Believing in Magic.

September 22, 2010 at 5:52 pm | Posted in My life | 13 Comments

All week I’ve been wondering.

How is it that the death of my college band director has made me feel so LOST?

I mean, it was SEVENTEEN YEARS AGO that I first set foot onto the UMass campus as a freshman.

But that first semester…

It was magic.

I was FREE. From the criticism, the rules, the anger, the coldness of my house. It finally was my life, and I could do whatever I CHOSE to do. I answered to no one except myself.

I was giddy with the freedom.

Because the world was WIDE OPEN. I was an undeclared major who could have picked ANYTHING from the College of Arts and Sciences.

I remember thinking: I can be ANYTHING I WANT.

My world was wide open with opportunity.

What kept me from completely losing my mind was my marching band family. The commitment of showing up every night and those early Saturday mornings for rehearsal kept me tethered.

George tolerated nothing less than 150%. We didn’t just walk back to our spots in between drills, we cheered and did push ups and RAN back to our spots. He demanded excellence, and the band gave it.

He told us, before a performance at the Hoosier Dome that first semester, “I remember back in high school band, wishing that I had an experience where everyone loved being there. And here you are. You are my dream.”

He made me want to be a LEADER.

He made me want a life I loved.

But then I went home, and my cousin committed suicide. And I was wracked with guilt that, when she had written me of her sadness and pain, I was selfishly focused on the magic of UMass and didn’t reach out to her to tell her how much was OUT there for her.

I was guilty.

So when I went back to UMass that fall, the magic was gone. And I found myself doing more and more practical things. I studied hard, under the guise of “maximizing my academic experience.” I went from being an average student to Deans List every semester. I took on being the Fundraising Manager of the marching band. I was the front percussion ensemble equipment manager. I joind the co-ed music service fraternity and volunteered as much time as I could helping the band. I built marimba boxes and resanded the floors of one of the music rooms during winter breaks. I helped hand out uniforms and music and took care of freshman who drank too much at the band parties.

I graduated, then got my MBA, then got my MSA because it was practical. Because I needed a job and it was my best option.

And over the years, I haven’t gone back to homecoming all that much.

I made excuses, of course. I didn’t want to see my ex-fiance initially. Then we were infertile and I couldn’t handle the families. Then O was too little and how would we manage naptime?

But I always thought that George would be there, working his magic on his students.

Then he died. And all the posts, and videos, and pictures, and people, and quotes dredged up a whole lot of sorrow, and regret, and love, and happiness, and nostalgia.


And I’m realizing, slowly, that his death is affecting me because I’m finally starting to realize what I gave up that summer that Amy died.

I have spent every moment since her death feeling like I have to make choices that are RESPONSIBLE.

And I’ve never actually figured out what I actually WANT, because I’m so damn focused on what I SHOULD be doing.

I want to live my life unreservedly. Where I get into bed every night and think I love my life.

Where I offer love freely to my friends, and family, and husband, and son.

I want a career where I make a difference, where I have a chance of creating magic for another person.

I want to believe in magic again.

The writer in me wants to wrap this post up all neatly and say “I’m going off to find that magic!”

But I have no idea if I can.

I’m seventeen years older, and my horizon ISN’T wide open. I have a family to provide for and bills to pay.


I have ideas. Whispered thoughts that I’m gathering in my hands. I’m hoping there’s a spark in there somewhere that will help me start that fire again.

My life may NOT be wide open right now, but it’s possible that there’s some magic left in there somewhere.

Stay tuned.



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  1. This post made me so emotional. I get it. When my buddy from college, Tom, died two a few weeks ago, it made me realize how important life is. Yeah, it fucking sucks that I’m not a mom. But it made me realize that I can’t let that run my life at this point. I need to focus on school. I need to make a career change. I need to do things that are sudden, drastic, scary, adventurous. The thing is, we CAN do anything we want to do. We just create barriers for ourselves that get in the way. All it takes is one spark to burn them down.


  2. Wow. Exactly.

    I’ve been feeling so trapped lately … by my career, by my life, by the endless rounds of cooking and laundry. I don’t get up out of bed like I used to, glad to greet the morning. I don’t remember what I want, because I’ve been so busy just treading water.

    And that’s no way to live.

    Thanks for this beautiful, powerful reminder. I hope that I can find magic, too.

  3. This is a great post Serenity, with the appropriate cliff hanger. Whatever magic is there, I can’t wait to hear about it and I hope it rekindles that flame. I have been feeling the same way lately. Ever since my sister died, I have taken on the responsibility for being there for my parents on every special occasion. I worry about them constantly. I have anxiety issues that I never had before and I have gained a good 20-25 lbs on a small 5’1 frame (that’s a lot) and I was never a big person before but I am now. I keep meaning to take charge of it but I haven’t. I can’t seem to find that spark.

  4. I’m looking forward to hearing about the magic.

  5. OH!! I can’t wait for you to figure out your spark and then let it spread like wildfire through the community!!

  6. I love this post. I read it and thought, “Yes!”

  7. I’m sure that there is magic there and those ideas will soon take fruit.

  8. Reading this makes my eyes well up with tears and feel giddy with excitement at the same time.

    Can’t wait to see what magic comes of this.

  9. I love this post on so many levels.

    Magic can happen – it just takes a little work to find it.

  10. I’m certain the spark is there somewhere. I can wait to hear about the adventures in finding it. What an inspirational and beautiful post.

  11. and if ANYONE can make that magic , find it and make it’s YOU my friend.
    It’s YOU!!!!!

  12. This probably isn’t the ideal time to chuck it all in on a whim and a dream, no. But your horizons will open up again, as you say, and it’s never too early to start dreaming, and planning, and hoping, and making those first baby steps. I think there’s still magic out there for you.


  13. […] My college homecoming was this past weekend, and they had a memorial service for my late band director – the one who taught me to believe in magic. […]

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