By Ryan Rosenberger
I remember it like it was yesterday. It was my senior year of high school, and much like my peers, I was in the process of figuring out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I was never much of a student growing up, but I had many passions and interests that I felt would best be explored by going to college.
Although choosing a career path was daunting to me as an 18-year-old, I was well aware of one thing that was the deciding factor in not only my original program of choice, but the one I have recently switched to as well. As cliche as it sounds, I knew that I would have to “follow my heart” if I truly wanted to succeed.
Throughout my childhood, my biggest struggle was being able to exert the same amount of effort into something that I didn’t care about, as opposed to how much effort I would put into something I was genuinely interested in. My grades in school were a prime example of this. My math and science grades were always much worse than my grades in English, music and history because I found the latter three subjects much more interesting.
During the college application process, I was torn between majoring in music, or something writing related. I filled out two separate applications for almost every school I applied to. After thinking long and hard, I decided to give music a shot.
Once I was enrolled in the program, I was very confident in my decision. After all, music had been my entire life for 10 years. What would be different now when it would literally be the only thing I was doing? Not only that, but the thought of studying music in the middle of downtown Chicago was a once in a lifetime opportunity to me. I felt destined to take advantage.
My first semester was a time of personal growth and prosperity. Although it took me a bit to grow accustomed to the courseload, I adjusted well. I loved what I was doing. Whether it was practicing, rehearsing, taking private lessons or jamming with other musicians, I enjoyed it. I even achieved a 3.0 GPA for the first time.
The second semester was going to be a lot tougher. Looking at a much larger workload, I felt ready. I was doing everything I needed to do to be successful. However, as the semester drew on, I started to feel drained. There were days when practicing became a chore. At first, I didn’t think much of it. I realized it was college, and that most people question their choice of major at one point or another. I was in a conservatory-style program, after all.
The following summer, I found myself having trouble establishing a consistent practice schedule. I really wanted to use those three and a half months productively, honing in on my weaknesses as a musician. Although I was practicing daily, I found myself becoming increasingly disinterested in whatever it was that I was working on. My heart simply wasn’t in it.
By this time, I had recurring thoughts about whether I wanted to do this as a career, but again, I thought nothing of it. I thought I was just going through a slump, as all musicians do from time to time. However, throughout the entire summer, I continued wearing myself out practicing when I simply didn’t want to. As soon as playing my horn became an obligation, it became a never-ending chore. It was no longer fulfilling.
At the beginning of my sophomore year, I felt refreshed. I experienced a newfound motivation to get better. But, when the smoke cleared, I began to realize that change was needed. However, it took a long time to fully accept that I needed one. By this time, music had been the dominant force in my life for a decade, and it was bewildering to think of a life beyond that. When considering my options, I went back to the same rule of thumb that made me choose music in the first place; to follow my passions. I realized that a career in a writing field of some sort was my calling, and I made the decision to switch to journalism. Ever since then, a massive weight has been lifted off of my shoulders.
There are two vital lessons that I have learned from this experience. One is to not have regrets about past decisions, because you can’t fault yourself for something you wanted in that moment. We as human beings are constantly evolving, and as a result, the path we travel in life can switch directions in an instant. The second lesson, equally as important, is to realize that it’s never too late to make a change. It took me a full three semesters to realize that I needed to take a different path. Yes, that’s a long time, but it doesn’t mean that I’m not better off for making the switch. We only have one chance in this life. I believe that it is of utmost importance to get it right.