Second finger, second fret. First, third, fourth finger, third fret. Sixth and fourth strings open, strum. Down, down, up, up, down, up. Repeat. First and second finger move back one string. C chord. D chord. E minor, D, C. Back to G. Down, down, up, up, down, up.

That’s me, trying to play “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” by Green Day on the guitar. I’m horrible. Or at least painfully slow. I’m about ready to say good riddance to this crap. Yet I can’t help but feel accomplished when I notice the calluses developing on my left fingers.

I took Beginning Guitar for a few reasons: one, I had a seventy-five minute gap in my afternoon schedule and I never do anything productive during between-class breaks. Two, my Dad has been playing guitar since 1966 and those beautiful, complex sounds remind me of sitting at his feet while he tunes. Three, I have this idea that I should do things that don’t come naturally.

I played clarinet and bass clarinet in middle school – I gave it up because I hated practicing and kept hitting my front teeth with the mouthpiece. I told my Mom that band preached too much conformity and commitment. I switched into P.E. and the very first day got hit in the face with a volleyball. But I stuck it out and my non-involvement with band did open up many opportunities for nonconformist activities like chess club, writing club, and researching United States drug laws.

My first semester at OU I took Macroeconomics with Dr. Clark because Macro and Microeconomics are required for my International Studies degree. I quickly discovered something I was not good at. It wasn’t because it was a 500 person lecture class – I enjoyed the format, it made me feel like I was attending a town hall meeting on how the economy really works. I’m okay enough at math to have scraped together A’s in all my high school and concurrent classes, but actually applying math – and the entirely new logic of economists – was overwhelming. Happily, the Economics tutors at the Action Tutoring program saved me with much patience and sympathy (I’ll admit it – I cried the first time I went to tutoring because I was so lost).

Now, I’m pursuing an Economics minor. I’m still terrible at math, and I made Bs in both Macro and Micro (and Intermediate Micro). But Economics has given me a new mental map of the world – a different way of looking at things. Taking Macroeconomics during the 2008 elections gave me (an iota of) insight into the each candidate’s policies. I have some grasp of how to apply economic thinking to environmental problems – a critical subject when discussing cap and trade or green-collar job creation.

I prefer to study cultures, literatures, and systems of oppression (my other minor is Social Justice), and I’ve found there’s a disconnect between economics and these disciplines. It’s important for me to study them in tandem because they test, try, and balance one another. But more importantly, economics tests, tries, and balances me.

I’m not saying my other courses are easy, but economics challenges me to think outside my comfort zone. Social justice is intuitive for me – economics is not. And that’s how music is, too.

Poetry is my game (and prose, as well). The rhythm and melody and cadences of languages enthral me, I believe that the right person reading the phone book can be enchanting. But music is an alien world to me – its laws and customs bewildering. When I listen to “Good Riddance” I’m thinking about the symbolism of tattoos and dead skin and the personification of Time, not chord changes and strumming patterns. But I’m learning to think about it – to listen to it, to see how the words notes make meaning together. Just like economics and social justice.

G, C, D, E minor. Down, down, up, up, down, up.

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