I felt something I haven’t felt in a long time, during our last warmup arc before our finals performance on Sunday.

And before I start, let me just say that I have never ever cried after a performance before. I didn’t cry after prelims and I didn’t cry after finals. I don’t think my emotions are wired to work that way. Or maybe it’s because I want to be the “strong” one to catch all the crying people and hold them close afterwards. Or maybe it’s because even in the moment, I shut down and become numb. It’s only in the aftermath that I feel something.

So it was odd for me to feel that something before we started our last warmup. It was this pang of despair and sadness, fleeting, but so piercing. This was it, this was the last time I would warmup for a show with the same 31 other people around me, and the pain of it made me want to double over. That I had put so much of me into this drum corps just to be rewarded with how much it hurt to lay this season to rest.

And I began to think: would it have been easier for me to have never marched at all this season? Would it have been easier if I had never found the Bushwackers? Would it have been easier to have never found drum corps at all? Would my heart still be so heavy but so full that I can feel it bursting from its seams?

For the first time, I don’t know. Any other season, I would have said it was worth it. And for some reason, this 6th season of drum corps is harder for me to stomach, and leaving everyone at the end of the season is harder than ever. I’ve suffered physically, emotionally. Had the time of my life. Was it worth it though? Because now I’d do anything to march PianoForte again, even the first few sets of Angry Young Bushwackers that I always hated. I’d do anything to spend tomorrow again with all the people I love who are all part of the 2016 Bushwackers but that tomorrow will never come.

I convinced myself a long time ago that feeling, feeling sad, happy, angry, frustrated, afraid, in utter despair, feeling anything was better than feeling nothing at all. To feel is to live, to love, to make the time pass on. Without feeling, the world is sickly still and I’ve wanted my own world to end sometimes when I can’t feel a thing.

The end, it hurts. It hurts a lot, and it always does and it always will. The end is part of me now, and it’s part of all of you Bushwackers too. We are the beginning, the middle, and now the end of the 2016 Bushwackers, and there isn’t a thing we can do to avoid what we all did on the field together this summer.

We need to feel that hurt. We can’t shut ourselves off from these experiences because we know how abruptly the end comes, but instead we can internalize it, make that last rehearsal day, that last warmup block, that last show, retreat, that last bus ride together, we can make that part of who we are.

While I lie in my own bed tonight, capturing the last inklings of the 2016 Bushwackers season, this thought is what will comfort me as I sleep. That we are every trial and tribulation we have encountered this year, every laugh that caught us off guard, every friendship forged in a matter of seconds, every moment that made the crowd stand on their feet. To feel as a 2016 Bushwacker is to be a 2016 Bushwacker, and that is an honor I would never give up.

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