As far as I know, my parents have never been diagnosed as clinically insane, nor even mildly deranged. Yet, when I was nine years old, these same two people encouraged me—a pre-teen male with absolutely no sense of self-control or self-discipline—to play a musical instrument.
My parents are not the brightest flames in the family candelabra.
This was an objectively dumb decision, since most instruments produce noise for the first five years assuming the player is gifted, and twenty years if that player is me. To make matters worse, my older siblings were already exceeding OSHA standards for noise exposure playing saxophone, flute, trombone, and baritone horn. So my parents, who believed that music made kids smarter, took a bullet—five, actually—to ensure that we’d all become successes instead of boomerang kids.
Choosing an instrument is easy when there’s not much choice.
My school didn’t have the budget to teach every musical instrument, only those that hadn’t changed since the Renaissance. Anything more modern, or requiring amplification, was clearly an instrument of Satan, so the electric guitar was out of the question. Luckily for my parents, playing the drums never even occurred to me.
I got hooked on chasing the brass dragon.
I attended a lot of high-school concerts because my older siblings were playing in them, and I was too dumb to fake an illness. But that’s where I first heard a jazz trumpet section and got a flood of dopamine to my striatum. Those chills drove me to choose the trumpet and make my parents regret ever having kids.
Like all failed adults, I peaked in high school.
The New York State School Music Association held a yearly competition, for which my teachers insisted we perform a piece of music. I played Haydn’s “Concerto in E-flat Major” (better known as the “Squid Game Wake-Up Song”), as it’s one of the tougher trumpet pieces. Incredibly, I received the highest possible grade and was sent up to All-State where I tore my Achilles Tendon, effectively ending my dreams of playing professionally.
Revisiting the career in music path not taken.
Recently, I’ve dusted off my horn again, and I think about what could have been. I imagine an alternative universe where I have a career in music as a world-famous jazz trumpeter. I’m beloved by everyone except my three ex-wives, each of whom are suing me over child support for the seven kids I barely know due to my decades-long addictions to gambling and heroin.
Still, you can’t live life with regrets, amiright?