• Drew Clayborn

Surprise Yourself

It’s New Year’s Eve!!! I love this time of year because it’s the time to relax, regroup, and recover. Spending time with the fam. Christmas lights light up neighborhoods and cities. Snow covers the lake outside my house looking absolutely gorgeous. The perfect time for drinking hot chocolate, snuggling into blankets and a loved one watching the latest movie of the moment. Ending with the bang of today! Today’s the day we celebrate! Saying goodbye to the previous year and the previous us. Hello to the next year and opportunity. It’s the time of resolutions so with that I want to end the year with a motivational post to show you that you are your strongest motivator.

One of the biggest narratives throughout my time in the hospital was figuring out getting back to doing school and marching band. Many friends who visited were from the band and said things like ‘we need you man,’ ‘can’t wait to get you back on the field,’ ‘we miss you at school.’ Everyone seemed to be spending time trying to figure out what I could do now since I couldn’t play and march my tuba. One of the instructors figured out how I could do a MIDI Controller and push the keys with a mouth stick. One of the band dads was a retired engineer from GM and loved building rigs that could go on my chair and hold the MIDI Controller in front of my face so I could reach it. My high school and school district was absolutely amazing in finding programs that would help me do my work and giving me almost any support I needed to finish school including paying the nursing for the 8 hours I was in school. All of this meant I was setup to continue with what I started prior but it didn’t necessarily mean I was willing to.

That first year after my accident I was just coasting through school and marching band. In most classes I would just sit, pay attention, and take the tests. I wouldn’t do the homework. I wouldn’t study except for my pre-calculus class because I enjoyed math. Marching band I wasn’t memorizing my music. I hadn’t even learned how to read my music since I had to switch from my tuba being bass clef and now the MIDI being treble. I wasn’t going to all the practices and I definitely wasn’t learning all the warmups and things so majority of my time at practice I was sitting around confused. I was getting back in bed regularly when I got home because I was cold or I was tired. Most of what I’d do was while I was in bed. Although the big thing I remember was that I didn’t realize how much I was fucking up until later that year. I started figuring out people were covering up things behind me. I noticed that during shows there was someone right next to me playing my part in case I messed up. It got so bad I would wait for quiet moments of the show and press random buttons and would just hear silence. My grades in school were being listed as G grades whatever the fuck that means, all I knew was that it didn’t effect my gpa. God bless my counselor for figuring that out.

It being my junior year at the end of the year we sat down and started figuring out college options and that was the moment I said fuck this! Me and my dad walked into this meeting with my counselor, principal, and some other faculty. My counselor was breaking down that I should look at OCC and as soon as she said that I checked out. They were all talking and I spent that entire meeting calculating in my head how to fix this shit. It had been my dream since I was six years old to go to the University of Michigan. I knew I was fucking that opportunity up. I started thinking okay, I need to take harder classes, I need to get all As, I need a leadership role in marching band, and I need to take care of my own shit, how do I do that? I need a desk so I’m not doing all my work in bed. I need a scanner so I can scan my own work and don’t have to relay through or rely on someone else. I know people have already started figuring out how I can go to band camp so that’s something I’ll be able to do. I set a goal in my head of not missing a single practice no matter what time it was, what the weather was like, or how I felt. All of this was going through my head and the last part of the meeting I remember was figuring out my senior class schedule. All these easier classes were being said and I just said no. I want to take my AP classes, I want a full schedule, and I don’t want any online classes I want them to be in person, I want to get back to doing what I used to. I remember my counselors face lighting up because I know she remembers the motivated Drew before all of this and she could see it in me what I was saying. Later I had a meeting with my section instructor and I believe the band instructor was there too and I told them both that I wanted a larger role next year and that I wanted to do more and be more involved.

I spent the entire next summer getting ready for next year. I started practicing staying in my chair all day. I went shopping for desks that were tall enough for me to get under. I looked for feed scanners so I could scan everything after school. Dad asked for help from a friend at church for an idea he had for a desk for me and I still use the same desk. It’s connected to the wall on hinges so it can collapse down when I’m not using it. I got a canon scanner so it had a feed and flat bed. Over the summer I made sure to make it to every summer practice, started really learning how to read the treble clef, started memorizing our warmup exercises, and I was able to go to band camp ready and on track with everyone else. Me, my mom, Desirae, and my nurse Sugar all went to band camp staying at a hotel close to the camp. That week was extremely difficult for all of us but was so much fun at the same time.

That senior year I accomplished all my goals. I was back to a full schedule and took things like AP Calculus. Every day after school I went home to scan my papers from that day and finish any homework I could. Afterwards I would then go to marching band practice. Going to practice every day made it much easier to memorize all my music and parts. Same with doing all the homework in my classes made it easier for me to remember everything for the tests. That year I believe was one of the best bands I had ever been a part of. My section was definitely the most talented group that year and had some of the hardest music written to go with it. Either that year or my sophomore year before my accident was the best band I had been in. We went on to win almost every competition that year. We won our second state championship in a row. If it hadn’t been for technical difficulties at nationals I strongly believe we would’ve made semis and who knows possibly top ten. That year was also my best year ever academically. I got all As the first semester for the first time ever, even before my accident. Afterwards I applied to two schools, Lawrence Tech and the University of Michigan, and wasn’t just accepted but received scholarships to both. I spent the next five and a half years at my dream school since I was six years old and will possibly spend two more there for graduate school.

When I think back to the meeting at the end of my junior year that started all of this I notice how crucial that year was for me. It taught me that if you let them, people will let you feel satisfied at whatever you accomplish. At no point in that year did anyone say I wasn’t applying myself. No one had higher expectations for me. Everyone was willing to make excuses for what I was doing. Even though inside I knew I was capable of much more. That year taught me that if you aren’t your own greatest motivator you won’t accomplish anything that you envision for yourself. It also showed me that the people in my life an insane amount of trust in me. Seriously though, to this day I wonder why did they believe in me?? Why did they trust me to do that?? I came in senior year and my instructor had written me a much larger part, there wasn’t anyone next to me overseeing anything, I actually was with a younger guy and it was his first year taking over the electronics as well. Nothing I did prior to that showed I was ready for the responsibility and for them to count on me and my performance. They did it anyway and I was able to follow through on what I said I'd do. If it hadn’t been for the trust of all my instructors and counselors I never would’ve been able to do those things!

Going into this new year I hope everyone is able to look at my story and ask themselves, am I going after my dream? If not figure out what you need to do so, dig down deep, and start doing whatever is necessary to get there and don’t stop or lose focus until you’ve achieved it. Everything I do is going towards my goal of graduating with a bioinformatics degree from my dream school so that I can do medical research. That’s my goal, that’s been my goal, and I am going to do everything in my power to continue that dream. I’ve started naming each post after songs and this one is gonna be Surprise Yourself by Jack Garratt because if you go after your dream you know what, you might surprise yourself. So let go, and surprise yourself. Gandhi said be the change you want to see in the world. Screw that. Be the change you want to see in yourself and you’ll spread it to the rest of the world.

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