13 years ago today, I got news that completely changed the course of my life.
For those that are not aware, I entered college as a music education (percussion) major. I’d been a 2-time All-State percussionist, as well as one of the best non-collegiate piano players in the state of Iowa. I have perfect pitch. In addition to piano and percussion, I was & am an excellent guitar & bass player. Music had been in my blood since I was 4 years old, and 18 year old me had aspirations of becoming a drumline/marching band instructor at a huge high school in Texas.
Unfortunately, for years, I had dealt with tendinitis in my right arm. The leading causes of tendinitis stemmed from playing piano, drums, basketball, and baseball; I played them all. During my junior year of high school, I actually quit playing piano (much to the chagrin of my mother) in order to help manage the decrease the repetitive motion that my arm took. I was going to rehab multiple times a week, wearing wrist guards to restrict movement & those stupid tennis elbow bands to make a fashion statement1. But still, I remained adamant; I was going into education, and I was going to play drums.
College started, and I was thrown onto the snare line for marching band. 14 hours a week (20, if it was a game week) of marching and playing, and that’s not counting practice. Percussion lessons that required me to be in the practice rooms for at least an hour a day. Wind symphony. African drum ensemble. Accompanying a variety of vocal & instrumental students. It was more than a full time job that necessitated repetitive motions in order to survive, improve, and thrive. And of course, I never talked about it with anyone, because why would I want to show weakness?
Eventually, I started having to wear that wrist guard as I played. It was a brace that had a thin aluminum plate running from my right palm down to my mid-forearm, helping to keep my wrist from bending forward, which was the cause of the most pain. It certainly helped the pain management, but it made practicing & performing more and more difficult. It was March, and I was racing to make it through my finals in order to rest for a few months.
Cue a Wind Symphony concert in mid April, 2006. My last group performance of the year. Get through that, get through my practical on snare, timpani, and marimba, and I was home free.
On the very last song, I played the chimes. Large metal pipes that I literally hit with a hammer. With about a minute to go, with the song at its peak, I played the first note with my right hand, and could HEAR a tendon in my wrist snap. Pain like I’d never felt before. I gutted it out and finished the concert, packed up my things, and sat in the little break area right by all of the percussion practice rooms for nearly an hour, trying to figure out what the fuck I was going to do.
13 years ago today, I got new that completely changed the course of my life. Surgery was required. They needed to repair the torn tendon in my wrist, and they also went in to the tendons in my elbow and poked thousands of microscopic holes in them, in order to give the inflammation room to go. I couldn’t get in until after finals, but I also could not use my arm in the meantime. I had to get a medical withdrawal from my percussion lessons, which means I couldn’t complete my Year 1 requirements, which means that I couldn’t continue on to Year 2. “Well maybe you can come do your practical at the end of the summer before classes start.” Ok, except I’m going to be in a cast until July, then doing rehab for 3-6 months, so that puts me at anywhere from September to December.
So I changed my major to computer science. And I hated it. And I ended up flunking out of college and being forced to go to community college in order to get my GPA back up. But then depression showed up and I ended up not going to my classes. Flunked out of community college. Ended up crawling back to the university and begging for help. Got a medical withdrawal from my failed semester, took 2 summer classes to claw my GPA out of the depths, switched my major AGAIN to Management Information Systems (business + computers), and dove back in. I took the 7 year road through college, finally graduating when I was 25.
My life now looks nothing like what I thought my life would be when I was about to graduate from high school. But that’s ok. That happens. Honestly, at this point, I’d be more concerned if my life looked EXACTLY like I hoped it would’ve. I’m sure the weather in Texas would be generally nicer than what it is here in Iowa, but I’ve got a lot of other great things that make how my life turned out just fine, thank you.
Honestly, I don’t think those bands actually did anything for me. They itched because of the velcro, they looked stupid because of the little inflated pillow thing, and it honestly just sat there on my arm like a wart. I NEVER felt any relief from wearing that thing. ↩