Semester Four, Week Six / by Michael Nichols

I just finished my second response essay for Dr. Herman's MUS 206 (that's American Music History), and I must say that I've realized that I've done a lot of second guessing and freaking out over things I shouldn't have and overthinking, a process of which I am the undisputable master. I had a choice of four topics to choose from. My choice, in short, was to talk about the significant role a band has played in my life.

Now, I know what half of you are thinking. "Oh, no. He's going to ramble to his professor about every single Yellowcard record in existence." Shockingly, no -- I think it's relevant that I'm currently listening to their song "Only One" from their release Ocean Avenue Acoustic. Actually, one of the possibilities explicitly stated in the topic description was that I could talk about my own experience being a part of a band. So, that's what I talked about.

Everything came back to me, how we started out as a pair of strangers at a coffee-and-music event put on by a local church (which I'm now a part of). I remembered how I had this decades-old guitar with a broken saddle being held together by scotch tape and supported by a bottle cap. I remembered I sang a solo version of "Shadows and Regrets," also by Yellowcard, a mutual favorite band. I remembered being this lonely teenage cynic who wasn't sure who or what to trust or believe in, other than having learned all his life that Jesus is the main person to trust, and that He is trustworthy.

I remember writing all of these super angry-depressed songs but hiding behind an exterior that pretended everything was okay at home and at school and at a very old-school, conformed-to-tradition church, when I felt like I belonged in none of those places. But then I remember meeting this dude who liked to write and play music like I did, who believed in Jesus but didn't condemn me for not following every nit-picky little tradition to the letter, who treated me like a normal person. To this day, he's still a bandmate, co-writer, and one of the best friends I've had, who's been there through some of my darkest times, helped me make sense of stuff, been a voice of compassion and a fire under me when I needed both. I look forward to continuing to work with him and be a friend to him the same way he has been to me.

But there are some things I didn't remember. Not that I forgot all the mistakes I've made, all the good times I've missed, all the bad times I could have avoided, all the people whom I've betrayed or have betrayed me, all the people whom I've hurt and have hurt me, the ignorance, the idiocy, the immaturity, all of myself and others -- no, I haven't forgotten those times... but unlike what has been true of me since spring 2008, I think back on these times with this awesome friend of mine, whom I'd tag here if he were on WordPress, and I don't think about the dark times. I still hold them in the back of my mind as lessons I've learned, but they're just echoes now, things that have no more power over me.

When I wrote my essay, I related it to the music, but in writing that essay, I realized all of this other stuff. No matter how hard life has been so far, I haven't been stopped from living, pursuing what I love, being human, or believing that Jesus loves me and has a future for me both here and in eternity -- though, for those of you who don't know, I've come close to all these things over the past five years. That's the power that one single friend among billions of people on this planet has had...

... and that is why I believe in good, why I believe in love, and why I believe in God.

Nothing in this world has been able to take away my joy, and by the grace of God alone, nothing will.