Years ago, our older daughter played trombone in her high school marching band.

One of the mantras from her experience was “check and adjust.”

After running the band through rehearsing a small section of its show, the band director would stop the rehearsal, and call out “check and adjust!”

The notion was that each musician knew just where his or her ‘dots’ were on the field for any given moment in the performance, and upon hearing “check and adjust,” musicians were to look around and check to see if they landed right on their dots. If not, then they’d need to “adjust,” that is move a little bit to where their dot should be in relation to the music, the show choreography, and other performers.

It didn’t take long for “check and adjust!” to become a metaphor in our household (and I’d venture to guess, in other band members’ households.)

Physics class isn’t going as well as you’d like? Well, “check and adjust!” Maybe it’s time to study more, or maybe it’s time to set your sights on chemistry next term.

A particular piece of writing isn’t working? Well, “check and adjust!” Maybe it’s time to play with a new point of view, or get a trusted reader’s input.

That pie recipe is too runny? Well, “check and adjust!” Maybe there needs to be a mite more tapioca mixed in with those berries.

You can quickly imagine how this mantra became shorthand in all sorts of situations. Take a look around. Not where you want to be? Or perhaps the world has changed around you? Check to see what that means–exactly. Then adjust what you’re doing to get the best out of the given circumstances.

I recently went on a road trip, both to see a dear cousin and to attend a writing conference, and that phrase “check and adjust” kept resonating in my mind as I drove down the highway. The pragmatic came to mind–how I’ve come to check and adjust how and when and where I travel in our COVID-ridden times. And I also thought about the phrase more philosophically, how I’ve come to check and adjust just what I want out of my life, both writing and personal.

It was a good “check and adjust” conversation to have with myself, and I’m sure I’ll have it again.

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Be well,