At the last Knowledge Bowl meet of the season we won a fourth place trophy at Saint John's. It was an exciting day with lots of ups and downs and even a couple snowball fights... but this is what REALLY happened.
The sun was rising on a fine March morning. The sky was cloudless and the air was cold and crisp. Four brave warriors gathered together at the prestigious Temple of Foley. They were Betty, Steven, Elizabeth, and Jonathan. Schultzius, the leader of the party, was waiting for them. After they exchanged greetings they climbed into their vessel and embarked on their journey. Their mission was simple: to claim the four treasures that were contained in the mighty citadel of St. John's. Unfortunately, warriors from lands spread far and wide were coming for those very same treasures. Thus, the heroes had to keep a watchful eye on their surroundings at all times in case others would wish to sabotage their quest. Luckily, they made it to St. John's safely and took the fortress by storm. As soon as they jumped from their ship they were locked into a fierce melee. After a year of combat the Foley troop pulled ahead with only one other ahead of them. For several more years they continued to fight valiantly, but to no avail… they slowly fell farther behind against the might of the larger adversaries. After four years of vicious fighting, there were six teams who had proven they were strongest. They had dispatched many other rivals and morale was at an extreme low for the Foleyians. Not even Schultzius could raise it. Fortunately, Jonathan: the master of music, had a plan. He lifted his lyre and began to play a rousing battle song - Yes, that's right. He played Free Bird. With their morale regained, the party immediately jumped into action and rejoined the fray. By this time three of the four trophies had been taken and only one was left. Foley conquered team after team until only one other opposed them. The Rogerians from the land of Rogers charged at the heroes with ferocious force. But when the dust settled.. only the Foley team remained. They claimed their trophy and started for home. Sadly, Schultzius sought to take the treasure from the Foley team and he betrayed them. He attacked them by throwing snowballs (his weapon of choice) with deadly force. Our heroes had no choice but to fight back and Schultzius perished in the battle. Thus, the heroes returned home. They were hungry, broken, and exhausted… but they were victorious.
In truth, this was an assignment for Mythology class where I had to take an event from my life and exagerrate it as a Greek epic. Just to clear up any confusion.
This is part one of what could potentially be a two part series. I don’t know if I have enough to write a second part, but we’ll see. Other than that.. It’s just a short story I came up with so... enjoy it and interpret it how you wish. I might modify it into a song eventually.
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He collapsed down into the seat. How had he gotten to this point? Less than six hours prior, his life had been whole… That simple thought amazed him. He had been happy not that long ago. Now his life was empty, and he had nowhere to go. His mind was numbly racing as he stared out into the night. Unfortunately, memory is a funny thing. The harder you try to remember something - the harder it becomes. And the harder he tried, the more holes his memory seemed to have. Jumping out of his seat, he kicked the door in anger. The metal caved and a loud bang echoed down the hall. He stood for several minutes staring at the dent he made, but no one came inquiring as to the source of the noise. He was in the very last car of the train and there weren’t many passengers climbing aboard at 1:41 in the morning. A cool night breeze made the curtains flutter in front of the open rear window. With his anger receding, he sat back down and gently pulled the curtains aside. The moon was almost full and there were thin, wispy clouds drifting parallel to the horizon. The stars were twinkling brightly in the darkness. They almost seemed to mock him with their luminescence. "Those stars…." he whispered to himself. "Those damn stars…."
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He knew he was home as he walked through the front door. The living room was spotless and the smell of his favorite dish drifted from the adjacent kitchen. His wife poked her head around the doorway, smiled at him, and disappeared again. He could hear her humming happily as she cooked and it made him smile. He could recognize that tune anywhere. It was their favorite song. They had danced to it a hundred times and would dance to it a hundred times more. He hung up his coat and walked into the kitchen. He walked up behind her and wrapped his arms around her. She continued to chop vegetables as he held her for several minutes. When she finished making the salad she playfully scolded him for distracting her and told him to go relax. As he walked away she stopped him and gave him a kiss on the cheek. He walked into the.... …..they were eating dinner. His plate was piled high with delicious food. He ate it quickly - yet every bite was savored. The two of them sat side by side at the large table. They talked and laughed over the various events of their day. Occasionally her hand would stray from her plate and touch his, and every time he would look at her and smile. He loved.... ….they were lying on the grass in the backyard. She was nuzzled up close to him with her head on his shoulder. It was a beautiful night and the stars were shining brightly. He had never seen them so bright before. From time to time she would lean up and whisper "I love you" into his ear. Everything was so peaceful and…
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….he was jerked awake as the train began to lurch slowly forward. He looked at his watch. It was 2:00. The engine began to pick up speed as it’s momentum began to build. Trees rushed by in a dark blur as the train wound it’s way through the countryside. He leaned out the window and stared at the town shrinking away into the distance. Everything he had loved was in that town. Everything he had loved had been taken away. Tears began to slide down his face and were stolen by the wind as tiny stars reflecting the moonlight. "Goodbye.. Elena.." he whispered....
I never really had an interest in music. At age fifteen, my music collection basically consisted of 3 Doors Down’s "The Better Life", an REO Speedwagon CD that my brother made, and a few others. I listened to the radio quite often, but it was just noise to me. It wasn’t anything special until one boring summer day when everything changed.
I was in my room when a song started playing on the radio. It wasn’t a thundering, hardcore death-metal song. It was a simple tune, and something about it made me stop just to absorb every second of it. I was awestruck. The guitar and drums added a flawless musical background as emotion and meaning flowed from every word . I had never heard anything so moving.
Naturally, the radio neglected to mention the name of the song or the band, so I spent the next day endeavoring to find out who this band was. After a little research, I found that the song that had had such a deep impact on me was "45" by Shinedown. Within several days of finding this information, I went out and purchased "Leave A Whisper" and their newly released album - "Us and Them".
Over the next year, I gained a profound appreciation for music. My CD collection multiplied exponentially. Songs I had repeatedly heard on the radio felt as though I was just hearing them for the first time. I even purchased a guitar with the singular goal of being able to play the song that had given me such an appreciation for music. I managed to achieve that goal and playing guitar has since then turned into nothing short of my passion. My achievement of learning a single song has since morphed into a new goal. A goal of being able to play many songs and to being able to play them as well as my heroes.
Brent Smith, Jasin Todd, Brad Stewart, and Barry Kerch are my heroes. Together, they form Shinedown. Most people would consider them the same as every other band, yet to me they are so much more. They don’t care about money or fame. They only care about the music - their passion. It’s something they can’t live without, and because of them, it’s something I can’t live without either. It’s because of them that I have something to aspire to in my life. It’s because of them that I’ve found my passion. To quote Brent Smith: "It’s an amazing thing to have the gift of being able to play music. It’s not a job. It’s an honor."
This is why Shinedown are my heroes. They are everything that musicians should be. They put their hearts and souls into every song they create. They play them with a passion that is unrivaled in the music industry. But most importantly, they make music to give people inspiration and hope. They care about their music. And every time I hear a Shinedown song, I think of the message written on the inside of their album:
This record was written for the dreamers.
For the people that have, in one way or another
been cut down or cast out of society for being
different or having an
opinion. It is an expression of
insecurity and frustration, and yet, the will to overcome
It all started right when the day ended. I left Spanish class and merged into the herd of people rushing to the locker bay. I made it to my locker, put my books away, and grabbed my coat. From the other end of the locker bay I could hear Jon making his usual end-of-the-day bird noises. I couldn't help but chuckle at his idiocy. Sammy opened her locker next to me, grabbed her stuff, and walked away. Katie was at her locker too. I stopped and watched both of them walk away, and I thought about the way things used to be. Hard to believe less than a year ago we were really close friends. I felt depressed thinking that we used to be so close, yet now, I'm little more than an acquaintance.. My friendship with them reduced to a shadow of it's former self today.
I didn't dwell on the thought for long. I put on my coat and headed to Knowledge Bowl practice. Mitch and I were the only people there so we didn't bother practicing. I left and stopped by Schultz's room, but he had already left for the wrestling meet. I stopped by a few other rooms. They were gone too. I decided to head to the Intermediate school to visit some of my old teachers. When I got down there all the doors were locked. I figured they were all at the meet.
As I was taking the long walk back to the high school, I started to think about my past. (It's become a common habit of mine lately, and I'm rather fond of it.) Vivid memories drifted into my mind as I walked. Memories from days ago, a month ago, five months ago, a year ago, three years ago - they all floated out of obscurity. There was no real form to them though. They were just a hazy blur formed of the images and thoughts of seventeen years.
When I reached the high school, I stopped and stared at the cafeteria. I thought of my freshman year and the whole room seemed different. Days spent with Derrek, Bill, Mike, Stan, and C-Berg at our lunch table came roaring back to me. I could almost see them sitting at our old spot. The pride I felt from being welcomed into their group returned with the memories. I thought of those days in study hall spent with C-Berg when he would sit by the window and tell me hilarious stories of his adventures. I stood there, and for a moment I felt like I was back with them.
I started down the hallway towards the classrooms. My footsteps echoed loudly in the absolute silence of the long passage as I walked. My back ached from carrying the heavy backpack on my shoulders for so long, but I didn't really care. My attention was enraptured by my surroundings. I had traveled that hallway thousands of times, but this time it seemed different. Recollections from all three years culminated into one feeling. Memories of walking with Mike, with Jon, with Katie, with Liz, and with Sammy all blended into one. Clips of conversations that I held with people faded in and out in my mind. I looked at the display cases as I passed them and the art that used to reside in them seemed to return before my eyes.
When I made it to the end of the hallway, I looked in Carlson's room, but it was dark. I turned down the short hallway to the other long passage and checked in Voeltz's room - also dark. I had nothing left to do, so I decided to head home. I started walking back down the hall. I stopped at each one of the cases and looked at all of the things on display. Pictures of people I've known for so long adorned the wall behind the protective glass. As I looked at them, more memories floated into my mind. I couldn't help but smile as a familiar warmth filled me.
After looking at the cases for several minutes, I turned and headed out the door. Powder snow was falling heavily as I stepped out into the cold. The keys were jingling in my hand as I crossed the street and headed towards the van. I was halfway across the parking lot when I stopped and looked back at the school. The icy wind was blowing big tufts of snow in my face, but I didn't care. I stared at the high school as realization dawned on me. So many of my classmates and friends view the school as a temporary prison. Standing there in the snow, I began to grasp what I had been feeling for the past half hour. It's a home, a place where I can go and be surrounded by good memories and great people. It's a home where I've laughed, cried, studied, practiced, lived, loved, and mourned. It's a building I know almost as well as my own house. It's a place I've spent almost three years of my life in. It's a place where I've gained new friends, and I've lost old ones. But most of all, it's a home where I know I'll always be welcome.
My life has been pretty chaotic for the past 6 months, and I sat down and wrote this awhile ago to try and sort through everything. It has nothing to do with guitar, but if anyone who reads this finds meaning in it, I thank you. So.. here it is.
An old saying states that when you lose something good, you gain something better. I think everyone can attest to the fact that this is true. But the unasked question is: What happens if we lose what we've gained? Do we gain something even better? And if we lose that too - then what? Is this all there is in life? Is this what it boils down to? A never-ending tragedy filled with the joy of new blessings and the sorrow found in losing them?
Once we've lost something important, the feelings associated with the lost item change deeply. This is a terrible paradox of loss. Everything that reminds you of what brought you joy and what you lost starts to bring a twinge of pain, and all of the little things that you once considered blessings become curses to be avoided. But despite the changes, the old memories are always carefully guarded and cherished, even though revisiting them can bring a feeling of nostalgia tainted with pain… They are too important to discard, simply because discarding them would only mean more loss - and more pain.
The loss of something loved is a twisted tragedy. Whether it is the loss of a person, a cherished possession, or even a feeling from deep within us - it's always the same. Pain, frustration, and sadness start to develop in profuse amounts, and these feelings together can form an insidious combination. The most troubling aspect of which is the viral effect it can have on a human heart. Sometimes if a loss is minor, it’ll have a minimal effect. But other times the damage can be so powerful it can extend down to the spirit. The will to be happy is diminished and sadness flourishes. This problem can then bleed out to the people around us. The people who care about us begin to worry and the trouble only grows further as pain and frustration grows in their hearts.
Loss is truly inevitable. This is the greatest tragedy of life. We are all doomed to lose things that we love and bear the pain that comes with it. It is crucial, however, to never forget that there is joy to be found in life too. No matter how many times loss strikes you down, or how greatly it affects you, there is solace to be found in the people around you. There are always people who will give you strength and stand loyally beside you. I’ve personally learned time and time again that this is true. It’s something I have never - and will never be able to forget even in my darkest hour.
I’ve lost my fair share of things in my life. Some of them have been trivial, some have severely hurt me, and some of them still trouble me even to this very day. But I’m still young, and I know I’m going to lose many more things in the future. It’s ironic though, because it’s actually my losses that give me strength. Every time I lose something, I always carry the hope in my heart that I’ll find it again someday. And no matter how small that flame of hope might be, I keep it alive. I keep it burning, because it gives me strength.