Of Us All – A Personal Narrative

I’ve never really fit in with people my own age. This fact becomes more real to me every day. Butterflies and Bible verses hang on my bedroom walls. Not a single celebrity poster can be found. Screens have become the focus of lives, but oh, how I wish technology would just go away so we could all live with nature. A less noticeable difference in me, though, comes out of my mouth and my fingers. Some would call my taste “obscure,” but I like to call it “my kind of music.” Indie folk, post-rock, and classical each grace the world with their melodies. No one that I had ever talked to seemed to agree with me on music, though, until one afternoon this summer.

I signed myself up for the Paul Spring songwriting workshop as soon as I saw the listing on the internet. My little sister, Amanda, showed interest as well. The date in June grew closer and closer as leaves grew greener and greener. Then it arrived.

Enormity struck me as we entered the library. I wanted to spend a week in there exploring the endless shelves of books. We had to go up to the front desk first, though, and ask where the workshop was taking place. The librarian at the information desk had long, dry, brown hair. Reading glasses perched neatly at the end of her nose. “The workshop is down that way to the left,” she pointed.

We turned and walked into the room, right on time, but only a few girls Amanda’s age, thirteen, sat there. Paul Spring stood at the front of the room in all his glory, softly strumming on his guitar. An awkward silence hung in the air. I felt the need to whisper.

Amanda and I took seats at an empty table. Lined, yellow pieces of paper and mechanical pencils lay dauntingly before us. The other girls were already writing something on theirs. Huge windows let in sunlight.

As minutes ticked by, more kids began to wander in. A few started talking. Then a group of three boys, unlike any I’d ever seen before, entered the room. They held themselves so confidently that the walls seemed to light up with their presence. I only got a quick glance, not wanting to stare.

Just a few seats remained by that time. One of the empty seats happened to be right next to mine. The tallest of the three boys, with black ear gauges and a faux hawk, came and took that seat. Like a character straight out of a John Green novel, he didn’t belong in real life.

“Hi, friends,” he said to my sister and me.

“Hey,” I said back, trying to copy his casual vibe.

Paul then looked around and decided to start the program. “First I’ll have us all go around and share our name, favorite songwriter, and what we want to learn this afternoon.” His words sent chills of nerves through me, but they began anyway.

Going around the room, one of the three boys, Joe, said “John Mayer.” Amanda and I looked at each other in surprise. I had never met someone, let alone a guy, that listened to my kind of music! Andrew, the one with the gauges, liked Rush. Ben, the last of the three, liked Beethoven. No one mentioned Justin Bieber or Eminem. It was beautiful.

Sorting through my favorite artists, I decided to say Jack Johnson. My voice sounded shaky at first, but I pushed through, smiling the whole time. As I said Jack Johnson, the three boys, especially Joe, nodded their heads in agreement. That small expression made me feel like we were becoming friends already.

After every person had shared, the songwriting portion began. Twenty voices chimed in; we all declared that our favorite musical genre was the greatest. Eventually, we decided to write a pop song for the sake of ease. Strumming some chords once again, Paul came up with a chord progression. Everyone could agree that it sounded amazing.

But then Andrew asked, “Could you explain what you just did there, to get that chord progression? I thought that was part of the class; you were going to teach us to write songs.”

Twenty heads turned and faced the taken aback leader. “Oh,” he said, trying to regain his composure, “I normally just have you guys make up the song lyrics.” Then almost smugly, he asked, “How many of you play instruments?”

All twenty hands slowly rose to the ceiling. We shared knowing beams.

“Wow,” he said, clearly astonished, “I normally don’t have musicians.” No longer trying to sound superior, he added, “Well then, I’ll give you guys a little music theory lesson.”

I reached for a yellow piece of paper. Had they seemed so daunting to me only an hour before? Notes soon filled them with their shapes. We wrote of life in Minnesota. Ice storms, Purple Rain, and road construction were all mentioned. Laughs sprinkled throughout, mostly caused by Ben. Andrew amazed us with his vocabulary and knowledge of everything. Joe shared his musical expertise. My sister and I sent out imaginative ideas. The Beatles would have frozen in wonder if they could have heard our chorus. That catchy tune still bounces around my mind every once in a while.

Until that day in June, I had never realized that people my own age with similar musical interests existed in Minnesota, let alone in this county. They didn’t merely live in novels; they lived here. When we finished writing, Paul played our song for the public. Only a few parents and passersby stopped in to listen, but it was enough. They got to hear a piece of us all.

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