I recently brought my euphonium out of the basement after several years of not playing. The valves are stiff and the mouthpiece is tarnished, but it’s nothing that can’t be fixed.
When I first went to college right after high school, I majored in music – something I had planned from a very young age. I’ve known since elementary school that I was supposed to be a musician, or so I thought. Throughout my childhood, I had private music lessons, played in band at school and summer camp, and had future plans set in stone. I was disciplined and rigid.
I was excited and over-confident when I finally got to leave for college. I attended an in-state school about two hours from my home. Everything seemed to be okay at first, but my situation quickly went downhill.
I had been struggling with undiagnosed mental illness for years. It had been bubbling underneath and was about to break the surface. College wasn’t what I thought it would be. After a year and a half, I dropped out. I moved away – or more like ran away – to the other side of the country. I felt like a failure, and it was devastating. Being a musician was the only plan I had, and I had stopped playing completely. My life felt pretty aimless.
After almost two years of being away from home, I reached out to my parents to get help for my mental illness. I moved in with my parents, and after several months of recovery, I returned to college and to my music studies. However, this time I was certain. Time passed as I tried to get back on track, but I knew being a musician just wasn’t for me.
This time I had other interests, but no real plans. I tried several different majors on for size and really racked up the student loans. I still felt like I was wasting all those years of music training.
It wasn’t until I transferred to a local community college that I really felt like my life had direction again. I studied commercial art technology and loved it. I graduated with an associate degree in 2014.
Today I have things I want to do, but my plans are much hazier and I’m okay with that. You’re probably not going to follow the plans you made in elementary school.
Unfortunately, my memories of music school are plagued by symptoms of mental illness, feelings of failure, and burnout, but I would really like to make peace with my past and enjoy playing my euphonium again.