My section leader told me the other day that I could pass for a blonde Hispanic.
While this may not come as a surprise to anyone, it's difficult to spend at least eight hours a day in the sun and NOT acquire a good tan – it made me think quite a bit about who I was nearly two months ago when I began this journey. You see, the second weekend in July is the traditional halfway point of the season. While the weeks and shows ahead will be focused very much toward the march to Orlando, it is also useful to look back at where we've come from, the better to know how to get where we're going. It's easiest to see the physical changes. My skin is darker and my hair, lighter; there's less of me in the waist and more in the biceps, and I've added to the collection of scars and bruises on my legs (an occupational hazard of loading and unloading the truck twice a day). Change in ability is also fairly easy to track: My chops are much improved and I play the show far better than when I moved in. My ensemble ears, timing, technique and performance ability have all improved by leaps and bounds, and I learn new notes much more quickly as well. More difficult to note are the mental shifts. As they always do, the requirements of rehearsing all day have improved my focus and mental endurance. And I've gained a lot of confidence: I can easily manage now what half a year ago was well-nigh impossible! My leadership skills have improved; being in the position of drum major-turned-regular-member -- and having made every mistake in the book as a drum major -- I recognize and appreciate the tactics the leaders around me use to deal with sticky situations, and I sympathize when they, as all leaders do, make the occasional misstep. I can see the year-to-year changes within myself as well. I have become more patient, more flexible, more accommodating over the last two-and-a-half seasons. I take inopportune events in stride; I have a sense of perspective that spans not just a rehearsal block or a single show, but rather a whole season. All of these are almost inevitable by-products of the activity, the skills that we transfer from our experiences on the field that remain long after our marching years have passed. Half of my last season as a marching member is already gone. I know the next three weeks will fly by exponentially faster. I can grieve what's already gone, bemoaning the loss of my eligibility and, perhaps, my lack of appreciation for what I had when I had it; or, I can celebrate all that I've had a chance to experience and treasure the time I have left. As the old adage goes, it will never be the same again! Life continues, people move on, times change. While I have never known the end of a season to approach with such seeming rapidity, I have also never enjoyed what I was doing as much as I do now. I'd rather live in the moment, appreciating the people around me and the opportunities I'm presented with in the here and now, than mope over what can, in truth, never be regained. It will never be the same again, so I'm not going to miss a second of it. After all, I still have half a season left.