 a month for everything except rent/utilities and gas.
- Your Christmas wish list will be much more practical this year. It will include specific things, like a glass 9X13 baking pan, a deep fryer, a GOLF-SIZE umbrella, and rain boots. Might as well create a Freshman Year registry at Target.
- The most awesomely fun and exciting experiences come from being on a super tight budget. You can even travel to Washington, DC to participate in a political rally! You can have “real food nights” with your friends where everyone brings a dish and has a great time just hanging out together. You can drive 30+ miles to see a meteor shower at 3am! Yay! :)
- Everyone wants to tell you that space heaters can catch on fire and burn your house down and kill you…blah, blah, blah. What they don’t want to tell you is they do an excellent job at keeping you from dying a slow, agonizing death. I learned that to be able to concentrate on anything, live normally, and not be in a constant state of blow-my-nose-off-my-face/fight-off-the-winter-weather-fevers, I must not be in an environment that is always below 65 degrees Fahrenheit and definitely not below 60. It takes lots of physical energy to stay warm.
- Goal-setting changes your life. So does making visual reminders of them. DO IT.
- Communication is essential to any relationship. Everyone is not as intuitive as you may think. If something bothers you, say it. Don’t expect someone else to read your mind until you reach your breaking point and do stupid, passive-aggressive things like banging stuff around, slamming doors, making vague comments that insinuate mean things, etc.
- Take advantage of every student benefit or activity that sounds like a once in a lifetime experience. (Because it probably is.) The worst that can happen is you will attend something that turns out to be a disappointment. You will always have great stories to tell people later on—the awesome gymnastic team, the rave in the library during finals week, the movies on the student center lawn, the concerts at the arena, the night that Bill Nye came to speak and the line that wrapped all the way around the building. Good times are hard to come by. Live them while you can.
- If you’ve found something that works—a study method, a strategy for staying on task, a routine that helps you keep a good balance of the things in your life—stick to it.
- Some things are just not a big deal. Be a big girl and learn your boundaries, but learn to put up with minor annoyances.
- Some people are lost without a major life crisis or something to complain about. Get the holy schmoly away from those people.
- Some people compare themselves to everyone else and feel that anyone they perceive as successful, or as the kind of person they want to be, is a threat to them (or surely must look down on them). This is a very sad condition for someone to have, and what they really need is a lot of love and positive encouragement. On the other hand, these people are defined by their inner struggles—they are hurt, and they want you to hurt, too. Guard yourself from them. Be a friend to them, care about them, do what you can to help them, but don’t expect that they will be your friend in return.
- If you are afraid that someone may decide to physically hurt you, you need to distance yourself from that person or even eliminate them from your life altogether…even and especially if you think it could be just your imagination getting carried away.
- Don’t ignore your intuition. Just because you’re a girl and all the boys say you “overreact” because you’re an “emotional” person, it doesn’t mean they’re right…or even know what the crap they’re talking about at all. YOU know who you are, and YOU are the one who has to deal with the consequences of ignoring red flags…not them. Besides, this is a strength of yours that they don’t really have, so they won’t ever understand it anyway. Embrace what you are made of.
- Forgiveness can take a very long time. People don’t change overnight. Have a clear plan for how to move forward from a situation, and pursue it whole-heartedly, without listening to the people who sit on their rumps and judge your every move…as if they’ve actually been in your shoes before. Success, forgiveness, peace, life…everything is a process.
- Recognize what is your responsibility and what is not. YOU are in charge of yourself, and ONLY yourself. There are a couple of ways to understand this: 1) Deal with your own emotions, thoughts, and attitudes; and be in control of your actions. 2) Everything that goes wrong in a relationship is not your fault. Do not hold yourself accountable for anyone else’s attitudes, feelings, and behaviors.
- You remind your parents that you managed to survive off $200 a month for the first two years of college, and they don’t believe you at first because they forgot about that, but then they remember and you feel like a mega adult.
Tips in hindsight:
- Be closely connected with your adviser. Visit him/her regularly. Mine helped me find my passion/perfect career path. I am so thankful for her help. Some advisers are not the best, but if you have a good one, take advantage of that situation and pursue your dreams. Your big girl job will thank you with personal fulfillment and a big fat paycheck.
- Strive for clear communication with everyone you come in contact with.
- Realize that you can’t do anything alone, but don’t depend on others too much.
- Some people grow up faster than others. Be patient with the ones who lag behind. Being an adult is hard.
- Take care of your body and mind–praise yourself for the times you eat well, get a good night’s rest, or get some good exercise in for a day. And keep the music playing. Music is good for you. :)
- Don’t live passively—live proactively. Rewards are sure to come and in large heaps.
- A little struggle is not the end of the world. A big struggle isn’t either. It’s hard to see it while it’s happening, but everything works itself out, and you can always be assured that there will never be a time that nothing happens. Something will always happen. Life is full of events. It’s just the not knowing what it will be that drives you crazy. In difficult times, just know that there’s always hope for more, for better, even if you can’t see it.
So I have compiled the parts of the song for my dad!
To give a little bit of background on the inspiration and motivation behind this piece… it’s been a little bit of a crazy year for our family. Lots of unexpected experiences and changes of plans have come our way.
Not long after parts of this song began forming in my mind, my dad experienced a heart attack. Though not a major one, it was a scare to everyone. And even though we didn’t have the means to do much for Christmas this time around, and my plans for a job after the holidays had fallen through at the last minute, and none of us had any idea what was going to happen in our lives during the next few months immediately following that, we had a great time being together during the holidays because we could appreciate that we were, in fact, together. It was nice!
Of course, my dad is a very sentimental kind of person, so a lot of little things matter to him that probably a lot of people take for granted. My music is one of those things. It’s not like my dad and I hang out and talk all the time or anything–he’s not really into the things I’m into (mostly because I’m a girl, and I’m 21…just a few decades behind). But it’s not really all about words anyway. It’s the presence that counts. It’s just nice to be around each other. So sometimes when I’m at home, he watches tv while I stare blankly at it and think about completely unrelated things in my own little world…because I’d rather sit there and think with someone than just sit there and think alone.
I used to play piano in the living room every day in the morning, afternoon, and night…basically all the time. I was addicted to playing the piano. I was also addicted to riding my bike, which my friends made fun of me for… but they could just kiss it because I had killer thighs and they didn’t.
Usually in the afternoons and at night when I played piano, everyone else was busy doing other stuff. My dad usually was sitting in his recliner reading his Bible or some other book in the stack beside his chair. (Guess who instilled in me the value of education.)
So I’d play piano while everybody else did whatever they did, and I didn’t think anything of it until I visited home after going off to college. I was informed by each member of the family that it was “really quiet” without me. (I guess this was a compliment…?)
That’s when I discovered that my dad really misses me playing piano. I came home one weekend, and once I found myself at the keys, I KNOW I heard someone sniffling. And I KNOW that it was my dad. This is why I usually give him things like socks for Christmas.
So Deddy, if you are reading this, I’m sending this song to you online so that when you hear it I won’t have to listen to you get all sniffly. I am not going to China (any time soon, at least); and if I do one day, it’ll be okay because I’ll be coming right back. Thank you for all your willingness to try understanding all my youthful and sometimes unexpected dreams and goals, and for always encouraging me. Also, I love you and hope you enjoy the song! (It doesn’t have any words, of course.)
When I was a freshman in college, I invested in a little friend I named Cadence. Cadence is a small, bright blue, lavender-tinted, rare breed budgerigar (parakeet) I got from Petco. Cadence was still technically a wild bird upon purchase, but I trained my little sweetie over the course of several months to become my friend.
Maybe in another post I will explain that whole process, but since I trained and socialized Cadence, that little bird has brought so many fun memories into my life that I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything. I am now convinced that birds are truly the best pets you could ever have. So here is my list of 20 reasons why birds are awesome… in case you didn’t already know.
20 reasons why birds are pretty much the bomb diggity:
- They have very distinct, individual personalities.
- They are as loyal as dogs.
- They are as curious as cats.
- They want to be just like you.
- They will be just like you.
- They do not have foul odors like most other pets do.
- They are as fun to play with as children, but without all the mess.
- They will sing to you.
- They will pick up on the things you say to them and repeat them back to you exactly the way you say them.
- They are great company on long drives home from college.
- They will sometimes squawk at you until you turn on some music… Hey, they need a good jam, too.
- They do have a jam. You will know what song(s) to play when you want to party with your bird…whether it’s Drowning Pool’s “Bodies” or DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win.”
13. They are SMART. If you are stupid, don’t get a bird.
14. They will actually eat your homework. They love to chew paper. Mine tends to think the letters on the pages are seeds and will take the literature right out of my literature paper.
15. They are beautiful… and they know it. They do not like for one feather to be messed up. Ever.
16. They adjust the volume of their noises according to the amount of light in the room, so they are quiet at night, sweetly cheerful at sunrise, and a blast of high energy and fun during the day.
17. They LOVE to play in/with/around water.
18. They love social games, like winking with you or playing child games like peek-a-boo.
19. They are always interactive. If you are the caregiver, then you are their flock.
20. They LOVE you and will crawl all over you and do really sweet but super weird things, like nibbling on your eyelashes, just to show you how much they love you.
When I come home at the end of the day, this is what I do.
So for a few months, I’ve been working on a piano composition that I eventually, when I’m finally finished with it, would like to dedicate to my dad. Some people seem to have this almost divine power to just make up anything musical right off the tops of their heads, and it’s like Mozart and Beethoven are ripped right out of the history books and cast into the land of the forever forgotten. Some people…..are not me.
Composing music on the flute is one story. It takes me a really long time, however, to complete a piano composition. This is how it works for me:
1. I don’t think about trying to create music at all. I just live my silly little life until gradually…
2. …a tune is conceived! Where it comes from? I can’t ever be sure, but I will go out on a limb and guess that it is a product of my psychological state encompassing an extended period of time (mood and various elements of my subconscious)– yeah, totally creeped out now.
3. I harbor this tune in my mind until I get the opportunity to “pick it out” on the piano. Transferring a tune from my brain to my fingers on the piano is especially frustrating, so I’m usually okay with procrastinating this part of the whole process until I have the mental stamina/time to dedicate to it.
4. Then I realize it’s not enough. I’ve only created one little section of music that needs something before it, something after it, or (usually) both!
5. I keep messing around with sounds on the piano until I get tired of it and move on to play a song I already know or do some other lazier activity.
6. Steps 1-5 are repeated for a few hours, days, weeks, months, or sometimes years until I feel that I have completed the piece to my best ability.
The advantage: Having closure.
The disadvantage: It’s NEVER as good as the music my mind actually creates.
So tonight I was working on the song for my dad. It’s called “I’m Flying”– sounds cheesy, but it just popped into my mind when I first started working on it, and I haven’t been able to shake it, so that is its name.
Well, as I was sewing my sections of music together into a whole song, I realized that I identify each section with a thought–a concept, a mental image, a memory, another song, or even something as simple as a color. I was having a hard time deciding the arrangements of the sections, so I got out a piece of paper and started naming them. And whoa… was it weird.
I’m not even going to try to explain where all of these came from, but the list at the top is what came to my mind first, and the list below that is my organization of them into how I want the song to progress.
Hearing the actual song might be a disappointment after reading these spontaneous names, but I will try to remember to post the song once it’s finished and polished up. In the meantime, here is another one of my songs.
I wrote this one when I was 16.
Ten years ago when I came home from school, I ran straight upstairs to the office, perched peacefully above the thick woods surrounding our lovely Tennessee dream home. In this corner of the house, tucked away from the rest of the world, I brought my first dreams to life.
Guided purely by my imagination, my mind channeled images, feelings, and perceptions into one flood of force—a current of thought—which my fingertips, pattering competitively on the keys, brought to the screen in front of me within seconds.
My feet never touched the floor, so I crossed my legs or sat on them. Sometimes hours would pass, and my mom would call me down for supper, but I would stall so I could finish my last sentence…or complete an entire scenario. My knees would start to hurt and I would squirm restlessly in the chair, but I was determined to finish what I had started that day. So I sat there until I did.
And then when I did, it was time to play something else!
So I got up and did exactly the same thing… except through the piano. Then, if it was still light outside, I might have hopped on my bike and ridden around and around on our driveway spanning our 11 acres; or cartwheeled obsessive-compulsively in the front yard; or failed every attempt at a slam dunk with my little brother—all of it just fueling my mind for the next round of activities.
The feeling I get from doing the things I do well has always been rewarding, but these things have not always been viewed as accomplishments, or as anything particularly special. I scribbled away… erased away… and scribbled away during those timed essays in fourth grade, proud to finish exactly what I had set out to finish at exactly the right time. I was confident of the work I had done, but when Mrs. Wiley read my narratives in front of the class, I was more concerned about when it was all going to be over with and what others thought about me than about how I was actually an exceptional writing student and why in the world that mattered anyway.
This outlook progressed through high school when my friends excelled at math and science, and while parents and teachers cooed over how “smart” they were. I assumed I needed to be like them if I wanted to be “smart” and succeed in life, too.
Perhaps this is why when, one day in Spanish class, our class valedictorian told someone she thought I was smart, I wasn’t sure exactly how to internally process that. Was she serious? Or just being sympathetic? It was like having my narrative read in front of the class again, except slammed up into two seconds. If I could put my full mental reaction into words it would be something like, “Okay…cool. Thanks! I guess…” or maybe just, “Uh…”
I graduated from high school knowing that I wanted to take my writing somewhere in my life, but I did not graduate high school thinking that writing was anything particularly extraordinary. When I (felt as though miraculously) got accepted to Auburn University, I specifically chose Journalism over English initially because I had heard more frightening, negative statements about majoring in English than in any other existing major. I did not want to be that girl.
Later, but soon enough thankfully, I learned that there are a variety of avenues that you can take in obtaining an English degree, and all of them do not result in spending the rest of your life in a school. Actually, there are even some pretty lucrative careers that can come out of an English background—one being what I fell in love with and which lead me into the English major after all—and that is technical writing.
There was a time during high school when this really popular sign was around, usually in highly traveled places. It said, “Math is power,” and it looked as cool as it sounded.
It wasn’t until I began my studies in writing at AU when I realized that actually, words are power. In fact, words shape, and even dictate, our whole world. Yeah. That sign? Not that cool without the words.
Language defines and affects credibility, authority, laws, responsibility, religion, purpose, relationships, and real life consequences…just to name a few. But you know… numbers are cool, too.
You can pretty much bet your life that the most renowned people of all time are backed up by stacks of literature, and the people who wrote them were often poor scribes slaving away for a government and not getting paid squat; people whose names we don’t even know because they set their bars higher than a vain desire for praise and recognition; people who claimed having the inspiration of divine beings and continue (whether done truthfully or not) to convince the world of these events and meanings; weird people; crazy people; people who changed laws, wrote nation-altering speeches, influenced the hearts of groups and individuals to help make the world a better place; in short, AWESOME PEOPLE (even if a lot of them were actually kind of bad).
I certainly won’t be performing any surgeries or building any software systems, but it sure is satisfying to know that among my gifts is the power to support the people who CAN do these things; and the power to support the people who can’t; the power to understand people; and the power to convey meaning from one group of people to another; the power to articulate a purpose, the power to clarify a vision for a leader, the power to change a person’s life… the power change the world.
Now back to those dreams…