It’s been two years since the Jersey Surf rolled into our finals housing and I stayed up late writing a piece about what finals week meant, what ending the season and going back to “the real world” meant, and what it was like to write-and live, without inhibitions.
And while it’s still far past my bedtime, things could not be more different right now. I’ve aged out. I’m in a bed in a house, not surrounded by 149 other sweaty people on a floor. I’m not in Indiana. I’m fat because I only rehearse drum corps two and a quarter days a week. I’m preparing to start my first real teaching job in just two weeks, and there is little I can do to the escape the fact that I am adulting.
While my finals week; the DCA finals week, is five weeks away, the DCI finals week starts now. Three days until prelims, four days until semis, five days until finals. My open class friends start prelims today. Zero days left.
The hardest feeling to deal with, to avoid, during this week, for far many of us than we would like to admit, is the one of regret. A mix of two ingredients, despair and anger, that builds up over the ten weeks of summer until we feel like we cannot clean out the sting from our thoughts or the fear from our hearts that we have not lived to our personal potential.
No matter what happens that summer, it comes for you this week. Regret. Age outs, those who have waited 21 or even 22 years for this week, get smacked in the gut with it. This is supposed to be the happiest experience of our lives and sometimes the bitter is too strong for us to remember how it was meant to be.
Our days are numbered, and thinking of this only makes regret painfully strengthen. For some that means just one, just two more performances; only a few will get a third, or even a fourth. And when the numbers run out, it’s done, and the dream is over.
There are too many numbers in drum corps. The score is numbers. Placements are numbers. The number of holes in the drum corps in mid July is a number. The average number of steps to a yardline, the number of sets in the entire show. The number of corps that competed in Atlanta. The number of buses in a corps fleet. The number of potato wedges you got for fifteen minute snack before ensemble when you went to the bathroom zero times because ensemble was 400 yards away. The number of friends you made on the free day. The brass score. The ninety minutes of EPL. The number of laps you ran because you were–
Stop it. Drum corps is NOT about the numbers. Drum corps is not about who can get higher ones or who can stay ahead of the people with lower ones or who can perform more shows or how many more people come and watch the other corps and who has seven hundred people at their next audition camp.
Drum corps is about living. Drum corps is about those shivers you get when you walk into the dome because you have something to say to those people out there and you know you won’t leave until you’re physically drained from screaming it in their faces.
Drum corps is about forgetting what went wrong yesterday and growing today out of a blank plot of soil and an untouched seed and the water from your water jug, which you freshly filled before block.
Drum corps is about becoming the hero you always looked up to when you were young and afraid of being yourself. And without fail, you achieve this no matter what brings you down because inside you is that hero you wanted to be all along and didn’t realize you already were.
This is the final week and your time is cruelly finite but this is not the time to think about how many days are left or how old you are or how many points it takes to get into finals or semis or how many people you wish you hadn’t burned bridges with or even the lonely single potato wedge you got for snack.
You are living. You are ending each rep with a smile or a face so fierce it masks your joy. You are seeking out the people who matter to you most and telling them how much they mean to you. You are getting seconds at every meal.
You are dreaming of the day you perform this show for the last time and worry about nothing because by the end you have nothing left to give and it is a beautiful day to be alive.
When you remove the quantification in your life, even if only for a few days, you don’t need to think about what should have been more or what should have been less and you become so happy with how things ARE.
My DCI babies, don’t you look back. Your world has culminated to this point and now is your time to shine.
Yes, it will end, sooner than you want it to, but love it so fiercely you cannot bear to tear yourself away and you will not regret a single thing.