‘On The Rainy River’ is a chapter in ‘The Things They Carried’, a very eye-opening novel about the reality of young soldiers that were drafted into the Vietnam War. In this chapter the main character runs away to the Canadian border after he receives his draft notice, where he stays for a couple of days, pondering his choices. He desperately wants to go to Canada in order to ensure his safety, but he is more afraid of disappointing everyone than he is of dying. In the end, he breaks down and cries, because he knows that he will not make the right decision. The last line of the chapter says, “I was a coward. I went to the war.”
I was in band for six years. This would have been my seventh and final year. I had been considering quitting for a while, and three days ago I went to the first day of band camp, where I realized the decision that I had to make. As a leader, and a previously devoted and talented member, my directors were sad to see me go, which made it hard to say goodbye. But my lack of tears further cemented my decision.
Although I knew it was right for me, quitting wasn’t an easy decision to make. I disappointed people, which is never an easy thing to go through. Some people that don’t understand my true motivation probably think that I took the easy way out, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. If they had ever done band, or anything similar to it, they would understand. It may seem easier to quit because the hours that we practice are ungodly, the conditions in which we practice are hellacious, and our free time is non- existent when we’re in band. But it isn’t easy to leave that, because band gives you an identity. It gives you a guaranteed sanctuary, and the promising comfort of tradition and common expectations. To leave is to take on a whole new world, and it isn’t easy.
Others find it simply sad that I won’t get the rewards that come to you in your senior year of band, but I think that is a somewhat superficial perspective. I don’t want a letterman jacket that’s going to sit crispy and new in a closet until it is crispy and old, and dusty. I don’t need people to cry over a slideshow of my pictures when it gets close to graduation, or to listen to stories of my favourite moments in band and where I picture myself in ten years. Just having those stories is the real reward. The experience, the life lessons, the memories, the scars, and the stories are the real rewards of being in band, and are the things that I will always cherish.
I didn’t quit just to quit, and I’d like to think of it more as ‘moving on’ than as ‘quitting’. I feel that I got all of the rewards out of band that I could, and I would not have been happy if I had stayed. I’ve always been a believer that you should do whatever makes you happiest. I will continue to play my flute and be in community bands, but there are other avenues that I wish to pursue now. It wasn’t the changes that occurred in my band that made me want to quit, it was the similarities.
There is the common fear that I will regret what I’ve done, but that is silly. I have no reason to regret my choices. The choices I have made in the past led me to be the person that is able to face difficulties and do what makes her happy, and this choice will be a factor in who I become from there. As long as I can respect and love the person that I am, I have nothing to regret, and even if I do, I can learn from my mistakes and grow out of my regrets.
So, despite all of the negative perspectives that one might have about the decision I made, I know that it was the right one, and that’s what counts. I’m proud to be able to say that I wasn’t a coward. I left band.