Blood splatter caught only in my peripheral vision, blisters all over my hands that often lasted weeks, the odd whack in the head from a rogue stick, and it comes to a another love of mine; playing the drums. Incredibly dynamic, stress relieving, and sometimes painful, drums are an instrument that become an extension of your body. The rhythms you create are yours and sometimes when you’re so deep in the moment, you can create beats that are very hard to repeat when you hear them played back to you. In 1993, I decided I really wanted to learn how to play the drums. I’d seen drum kits in shop windows and even had a toy kit to play on when I was younger, but now I really wanted to get stuck in. Being taught by different teachers gave me different perspectives and thoughts around how I should best play and what I should try to achieve. At the time I didn’t have my own drum kit, so I practiced whenever I could at school. One day, my grade three teacher heard me practicing and said she wanted a full class demonstration. I happily obliged, excited to be showing off my new talent even if I’d only been playing a few months. It was a cold, rainy day as I sat down to command this kit, which from the perspective of an eight year old was like commanding a ship. With my back to the class and a large window behind them, I felt the dull outside daylight beam onto me like it was an operatic performance. The only thing I remember doing that day was sucking! I couldn’t keep the many different beats I’d learnt in time for my audience to decipher. Think of a Metallica song and a Cher song playing at the same time and you get the idea of what it sounded like. I’m sure those who witnessed this destruction of eardrums would’ve thought that the drums were a noise-making stress machine designed to hurt little people. But to my amazement, everyone clapped and so my confidence was slightly restored. Three years later at a school play, I was tasked to drum along to the school song, which was performed by the whole school at the end of the play in front of a crowd of about 1500 people. Slightly more confident than I was in ’93 and with a better skill level, I cracked on with the rhythm as I’d practiced, only to lose the beat completely in the last 30 seconds of the song, which put the whole band off and caused a cringing wriggle in the crowd as if someone had passed wind. I was devastated; my planning, timing, and practicing all went crashing into a heap as I looked at my conductor’s face which was filled with disappointment as he struggled to keep the whole performance together. The one thing in common with both those performances was I was as nervous as a deer squaring up with a lion as I entered the stage. Prior to going on stage in future performances, I would visualise myself at the end of the performance with everyone smiling and clapping and saying I did an amazing job. Sure enough, that visualisation often came to fruition when I’d actually finished a performance. The drums had taught me to control my nerves and to enjoy the moment, something that helped me deal with my military application and moreover assisted me in my quest to win at the Lynx Space Academy. I still blast away on the drums whenever I get the chance (back in school, any kid that didn’t know my name would refer to me as “the guy that plays the drums”). The childhood lessons I had of loving all, not giving up, and controlling my nerves would come into play on my next adventure…
COMING UP: My first taste of piloting an aircraft
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