A Portrait of the Artist as an Overly Stressed College Student

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After unloading the gear from my roommate’s car, I found a booth near the back of the bar and collapsed into the seat. The vinyl from the booth immediately chilled the sweat on my back. I leaned my head back over the seat, taking advantage of the short break. I took a couple of long breaths and looked down at my phone. It was 9:30 p.m. Thirty minutes til show time.

My exam in “The Legal and Ethical Environment of Business” was in 12 hours. The noise from the opening bands was still deafening from the back of the bar. I knew I wouldn’t have the time or energy to study following the show. I looked down at the silver duct tape wrapped around my aching fingers.

The tape barely covered the blisters formed during rehearsal the night before. I pulled the tape off and winced as the sores on my fingers ignited with pain once more. I reached into my pocket and found a small Ziploc full of notecards and a pack of Stride gum. I shoved two sticks of gum into my mouth, ran my fingers over the stack of notecards and recited the elements of a contract to myself.

“The elements of a contract are offer, acceptance, consideration and legality,” I muttered under my breath as I took the top card off the stack. “Offer, acceptance, consideration and legality.”

Considering that this was my third year with the band, it seems like I would have developed a more logical study routine by this point in time. However, my guitarist’s goal for the band was to play three shows a week. This “vision” left the four members of the band with little time to plan their schedules, practice the material and study. At first, we all loved the idea of playing that often.

The idea of actually playing the songs we had written in my bedroom to crowds of people was so tantalizing years ago. But it was hard to feel the same way now with the knot of stress tightening in my stomach. However, none of the members could bring themselves to admit they had difficulty with balancing these tasks. We were doing what we loved and took on the challenge.

“Ten minutes until show time!” My guitarist called from the front of the venue. “Let’s go ahead and get the stuff together. Come on!”

Looking up towards the stage, I saw the last opening band, Keep It Civil, packing up. I stuffed the gum and notecards back in my pockets, and made my way towards the side of the stage. As I gazed down at the individual pieces of the drum set, I tried to force my mind to make the transition from study mode to show mode.

I checked the pieces of the drum set off a mental checklist as I brought them onto the stage. With the drum set mostly set up, I looked out into the audience. There were about 30 or 40 faces gazing blankly at the stage. My hands continued to move absently around the set, operating primarily on muscle memory. As I adjusted the heights and angles of the various pieces, my mind raced back and forth between the songs we were about to play and the terms that would be on my exam in the morning.

“Express contracts are fully and explicitly stated in words, oral or written,” I whispered under my breath as I tightened the screws surrounding the top of the floor tom. “Implied contracts are implied from the conduct of the parties.”

When we started the sound check, the terms were temporarily swept from my mind. My focus was directed at the rumbling emerging from the bass amplifier and the squealing of the vocals coming from the monitor speaker to my left. Following the sound check, we launched into our prepared material. I nodded my head to keep the tempo as my hands bounced the wooden drumsticks off of the plastic drumheads.

Walking out of the testing center the next morning, I turned on my phone. It was 11 a.m. My ears were still ringing from the night before, but I didn’t notice until after I turned in the exam. I found a seat on a park bench outside the entrance to the testing center. The concrete pushed my sweat-soaked shirt against my back. Exhausted, I leaned my head back over the seat. After taking a couple of long breaths, I could feel my phone vibrate and a text message from my guitarist appeared on the screen.

“Hey guys, I booked us a show two days from now,” the message read. “I can only practice the day before because I have a test tomorrow morning, but I’ll see you guys then.”

Reading the message, I could feel a smile stretch across my face.

“Looking forward to it!” I replied.

After I sent the reply, I leaned my head back over the seat of the bench. The smile lingered as my mind formed a picture of how the next show would go. Despite our terrible study routines, in the end we are still doing what we love, and I know the group will always gladly take on the challenge.

Zachary is a senior at Florida State University studying Editing, Writing, and Media. When he’s not reading, he is writing and recording music. One day, he hopes to help keep Austin weird.

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