Life and Choices

Friday was the opening ceremonies for the olympics. I’d previously had the fabulously awesome, and decidedly selfish idea to stream them live so that the campers and staffers, (and most importantly, you know– me) could see them. So we did our research and found out that NBC would be live streaming all the olympics and we should set up an account to stream live. Done. Sweet. Then literally 2 minutes after the opening ceremony started in London, I found out that NBC was not live streaming the opening ceremony, so they could do their own lame commentary later in the night.


This led to me standing in front of a crowd of at least 30 people, all of whom suddenly felt the urge to come over and tell me HOW TO WORK THE INTERNET!!! Obviously I had no idea how to refresh a browser or do a google search. Thanks 14 year olds for teaching me something new. *rolls eyes* This was the height of my frustration, because everyone had a comment or suggestion ALL OF WHICH I’D ALREADY THOUGHT OF OR TRIED. I finally snapped at one kid who was being particularly punk. This particular kid had been a pain in my ass all week, so I wasn’t just randomly snapping. When he made a particularly snarky comment,  I believe my exact words were “You don’t have to be an obnoxious punk you know.” To which he looked surprised for the first time in his life. I put on my “I taught in the ghettos of DC don’t F$%& with me” face and he replied with a meek, “Um, I know.” Sometimes you need tough love.

We did eventually find a site to stream it, that may be slightly less than legal, possibly, I’m not sure. But I figured at this point it was our best option. We’d only missed the first 20 minutes or so. Life goes on. Then of course, the laptop was buffering every 3 seconds, so we had to go get an ethernet cord. After that, however, everything was fine. There was a pretty big crowd that stayed most of the time, and many others who came and went. We cheered for J.K. Rowling, laughed at Mr. Bean and I was only the smallest bit disappointed that there was nary a TARDIS to be seen. I liked that for the most part the ceremonies were about ordinary people doing ordinary things, which seems to be much of the focus of the London games.

(If you so desire, you can read about it in the blog post I did on the Bonisteel Library Blog.)

And watching the ceremonies, and the traditions of the doves and sayings and symbolism, and listening to the international campers cheer for their country when it entered the stadium, I was reminded how much I freaking love the olympics. It is sappy and sentimental and I love every bit of it. I love the pageantry and the chance for the home country to show their pride. I love the declaration of peace, that people from all over the world come together for 17 days in the spirit of sportsmanship. I love the idea that we can transcend our differences and just run a race, or swim a race, or try to out flip someone.

I love the idea of a flame lit by the sun that travels from greece to the host country, that is held and passed from person to person, and that those people are often ordinary people and sometimes famous people, but that in those few minutes there is no difference. I love the stories of overcoming hardship, of giving up a normal childhood to pursue a dream. (Even though now as an adult I see the true value of what they gave up, and I see how very very miniscule the percentage is of people who get a shot at that dream. But we are human, we never give up. We are always hopeful.

Also, because I am naturally sappy and nostalgic, it makes me think about this camp. It makes me think about my time spent pursuing musical perfection. We all have dreams. All the kids here are here because they dream of being a successful artist, poet, film director, performer, writer or painter. The chance of them making it into a college program is reasonably high, but the chance of their ability to feed themselves by working in their profession of choice is very small, and the chance of them winning an Oscar or Tony or Grammy is miniscule. But they are all here, hoping that they are the exception to the rule. That they are like the olympic athletes they watch. I’m honestly not sure if it’s inspiring or depressing the level of hope and aspiration that surrounds me.

I read a quote (i think) on FB that said, “According to astronomy, when you wish upon a star you’re actually a few million years too late. The star is dead, just like your dreams.” It’s horribly cynical, and yet a little bit true. Now don’t get me wrong, I have had a blast being here surrounded by art, but I’m also very conscious that it has been a vacation from real life and that real life will be waiting for me when I get home. I am worried about job prospects, I am worried about how I will pay my students loans. I am worried about finding a way to have a job I like in a place I feel comfortable with people who I care about all at the same time. I don’t need a perfect life, but I do need friends in the city I will live once I get a job. I am worried about the politics in the country and the state of the world. I am worried about staying healthy with no insurance. There are many things in life that make me anxious.

And I wonder, sometimes, if some of this could have been avoided if I had realized years earlier that I was never going to be a professional performer. That the act of taking out loans to pay for college would cripple me for life and would prevent me from ever having the money to pursue it seriously. In the real world, you need more than dreams– you need money too. I wonder about the kids who are not in the top orchestra, the ones who sit at the back of the section. Do they know that their chances of success are already much lower than their first chair counterparts? I wonder if I wouldn’t have spent 5 years hating music if I hadn’t studied it in college. Music school beat the love of music out of me, and it took 5 years and a summer immersed in art to remember why I loved it in the first place.

The good news is that I remember now, and I’m over my music-school-induced-snobbery of regional and community ensembles. I’ve come back into myself this summer. And that’s great. But not every athlete gets to go to the Olympics, and not every musician gets to play with the New York Philharmonic. The vast majority of us will live lives of quiet desperation. We don’t get a making-of video narrated by Emily Blunt, or an autobiography that anyone wants to read.

I think about these things, and look at the naive hope on the faces of these kids and sometimes can’t help but wonder– what, what, what are we doing? Look at your life. Look at your choices.


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