I was just thinking back to my senior year of high school, to one incident in particular that I believe has shaped my entire life. At the time it was just some little two-minute conversation, but it set off a chain of events that has been guiding me. It is a time when listening was a very bad idea.
I’ve always been very sensitive, probably gullible is a better word. I listen to what everyone tells me and I take it to heart, even when I shouldn’t. I still do it, I guess I want to think the best of everyone, that people will tell me the truth, and tell me what I need to hear. What’s good for me, helpful, insightful. That is not always the case of course.
I remember this day so clearly, I was in a choral group in high school, two actually, and music was taken very seriously there. Our vocal teacher was very strong in his belief that we had to work very hard, and he was a yeller, would occasionally throw things. Behavior that would I’m sure get him fired these days. But the results were phenomenal. Our groups won awards, we performed in halls with professionals. I looked up to him, he was one of my heroes.
In my senior year he allowed a few of us the use of his office in our free periods to do schoolwork, practice our singing, hang out, whatever. Sometimes he would be there, most times he would just let us be. One day when he was there he was asking us about our future plans. When he got to me I told him I was seriously thinking about going forward with studies in music, he then told me I should probably rethink that, he didn’t think I had what it took, the “intestinal fortitude” to make it.
I wasn’t too upset about that because my real dream was to study English Literature, become an English teacher, maybe do some writing. So then I told him I really wanted to study English Lit and he asked me “Well, what are you going to do with that? What good will that do you? English?”
I was completely destroyed. The closest thing I had to a hero was basically telling me that I didn’t have “it” to do what I wanted in life and my choices were terrible. I felt the pain right to my soul. I had already been accepted to all the colleges I had applied to, but that night I decided to instead go to a 2 year college to figure out what the hell I should do.
My parents were mystified. They couldn’t figure out why I decided to change direction, I told them it was to save money. I couldn’t tell them it was because I had been told I wasn’t good enough. So I went to that 2 year school, got my Liberal Arts degree, and went to work in a bank for 10 years, then a title company for 5 years and then when the real estate market crashed I lost my job.
That one conversation put me on this course. It lead me to this spot in my life, right where I am today.
If I hadn’t listened where would I be? What would I be? Who would I be?
These questions are killing me. Why did I listen? WHY WOULD HE SAY SOMETHING LIKE THAT TO A 17 YEAR OLD TRYING TO FIND HER WAY? Why? Was he having a bad day, had to take it out on someone and I was handy? Did he have a grudge against the English department? Was he sick of teaching and couldn’t fathom someone wanting to go into the profession? WHY?
I will never know. I will never have the answer to any of those questions. I will always wonder.
Sometimes listening is a very bad idea.