The end of the semester brings about a lot of responsibilities and a lot of emotions.
In the midst of studying for finals, watching friends graduate and trying to lock down a summer job, packing my dorm room keeps getting put on the backburner. But knowing that my bottom desk drawer had become a graveyard for last semester’s term papers gave me the gumption to finally wrench it open and start sorting.
Under the crumpled assignments and half-used makeup containers, I found pictures I had printed last semester. Since college has been teaching me how to master the art of the procrastination, I had to go through them. Somewhere in the bottom of the stack were two photos that were very similar, yet hilariously different.
Taken only three months apart, both pictures showed five of us from the color guard. In the first picture we were clad in our high school marching band shirts—the theme for the first day of band camp — hugging and giddy, after going all summer without seeing each other. Our clean sneakers, neat hair and lack of sunburns made it evident that the band season hadn’t started yet.
The second picture, taken of the same people on the same field just twelve weeks later, was a clear depiction of our feelings toward the last band practice of the year.
We were all wearing mismatched sweats, had hair falling out of the lazy ponytails we hadn’t bothered with until we were walking onto the field, and our once bright sneakers were caked with mud. We were lazily leaning on each other, too tired to hold our own weight.
Both of these pictures are happy pictures, but they’re different kinds of happy. The first is cloaked in elation and excitement for the season, and the second, aside from being proof we lived through the field show, is a testament to the memories we had made that season.
From marching in a hurricane to changing for Halloween parties on the bus back from a competition, this season alone has given us a lifetime of inside jokes. I’m sure if you went back to the moment the second picture was taken and asked us how we were, “happy” would probably fall behind a conglomerate of other words like “exhaustion” and “bruised.” But now, a semester later, I like to say it’s a happy picture.
Between reunions with friends after spending months apart and hearing show music for the first time, the start of band camp falls right behind Christmas morning. We’ve forgotten the sting of the sun on our already burned skin and the bitter feeling of finding out that our precious water breaks have come to an end.
All of our minds are clouded with excitement, a feeling that usually dies down by the end of the first day or two of band camp. By this point, the heat has taken its toll and left every band kid either tired or deliriously oblivious to everything going on.
My director always says band camp is a short week made up of long days, which is the only way I can really describe it. In the moment, baking in the sun and knowing there is still hours left of rehearsal for the day, it seems as if it will never end.
But when all you do in a week is rehearse while baking in the sun, go to sleep and do the same thing the next day, it doesn’t seem that long in the end. Either way, at the end of the week, I’m more than happy that I have three hundred sixty more days until band camp starts again.
The final performance of the year is always bittersweet. Hearing our director tell us to look around, because we would never perform this show again, or be on the field with the same group of people, always gets me.
In the moment, I’m beyond ready to trade in rehearsals for naps and getting dressed in the morning without worrying about changing for practice later. But all it takes is that little speech from my director to make me remember all the great times from the season, and I’m never ready to leave it behind.
Although I might get a little emotional, when my first rehearsal-free week rolls around I’m always thankful for the extra time. Since band goes so late into the fall semester, by the time the season ends it’s usually almost finals week anyways, so I don’t have much time to miss marching band.
My screensaver is another picture of the five of us (saying we spent a lot of time together is an understatement). This picture, the one that stares at me every time I open my computer, is of us with our show shirts on, right after we took the field for our first performance this season.
Our ponytails, complete with half a bottle of hairspray, practically danced on top of our heads.
Our lip-stained mouths were parted in laughter, accurately illustrating the feeling of relief and excitement after performing a show for the first time. This is the picture that reminds me why I always sign the paper to go back for another season.
Maybe I’m bored or maybe I just really miss being tan, but the end of the year always gets me excited to come back in the fall for another marching band season. Although I know the last days of band camp will drag on and I’ll give up nights out in order to stay in for rehearsal the next morning, all of the crazy memories and funny Instagram pictures that will come out of it will make it worthwhile.
I’m sure there will be days I swear I’ll never again set foot on the marching band field, but I know I always will. For better or for worse, the other people that are on that field with me make every sweat-drenched rehearsal worth it.