A Life Worth Living

It was the phone call I knew was coming, and I was dreading it. It makes me laugh now, to think about how I cried, and how devastated I was at the news, when now it makes my heart burst with pride. It took so much courage.

Our eldest son, Gray, is a percussionist and went to a high school that had a very high achieving music program. Their marching band won the Colorado State Championship twice while he was the drum line captain, and their wind ensemble was selected to participate in a national festival in Indianapolis where only 12 high schools were chosen from over 400 applicants. Music was a very important part of our son’s life but he decided not to pursue it as a career. He was afraid that if music was his job, he would lose his passion for it. He decided to major in business and enrolled at Montana State University.

During that first year at MSU, we would talk to him frequently and my mother’s intuition told me that something was wrong, but he insisted that everything was fine. He had made some good friends and I figured it was just the adjustment of living away from home for the first time. He didn’t talk about classes much but he did say he had been spending a lot of time in the drum practice room, and he would light up when he would tell us stories about what he was doing musically. We asked if he wanted to change his major to music and he said no.

About a week before we were going to drive up to get him for the summer after his first year, he called and said he needed to talk to us. He said that he had been miserable the whole year. He hated his business classes and he missed being a part of a quality music program. “Good! You can enroll in a school that has a great music program,” I said. Then he dropped a bombshell.

“I don’t want to go to school anymore,” he told us. He had given it a lot of thought and had decided that his path didn’t include college. To say I was devastated would be an understatement. I burst into tears as I pictured him living in the gutter. My mind went to the darkest, scariest place. How could he deviate from the plan like this?! He was making the worst decision of his life, and it was hard to take. Other people drop out of college, not us!

We went the following week to pick him up for the summer and while I had spent the week wallowing in sadness and depression at this horrible turn of events, when we saw him I couldn’t believe how he had changed! He was glowing! He was the happiest I had seen him in years. He said he felt like the weight of the world had been lifted from his shoulders. He had a vision for his life and for the first time he felt like he was in charge of his own path and not just following the path that society says you should take.

I realized at that moment that he wouldn’t end up in the gutter and that it would have been absolutely tragic if this amazing, creative young man had stayed in college where he was miserable and knew he didn’t belong. All we want as parents is for our children to be happy, and to live up to their potential. College would have killed our son’s spirit.

For the last four years Gray has worked harder than I have ever seen him work. He has a purpose and he is so driven. For 4 months he worked 60 hours a week at four jobs to save up for a music producing program. After he had purchased the program he spent hundreds of hours learning the program and writing music. We are there to support him emotionally, but not financially. This is his dream and he needs to go get it.

We all know people (you may even be one!) who are just going through the motions and are miserable. Perhaps they are afraid to make changes, or they are doing what someone else wants them to do. Maybe they are scared of what people will think of them or they don’t believe in themselves. It is tragic!

Last week the world lost three people who exemplified living life on their own terms. Ryker Gamble, Alexey Lyakh and Megan Scraper were associated with High on Life, a group that is about rejecting convention and leading a life worth living. Megan slipped and fell over a waterfall in Canada and the two men jumped after her. While their deaths are very sad, they were living exactly as they wanted and that is something to be celebrated. In an emotional video eulogy, one of their friends recited something Gamble had written, “Accept the fact that everything that makes up your world is there because you attracted it with your own thoughts. Realize that you can control your thoughts and emotions.”

People are debating now whether people on social media are intentionally taking dangerous risks, but thrill seekers have been pushing limits (and dying) long before social media. To me that isn’t the point. There always have been and always will be people who take life threatening risks. To me the point is living life on your own terms and if you are unhappy, make a change! We get one shot at this life, so make it a good one. Goodspeed, Ryker, Alexey and Megan. And to Gray, you are my hero and I will be front and center at Red Rocks when graymattr headlines! (Or opens.) 🙂

32 Comments on “A Life Worth Living

  1. Pingback: Hidden Figures – Proscenium

  2. i received a similar call from my daughter years ago and after a bit of worry on my part, she turned out happy and wonderful in her life. i had to be open to letting it all happen, and it seems to have happened just the way it was meant to. bravo to you, mom and son both.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m really happy to hear that things have turned out for your daughter. I have found that so many of the things I have worried about as a parent have been unfounded. You are so right, when you can let go of worry and trust that things will happen the way they are meant to, it’s a much happier existence for everyone. Thanks for stopping by!

      Liked by 2 people

    • Hi ksbeth! It is nice to meet you here as well as at Mr Lance Sheridan’s blog.

      Indeed, Mrs Julie Whitney, people can vary significantly, even those who are cut from (almost) the same loin. I suppose that neuroplasticity and neurodiversity are at work, as well as our varied life experience.

      Nowadays, many people can go through nearly 20 different jobs or careers before their retirement. It could even be that your son might decide to concentrate on something else other than music in the future. Regardless, it is wonderful that he has found his calling!

      Happy August to all of you!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thank you so much for your kind and insightful comment. I think you are absolutely right. I’m not sure in you live in the US or not, but with the outrageous cost of going to college, I think it’s great that many young people are following their own path and not ending up in crippling debt. Happy August to you as well!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. An excellent post that makes me love you and Gray even more than I already did ( if that is possible). Wow! You both are amazing!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Loved this post – so true and honest!
    I am so glad that Gray has a mother like you who believes in him and supports him wholeheartedly!❤

    Wish him loads of success and fame!❤
    PS – Don’t forget my free tickets! 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  5. It’s a beautiful post. It must have been difficult for you to accept it because like you said, ” others do it, not us.” Am so happy for you and Gray for the way things have turned up. All the best to him and hugs to the proud mom.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I understand your crying because as moms, we want our children to always be comfortable and secure. But we also know that security isn’t happiness so I’m glad that Gray discovered this at such a young age!

    I loved reading this story, Julie!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Your son is smarter than a lot of people. He followed his dreams even if it meant a lot of sacrifices on his end. I admire people who bravely chase after their dreams knowing we may only have one life to live. I wish you and your family well 😊

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much! I admire him too and believe everything will work out. I’m starting to see more people his age follow their dreams and I think it’s wonderful. Getting to middle age and having regrets about the path you took would be horrible. I wish you all the best too!!

      Liked by 2 people

  8. It reminded me of the time my son said he didn’t want to go to college. I wanted to him to go simply because I did. But this was not his path. Glad your son followed his heart. So many youngsters are doing the same!!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s interesting because when all of this was happening, it felt like I was the only parent who had ever gone through this. But I have heard from so many people, like you, that have had that conversation too. I think it’s really great people are making their own path. Thank you for the comment! xo

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Very inspiring Julie. All the best to your son. He is very mature to make a decision like that, even though at first, we as mums would not be likely to approve. Totally understand that one! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you very much! Yeah, that was a tough one but in the end I learned a lot! Once I really listened to him and stopped focusing on what I wanted, the stress melted away and I couldn’t be more proud of him. Thanks for stopping by!

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Great post! I used to say that our children had to make their own mistakes – only way they will learn. More often than not, they weren’t mistakes :- ) My daughter took a different path and is a very successful business woman – couldn’t be prouder.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve been amazed by all the positive feedback on this post. So many parents have walked a similar road with their kids. Hopefully a societal shift is occurring where kids aren’t looked down upon if they chose a different route than college. At least in our town, that has been the case. Even community college is looked down on by many. So cool that your daughter forged her own path and is happy and successful!

      Liked by 2 people

  11. All the best to your son, Julie. That’s really brave of him (and you) but with hard work, anything is possible. 🙂 . My older son is also at the cross-roads, can’t decide which course to take in college. We told him to follow his heart and that we will always be there to support him.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much! I really appreciate that. Best of luck to your son as well. I hope he will take your advice and follow his heart. I feel like doing that always has the best outcome, no matter what the situation.

      Liked by 2 people

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