I have come to the end times of my freshman year of college. Which is really not that big of a deal. At all. But, you know, I thought I’d talk about it anyway.
On Monday evening I had my last cello recital of all time. All year, you see, The Pew Fine Arts Center and I have had a rather tense relationship. In fact, I’ve gotten into the bad habit of referring to it as “Eeeeew…Peeeeeew.” (Because it rhymes, and I happen to think that’s funny.) I started college last fall rather naively thinking that since I’ve played cello for most of my coherent life, it would be natural to just keep on. I dropped out of orchestra after one rehearsal and was only kept from dropping lessons by my loyal parents. The thing is, the music majors scare me. Everyday, particularly last semester, I would march myself down to the practice rooms in the bowels of Pew where there is no cellphone reception, and no one will hear you scream, but everyone will hear you play. Even on the nastiest winter days, I always went the long way round outside so that I wouldn’t be walking through the lounge where they sprawl wretchedly across couches, complaining about practice hours and solfeggio, as if they are the only ones who really work. On my way down the nonsensical flights of stairs I usually stopped at the bathroom to give myself a little pep talk in the mirror, and I’m not really joking. I actually did that. After practicing Bach in a tiny grey room with a heavy door the color of raw meat for what was always a shorter time than I intended, I would play the one thing I still felt proud of–Amazing Grace, doublestops, fortissimo, eyes closed like a doofus. Then I would pack up and sneak out the way I had come.
The thing is, you may have the wrong impression of me about this, but I’m not musical. I can sing on key and play the cello, and I like doing so in most situations, but ask me what artists I listen to, and I will tell you the truth: none. I like words, and when it is not the time for words, I like silence. Deep down, notes and chords and harmony don’t mean that much to me. I’m not saying they are not as eternally significant (or insignificant) as any thing I read or write, just that they are not the language I speak. Pew is not my place. I will be perfectly thrilled to go to class in the Hall of Arts and Letters for the rest of my college career.
That said, I am thankful to have parents ( a mother in particular) who were dedicated to my cello even, and especially, when I wasn’t. I’m thankful for the year of lessons I took here, and for my nice new bow that makes a pretty sound. During the week between Easter break and my recital I didn’t go over to Pew at all. I practiced in my room. I worked on memorizing my Bach, played hymns, and enjoyed the friendly, wide-eyed heads that poked themselves around my door. That was great. So on Monday night my nervousness was really pretty inexplicable. The only people who would hear me were my teacher who had heard me earlier and knew I could do it, Heidi who would love me anyway, and a couple dozen nice people who actually didn’t care at all how I sounded. Yet when I sat down on that stage with the rest of the kids playing Bach’s first suite, I put my cello to my chest and I could feel my heart thumping against it. Definitely not a resting heart rate. As I listened to the movements before me, the thumping got exponentially louder and faster. When my turn came, I put my trembling bow to the string, and the first note quavered audibly as I played it. The second note shook too, and the third, and so, to be honest did every note after that. It was a somewhat ridiculous performance. By the end of the suite (several movements and performers later) my shaking lessened somewhat, and by the time we got to the ensemble pieces I was able to zip through Cripple Creek and smile. As Heidi and I walked out, I cried about five tears from giddy relief. The only sign of me left in Pew is a big empty cello locker with my name misspelled on a piece of masking tape.
The other part of my life which officially terminated this week was Fitwell. Really, how was it that I ended up at one of the fittest colleges in the nation, where your physical condition affects your GPA? We have half a semester of lectures then another semester and half of “labs” (circuit training, mech weights, aerobic conditioning…) Then there’s a “Fitness Appraisal.” Aren’t you pumped just hearing about it? For girls, we’re scored on sit-ups, push-ups, flexed arm hang, broad jump, sit-and-reach, and (wait for it….) the step test! I improved since last semester, which was my goal, but of course I still only scored about a fifty percent. However, I don’t feel too bad, because the standards they use are the same as the U.S. Marines’. I’m finished, I never have to wear a grey P.E. uniform again, and the rite of passage is over. I’ve officially done my time as a Grover freshman.
Two more things before I go study for my next exam–As my sister pointed out, I can now rejoice in the fact that I’m officially half of a United States Marine. Also, one morning as I was plodding up the stairs out of Pew after a dismal practice session, a music major hurried past me, and as he disappeared down the hallway in front of me, I could hear him whistling Amazing Grace, louder than even I had played it. Just remembering brings me an overwhelming sense of victory.