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.) 🙂