Now that I’m only 5 months away from 40, I have spent some time lately thinking about some of the memories in my life that stand out to me. Why do I remember certain details and not others? Just the other day my Dad was telling me a story and I didn’t remember it at all. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen – it is just that it was something my brain must have decided it didn’t have room to store.
Neuroscientist David Eagleman writes “Your brain is built of cells called neurons and glia—hundreds of billions of them. Each one of these cells is as complicated as a city. And each one contains the entire human genome and traffics billions of molecules in intricate economies. Each cell sends electrical pulses to other cells, up to hundreds of times per second. If you represented each of these trillions and trillions of pulses in your brain by a single photon of light, the combined output would be blinding.
The cells are connected to one another in a network of such staggering complexity that it bankrupts human language and necessities new strains of mathematics. A typical neuron makes about ten thousand connections to neighboring neurons. Given the billions of neurons, this means there are as many connections in a single cubic centimeter of brain tissue as there are stars in the Milky Way Galaxy.” – from Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain
Our brains are fascinating, complex, and obviously very busy all the time (which could explain my recurring issue with insomnia . . .). However, there are certain memories that come back that I’m appreciative my brain decided to store, so I could glean what I can from them in my journey to being the best me that I can be. One of these memories is my 18th birthday.
I don’t remember a lot of the actual day; it was my senior year and we had a Music Department Christmas Concert that night. I sang an Amy Grant song at the concert called “Grown-Up Christmas List” which felt very profound to me on the brink of adulthood. After the concert, I had invited my closest friends over to the house for cake – but there was one specific thing I asked for: my own private “concert”.
I am fortunate to have been born into a very musical and creative family. My Auntie Linda also married a very talented musician and they lived just around the corner from me growing up. So many times when asked to sing a special at church, I’d be unable to find the song I wanted to sing on an accompaniment TAPE (yep, I’m old), so I’d go see Uncle Steve and he’d learn it on the guitar and play for me. We’d practice it several times and then sing it the next day. Probably wasn’t a good thing to procrastinate, but those were some of my favorite specials. Live music always seemed so much more authentic to me.
Along with my family, I have had some absolutely amazing music teachers. My senior year, that teacher was Mr. Mark Kays. Mr. Kays did more than teach us music. He taught us history and theory and how music changes lives. He allowed us to be creative and helped us follow our dreams. A small group of my friends (our island of misfit toys) often stayed after school just to talk with and learn from Mr. Kays. And like my Uncle Steve, Mr. Kays was a fabulous musician who could play multiple instruments. I had the privilege of Mr. Kays accompanying me on guitar for our Choir’s Dinner Theatre and also in a talent show where he played banjo and I ::gasp:: did a clogging routine. But back to my birthday . . .
I asked Mr. Kays and Uncle Steve to come to my birthday party and bring their guitars. And that night, after cake and ice cream, we sat in our dining/music/computer room and just played and sang music. They played Dueling Banjos and Kansas’ “Dust in the Wind”. And in the moment, I was so content to just sit and listen and sometimes sing along with these God-given talents. I didn’t go into adulthood with the cliché trip to buy cigarettes or lottery tickets. I rang in adulthood with music and creativity and love. And these three things are what I hope to carry into my forties.
I’ll end this post with a musical thank you to Uncle Steve Mathews and Mr. Mark Kays. Thank you for the music.