On Failure and Embracing Change

December is always a reflective month for me. In part because it’s the end of the year and I think everyone has a tendency to look back at the year that’s gone by as well as ahead to the year that’s coming. On a more personal level, December is my late father’s birthday month and I think often of him and how life might be different were he still here. This month, I lost a college friend to an extremely rare, unexpected illness just days after she was placed on a transplant list, and a childhood friend lost her mother hours after a double lung transplant that she had waited twelve years to receive. December also marks the anniversary of the biggest, most life-changing event I have ever experienced.

It marks the month that I flunked out of music school.

Many people know that I studied music in college and that officially it’s my minor. Some people know that I actually spent over three years as music major before switching to French. Not many people know that the reason I switched was because the music department at my university deemed that I longer had the right amount of talent to continue in my degree program and I had to find something else to study.

I had never failed on such an enormous scale before in my life. To say that I was crushed is only the half of it; I wanted to be a musician for my whole life, and I had spent my middle school and high school years preparing to that end. Private voice and piano lessons, music theory courses, singing in several different choirs, interning with my high school choir director, participating in theatrical productions, everything. After the failure, I spent the entire month of Christmas break in a complete fog and deep depression. I had no idea what was next for me or how to move on. All of my friends were music majors; I had lived in the music residential college. It was truly the only life I knew.

In January, a tiny voice crept into the back of my head. Maybe you could study French, it whispered. After all, I had taken language classes on the side and intended to minor in French anyway. I had a great relationship (and still do) with my French professors. The voice became a little stronger as I considered the prospect of studying something I actually felt good at, as I looked at the possibility of studying abroad: Why not French?

Looking back now, my failure as a music major was one of the best things that ever could have happened to me. I felt like I was made to study French, and immediately it felt easier than music ever had. I felt like a missing piece of my personal puzzle had finally been found. In studying French, I found so much joy and opportunity and everyday I’m thankful that I wound up where I am.

My failure also taught me one other thing: change comes whether we like it or not. Despite how much we may plan for our futures, none of us truly know what’s coming. At first, that was a scary sentiment but now it brings me comfort and a feeling akin to adventure or exhilaration. I have no idea who I am going to meet in the course of the next six months or a year, or what opportunities may present themselves that I don’t yet know about. I have no idea who or what may enter my life to change my worldview, to spur that little voice again that says Why not this?

What’s going to come will come – opportunity or misfortune, success or failure. We can’t predict or control it; what we can do is embrace the change and try to imagine what life has in store for us.

Here’s to 2017.

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