I like to think that for every tradition-filled, awe-inspiring story at Northwestern, there’s also a quirky one to match it. Forgive me as I use this space to share my own story and by the end, you can be the judge of how it ought to be categorized.

The whole story begins back in August of 2012 when I first arrived on campus for fall camp with the football team. As I was adjusting to the size and speed on the field, apparently I also needed time to adjust to the size and shape of the eating utensils in the Midwest (being from California) because not two weeks into my stay, I severed the tendon to my right pinky finger with a butter knife while in the athletic facility cafeteria. On first glance, I judged it to just be a deep cut that would heal with a little time. Lucky for me, I had sliced right through the tendon controlling the last knuckle of my right pinky which would need surgery for repair.
Being the newest eager and ambitious member of the Division I football community, a surgery to give me movement in my pinky was unthinkable. I can catch the football just as well with my other 9 fingers! And besides, the repaired tendon would take at least 3 months to fully heal which would pose a whole new set of challenges. Thoughts like, “How would I take notes in class?” and “What the heck will my fellow classmates think of such a silly off-the-field injury?” plagued my conscience as decision time approached. But it was the wise counsel and stern recommendation of my mother which persuaded me to actually go under the knife and get that pinky fixed. Mothers always know best. Though I may not have fully grasped this at the time, I would later come to realize the truth of this principle in a fresh and new way.

One of the most crucial details to this story is that I’m also a self-taught piano player. Now I’m not your classically trained connoisseur who can just sit down and bust out some Bach or Beethoven, but I can hold my own with those beloved Michael Bublé or John Legend tunes. As I recovered from the surgery, it came to my attention that the annual Northwestern Student-Athlete Talent Show was approaching in January. Long story short, I ended up performing in that talent show and winning first prize for my mashup of ‘Use Somebody’ by Kings of Leon and ‘Ordinary People’ by John Legend. What a blast I had and what a surprise it was to everyone including myself! Looking back, I’m immensely thankful to my mom for guiding me to get the surgery because as any musician knows, it’s very helpful to have all 10 digits functioning at their full potential.

Since getting that surgery, I’ve gotten the chance to play in 3 talent shows, collaborate with different NU musicians, play for different Greek life events and write my own original songs. Far be it from me to laud this story as the proudest sequence of events in my life, but every time my hands are graced with the opportunity to tickle those ivory keys, there’s always that reminder in the back of my mind: Mama knows best. But now the cat is out of the bag. Perhaps I’ll live to see this story spread, stretch and soar in becoming a diamond of Northwestern redemption, or perhaps it will only continue to make me the most cautionary person around all types of sharp eating utensils. Whatever the case, I can still play piano unhindered and for that, I say thanks, Mom.

–Austin Carr

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