Remember assemblies? Assemblies were fine in elementary school but I mainly thought of them as a bore. In high school I liked them because they meant getting out of class. As I’m thinking back, it seems like we had a fair amount of assemblies from grades nine to twelve. I don’t know what they were all about. I recall one about investing, one with local political candidates, and of course the annual Remembrance Day ones. I don’t remember what the one featured in this story was about either, if I’m being honest. Nonetheless, today’s story took place at an assembly.
I did not have to be reminded of this story. It’s just one of those moments that stays with you for part of your life. I don’t know why I was reflecting on it recently, but I do know why I remember it. It’s because I remember almost every time in my life I’ve felt scorned. Guilt is a powerful thing. On this particular day, I felt I had been scorned by my friend Otto; a man I still respect as much as I did then.
I believe the assembly was about music. The man talking on stage was holding a microphone and flipping through a powerpoint. I remember him being enthusiastic and the presentation being somewhat captivating. He reached a point where he spoke about mental health, and about how music can help to maintain it.
He said: “Stand up if you ever use music to cope.”
Almost everyone in the theatre stood. I was the only one sitting in the direct vicinity. Otto was in the seat directly behind me. Now standing, he kicked the back of my chair.
“C’mon, Benny.” He sighed.
“What?” I shrugged.
“You don’t use music to cope at all?”
“Cope with what?”
Otto just shook his head. I started to stand begrudgingly, but then the speaker told everyone to sit back down.
How naive. How teenaged. I don’t remember anything else from that day but I have thought about that exchange a lot. I stayed seated because I could not conceive there was situations in my life that I needed to cope with — or I wouldn’t admit it in that auditorium. I also thought that listening to music was not a means to manage difficult circumstances. I was wrong on both counts, and I was stubborn. Otto, along with almost everyone else, knew that the speaker’s question was only superficially interactive; it might as well have been rhetorical. We all have something to deal with, we all do effectively deal with those things eventually, and a large number of us use music to keep us coping.
As I am now completing a trying chapter of my life — a chapter vastly more recognized than my high school years — I don’t want to forgive myself for being a younger man on that day. I wish I could have grasped the challenges I would face in my life. With that, I could have learned real gratitude much earlier.
B.F. Greeno, aka,
The Stupid Sitter
p.s. I was, am, and always will be coping. Coping is living, by definition. Also, my connection with music has grown to become deeply personal and spiritual — like everyone’s. It just took longer.