Pastrami on Rye

By Trevor Gardemal, Social Media Manager

When I was nine years old, I learned to play the clarinet. I wanted to play the flute, but that didn’t work out. I was in fourth grade and it was time for students to start learning classical music, if they chose to do so. Honestly, a lot of people did. Not a lot of people stuck with it–we’ll get there.

I really enjoyed it. I learned scales and notes and treble clef. I could play the meanest “Hot Cross Buns” in the tri-state area. By the time fifth grade rolled around, a lot of my peers gave it up. I had no room to judge. I quit playing guitar the following fall. Besides, why learn about classical music when it’s going to impede on your Four Square time?

In middle school, Band became a lot more intense. As Cabin John Middle School, I was suddenly a part of an award winning middle school instrumental music group. This may sound a little lame, but it was a pretty big deal. 

However, I was soon faced with a quite scary truth: I sucked. Like I was really, really bad. There were about 20 clarinet players in the band. I was ranked 18th. I couldn’t play high notes or keep my embrasure straight. Towards the end of the year, I decided to outgrow my mediocrity by force. 

Upon entering the seventh grade, I was officially a player of the bass clarinet. For those unclear, I used to describe it as “a clarinet but a lot bigger and deeper and cooler.” I was no longer a small fish in a big pond–I was small fish in a small pond. I was in the last seat, but the last seat was the second. This wasn’t for a lack of trying. I took lessons at the International School of Music in Bethesda once a week. The fact that my teacher only played flute probably didn’t help–and yes, I am aware of the irony. I also really enjoyed it. My parts were simple but vital. I adore playing a supporting role. Maybe that’s why I spent the pandemic-less years of high school in Tech Crew. But again, I’m getting ahead of myself. 

The remainder of middle school band was a…varied time. I didn’t get much better. I was getting really into reading X-Men at the time and I didn’t have lots of free time to practice. At least we got to go Busch Gardens for a festival! I think we got first place; the highlight for me was the roller coasters. 

I continued to play as I went into high school. I had heard that the band was going to Disney World that year. The biggest difference in high school band was WCHS’ pep band. At each home football game, we would sit in a designated section of the stands and play tunes everytime we scored a touchdown (which was rare) or the audience got bored (less rare). The thing was, I didn’t play. Due to the aforementioned size of the bass clarinet, it was difficult to play while standing. It was heavy! The music was also really hard. So I pretended. Sorry Mr. Allal. I got away with it, too. It was honestly good for me. I had a reason to get out of the house on Friday nights and I had many a friend in my company. 

It was pretty early that year that I was faced with a difficult situation. We pick our classes for the next year in December, after all. Another elective had been catching my eye for a few years at that point. 

Journalism. I remembered a teacher advertising WCHS electives when I was in 8th grade. I was starstruck. Throughout freshman year, friend–and current Co-Editor-in-Chief–Allison Jacobs would tell me about what she was learning in the class. Interviews and etiquette and the journalistic style. I wanted to do that!

I think you can guess what I chose. After all, you’re reading right now, not listening. 

I remember being very surprised during my first year of journalism. I don’t think I understood just how much learning there was to do. We weren’t even allowed to have our articles published for our first semester. We were writing though. I had trouble finding things I enjoyed writing about at first. And then it happened.

Did I peak journalistically in the tenth grade? Maybe. Did I have an insane amount of fun doing so? Definitely. My first published article, dear reader, was entitled “Jojo Siwa dances over haters to build successful brand.” As silly as it sounds, it was a really well written exploration of meme culture and the lack of authenticity behind brands and the way teenagers are expected to act. 

That’s when the fun began. After that initial high of being published as a Journalism 1 student–which was a big deal!–I found myself working so much harder. I wanted to be published. I wanted people to enjoy reading what I wrote. And to do that, I wanted to write about things people cared about. I’m still pursuing this goal today. In fact, I plan to study journalism at Northeastern University in the fall, and then pursue it professionally.

Here’s my point, my conclusion, my thesis: it’s okay to give up. I know that this is contrary to what most people preach. Children are taught to never give up, to never quit. But sometimes, quitting is the right thing to do. I invested seven years of my life into instrumental music! At 18, that is a very long time. Giving that up allowed me to learn what I enjoy doing and gave me the freedom to pursue it. I’m not encouraging running away when things get hard; I’m encouraging trying things out and sticking with them if you like them. Being a teenager is about having fun and learning about yourself. I learned who I am thanks to throwing in the towel.