Goodnight Drum Corps

I swore I would write something like this. In the middle if the night, while everyone has dropped off asleep and I’m inches from being asleep myself. Because there are things that can only be written when you’re too weak to pull back your inhibitions.

And as I write this, I don’t yet know what I’ll write, what I’ll think, what godforsaken epiphany might cross my mind. I don’t know who will read this, don’t know who will truly notice, don’t know who will care.

I am a drum corps kid on tour and this is the final week of the best summer of my life so far, once again. These are words.

We arrived in our finals housing site in Brazil, IN just a little over half an hour ago. The atrium is dark, I’m lying in my sleeping bag as I type this into my phone. This particular housing site we have used for finals week 3 years in a row and coming here is like going home. I know every inch of this housing site.

Every year, as we enter and sprint through finals week, we talk about death. The death of the season, the death of the performance, the death of the show. Everything must die, and so must band. Your foot prints on the field make tiny echoes in time and space and soon every pain you felt is a memory every inch of concentration you had dissolves like dispersed bubbles and you remember the times your mouth dried up in the show and you kept going and maybe faintly you feel the thunder of the audience going through you and you see the blurry outlines of a thousand of them standing up for you. It’s gone before you can even feel it being real and not in the past.

And really, for finals week, you rehearse hard and you start to remember what it is not to be dead tired all the time. To not feel lightheaded just thinking of how much your body needs to put itself to sleep every night. To not endure that point of discomfort every runthrough, to not have to push through the scary moments that became triumphant moments every day. As I write this,I’m fighting the urge to drop off. This is unnatural and my eyelids are so heavy and it would be so easy to put this phone down on my chest and stop here but pushing through my body’s warning signs is just a thing I’m good at now and as sick and exhausted as pushing through at 2:24 am feels for me, it just isn’t a problem.

You remember how being rested and unbeaten down everyday felt, and in your mind you want that back. You do want it all to end. You want to be comfortable again.

You don’t want it to end. You can’t bear going back and leaving this all behind because in a way there is nothing left for you when you go back.

You go back, they don’t understand you. They, who spent their summers asleep until 5 in the afternoon, lying drowsy in their beds as the air conditioning unit hummed against the hot summer wind.

You go back, you don’t belong. Something terrible and fierce has happened to you and 149 other people and not to anybody else.

I leave tour every year and I drift farther and farther away from so many of the people I used to know. Not all of them, for I have quite a few very good friends who don’t march with me but understand deeply why I do. But with the others, there is a chasm that opens up unspoken. Because there is just too much that could go on between us that means nothing because they do not know and will never try to know what this feels like.

Not the activity itself. Just the feeling of being beaten down and putting yourself back together with so many others doing the same. Being linked with so many people that you all breathe the same way, with the same technique, at the same points in time.

Even when you don’t cherish the moments. Even when you take them for granted. And also when you step around, at the last moment, and realize at last how powerful it all is, how there will be so many months in a row where you won’t feel this and you will yearn for it with a passion that hurts.

There are so many people who don’t feel a passion like this. It’s that burning sensation under your ribs you can’t describe until it brings tears to your eyes and a lump to your throat and a mind full of racing possibilities and an open sky of all the things you could be.

There are so many that just wait for life to happen. For entertainment to wander past their nose. For the best things in their lives to be the things that just happened in front of them instead of the things they spotted in the distance and pursued like a ravenous pack of wolves.

And I see those people and I drift far far away and I find that there were more of them than I thought and then I am alone.

The trick to making this last week all worth it is to stay positive. To not let any bitterness you could have get in the way. To get better at the drum corps game is mandatory, expected, exhilarating. To make the most of the time I spend with the closest, indescribably special people I could have ever had the chance to march with this year is so much harder because goodbyes are so near now and I can’t bear to tear myself away from any of you.

It’s a beautiful thing for it all to die, I guess. For everything and everyone to become something like a dream. For an ending to come upon what can’t really go on forever anyways.

You won’t really feel the full impact of all you’ve done until its truly dead and over. But for now, you need to spend the next few days making sure that you will feel that impact like a wall of bricks in your soul, bleeding you out and building you up.

When this is over, you will not be the same person you were when you started. This is why you came here in the first place. This is what you will be now, and it is better than you were before.

It is 3:05 am. Dut Dut sleep…..


17 thoughts on “Goodnight Drum Corps”

  1. “And the sky is blue and righteous in every direction.
    The Sun is total and burning and just right there, and today is a beautiful day.” – CP

  2. You are a great, great writer. Don’t stop! Don’t let it die! You write from the heart, and every word you put on paper enriches both the moment you write it, and the moment you lived it. Thank you for sharing.

  3. What a wonderful thing to share. As the parent of a drum corp member we know how very heard each of you work and are so proud of everyone of you. Drum corp is an elite group many of us enjoy supporting even after our own are “retired”. Enjoy . .. you’ve done an awesome job!

  4. I am also a drum corps parent. I know how much my son loves his corps and the memebers and staff. You said it beautifully and made me cry! Thank you for sharing this.

  5. You, sir/ma’am, are amazing. Everything you put into words is exactly how I’ve felt in my heart about drum corps. I don’t think it could have been put down any better. Thanks for sharing this!

  6. Thank you for writing this, I try not to think about the summer too much cause I remember how painful it is not to do what I love to do for a long period of time (especially this year since I aged out). But your words remind me how much I loved/love this activity and why I return to it. LOL on your last lines “Dut Dut sleep”

  7. As I read this, I remember my only full season 10 years ago at the age of 15. It took so many years for me to realize what a privilege it is to march. Or may be it was my first show when i wept with joy because it was what I wanted to do for so long…I miss drum corps. I hope to march in DCA someday

  8. Never feel disconnected…for even at the end of the season, those 149 are still a part of your life…the show ends, and the bus gets cleaned out…but your soul is full with the goodness of perceverience. Drum corps makes ppl just…better. Loved your article…hope it wasn’t your age out year.

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