The kids don’t know what to do with CDs
Six of us crammed into this tiny room, walled in by a massive CD collection. We had just completed round one of our radio show training. The DJ handed each of us a small stack of CDs to review and bring back to this quirky studio housed in the lower level of a campus building. As he passed out CDs, a hush fell over the room. Finally, it was broken by a student, “Um…so…I don’t have a CD player.”
The others chimed in.
“Yeah, me neither.”
“I guess I have one in my car.”
She turned to me, “Do you have a CD player?”
I instantly regretted my response. It probably felt condescending. And it’s very likely that I responded that way out of my own discomfort of being at least 10 years older than all the other people in this matchbox room, where we are standing close enough together for them to spot my gray hairs. I had taken notes (in a notebook with a pen!). I didn’t know all the music artists they had named as their “summer favorites”. I felt my age and my distance and my resentment. And I felt my oddity as a “community member”. That’s what they call people here who are neither students, faculty, nor staff (but somehow are in this town).
The community member with no radio show
My hopes of being a campus radio DJ were dashed by my knee injury and all the craziness that ensued.
I still have the CDs. I need to listen to them and return them. I will listen to them in my new DVD player. After 10 or so years, my DVD player finally died. The new DVD players are so small. Like the size of a composition book.
No radio show. But you know what? I was willing. I was willing to go out of my comfort zone. I was willing to try it. I was willing to be trained. I was willing to be the awkward “townie” who never explains her presence.
Playing in the lab
I recently renamed my home office “The Lab”. I want it to be a place of experimentation. I often lament my lack of mastery in something. I am sort of mediocre at lots of things and not really good at any one thing, which I find dispiriting and uninspiring. But The Lab is inviting me to understand myself differently. As it turns out, I am quite good at playing.
I own several instruments that I have been teaching myself how to play over the last 12 years. I know only very basic music theory. I have all kinds of art supplies, some natural ability, and very little understanding of technique for any medium. I have stacks of empty journals waiting for some words. All of these are “tools of the trade”, and that trade is fuckin around. Tinkering. Trying. Autodidacticism. Playing.
Play is changing my strange, mediocre life
It’s a winding road from YouTube tutorials on rhythym patterns for bongos to articles about androgyny to online courses for writing SQL queries. I can’t explain how it happens. It just seems that everything I touch and tinker with ignites my curiosity about 10 other things. And then I am in a labyrinth of whimsical questions. I certainly chase the answers. And all of the answers boomerang me back to the chase.
Pursuit, curiosity, thirst.
Invitations for extraordinary moments. However ordinary and mediocre my life may be, play has created opportunities for the extraordinary tucked inside the mundane, hidden in plain sight.
Perhaps most interestingly, play configures me into a posture of learning and receptivity.
I believe that curiosity and receptivity, these outcomes of play, are opening my heart, mind, and power.
This is a happy place (that needs to be vacuumed)
I am laying on the floor as I write this. My dog is sleeping in her favorite spot behind me on the 5′ x 3′ rug with the geometric pattern. My sketchbook and a pile of magazines are stacked on top of my art set. My sketchbook is opened to the page where I was trying to figure out how to use watercolor pencils. A long cord stretches from my USB port to the back of my Casio keyboard. Today I figured out how to set up my keyboard as a MIDI controller and record tracks into my computer. On the other side of my computer, those 3 CDs.
I need to listen to them, write the reviews, and take them back. I don’t believe everything happens for a reason. But, you know, I am sort of glad the radio show didn’t work out. I don’t think I wanted the commitment. I just wanted to discover and share things with people. Turns out, The Lab is a perfectly suitable place to do exactly that.