Nothing about life is predictable. We are human, and we are volatile, and we change. As children, we are forced to follow our parents where their lives take them. Us.
Often times, stability isn’t an option, and we are forced to find an external anchor that give us an identity. Something that lets us believe for a moment that we have something that ties us to….anywhere. For me, it has often been music.
When I was in the 7th grade, my teacher told our band class that learning and playing music was like learning and speaking a new language. The alphabet was smaller, and the expressions would feel foreign but, with practice, those things would become native to us. We’d not only create music, we’d work together to create a feeling, tell a story, speak a language. It felt special. It felt collective (and community is everything, all the time, but especially when you’re 12).
I picked up a flute and became part of a family. Not just at my school, but an international family of students, individuals, and professionals who read, made, and played music around the world. They could put music in front of me, and I could understand it. I could read the notes and hear the musical-phrases in my head; my fingers would twitch on sight-reading, and my tongue would dance as I noted where slurs and staccatos were placed along the page.
It’s been more than a year since I’ve picked up that flute, but that music still lives inside of me. I just had to remember.
Tonight, I saw an orchestra perform – for the first time in a long time. In recent years, I haven’t much thought about classical music, brass instruments, reeds, spit valves, or conductors. I hadn’t thought about tempo, or timpani, or how hot stage lighting is. I smiled as they tuned their instruments, remembering years and years of wondering if I was sharp, or flat, and could the sax player behind me play a C for me? And then they started playing, and I understood.
I understood the conductor in his dance on the podium. Silent words, silent leader (at least during a performance. We all know what the conductor is like during rehearsal, haha). I listened to the stories, and found myself (more than once) tapping my foot to keep the tempo. Old habits die hard, I guess. I winced when the woodwinds lagged for about 5 seconds during La Danza del Sable; I could hear them breathing panic into their instruments.
But aside from understanding and appreciating, I had an overwhelming rush of “home” wash over me. I had forgotten an integral part of who I am. That no matter where I travel, or how far away I am from friends and family, that I have this – that I can always anchor myself in the knowledge that I belong to a community, stretched far and wide, and speaking a language all its own. That I’m not foreign in this world, and that I can communicate with anyone who speaks this language – that we can tell a story together without ever saying a single word.
Maybe it sounds stupid. Maybe it sounds like a desperate stretch for a girl without a hometown. Maybe it sounds hippy-dippy and weird. I don’t know.
All I know is that it sounds like belonging to me.