What changed me

A recent post on Oh Joy asked, “What are the events or moments that changed you?”

My life has been pretty blessed, actually. I’ve had a happy childhood, a loving family, good friends, academic success, early career stability, and no major tragedies. So there’s been no single event that made me wake up and smell the coffee.

Still, I can think of a few important things that set my course.

1999-2003-band-progress

Music. In sixth grade, I learned to play the flute. Woodwinds practiced separately from the brass and percussion. I vividly remember the chills I got when we played in ensemble for the first time. We weren’t good, but it didn’t matter. The chills. Soon I moved on to saxophone, and it turned out I was good at it. Band defined my high school experience. Though I started out painfully shy, I grew bolder and became a section leader. I found good friends and a few boyfriends too. We performed at football games, national competitions, and even Disneyworld. Band taught me more than music. It taught me how to step forward and solo.

St. Peter's Square, May 2007

Italy. My family took a whirlwind Europe tour when I was 18. The whole experience was eye-opening in the best ways, and I especially fell in love with bella Italia. I made my way back two years later for a summer program. It was incredibly intimidating and rewarding to navigate foreign social situations, travel by train and bus, and become a gelateria regular (the clerk knew my name). Then in 2007, right after college graduation, I returned alone for two weeks with a backpack and no plan. I stayed in hostels and overcame my fear of befriending strangers. I carried on hourlong conversations in another language. I lived spontaneously. It made me feel like I can conquer anything.

Mine was the first on the right

Cubicles. When college spit me out into a full-time corporate job, I struggled. I had a hard time sitting still for nine hours straight. There weren’t multiple classes to walk between and to engage different interests. There weren’t even semester course changes — this was forever. I could see the sameness stretching forty years ahead, and it suffocated me. As a result, I’m now on my fourth job and working on the fifth. Cubicles showed me that I want a different path.

So, what changed you?

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