The College Years
Moving to Nashville, TN and attending Belmont University was one of those “sliding doors” moments in my life. Up until my last year of high school, Nashville was most certainly not in my life plans (despite the rampant popularity of country music in the Midwest, I always had a passionate disdain for the genre). For as long as kids are supposed to consider which university to attend, I had planned on attending University of Southern California. I had researched their Music Industry program, and had determined that LA was where I wanted to be (at least for college–NYC was always my ultimate dream destination). Through a random discussion with a recruiter at a college fair, I had discovered Belmont’s Music Business school and subsequently arranged a visit. I fell in love with the small campus, and Nashville’s close (but not too close) proximity to my home state seemed appealing, but USC was still #1. I got into both schools and agonized over my options for months. I had housing requests and financial aid set up to both schools, biding my time until I ultimately had to make a decision. I’m typically someone that follows my gut instinct, and for reasons unexplainable, I made the leap towards Belmont. I packed my little Saturn, moved to Tennessee and vowed never to return to Indiana beyond the occasional visit. My plan was to get in, learn as much about the industry as possible, and get the hell out of there to more metropolitan pastures.
For the most part, my jobs held during my college years were mundane. I was a hostess in a brewery. I was an administrative assistant. I edited single-camera instructional videos about Jesus. I even worked as one of those people that go into retail stores after hours and manually count their inventory. See what I mean? B-O-R-I-N-G. The job I held the longest was under the employ of Every Nation Ministries (the organization responsible for the aforementioned Jesus videos), or as my dad would describe it, a noticeably not-Catholic charismatic cult church. Much like every other occupation, I didn’t apply for the job out of any long-term career plans. I needed money, and if that meant working for a church organization or counting t-shirts at Express, I was content to do the work. I won’t dive into the details about my work at EN because it is a section of a larger narrative I’d love to share later. I will say this, though—I understand that somebody needs to run the business logistics of churches, but I also recognize that I am not one of those people. Unfortunately, working behind the scenes of “God’s work” left me little more than cynical, jaded and broke. Sigh. Such is life. (Side note: this should not at all reflect poorly on the 6 or 7 stellar people that I worked with directly on my team. Those folks were awesome, and my bosses were remarkable people. It was being a cog in this larger machine that left me a tad deflated. As I mentioned, much bigger story here than I have room to do justice to in this series, but I will one day. I promise. )
On the academic side, let me give you a little context on what it was like to study the music industry from 2002-2005. This was the post-napster, pre-Itunes era, and the Nashville community was terrified. They filled our seminars with browbeating lectures on the career consequences of illegally downloading music. Since, this is an industry perpetuated by the who-you-know mentality, they also spent a lot of time trying to teach us how to network. At the same time, I soon discovered that I didn’t really have a knack for picking up recording technology, and became flustered when I began to imagine life outside the walls of my school. I think there are 2 types of graduates from Belmont’s music business school: those who leave ready to enthusiastically tackle the business of music, and those that leave loathing the industry. Unfortunately for me, by the time I graduated, I was hardly listening to music at all which is the most depressing sentence to write. Learning about the business side of things completely sucked the joy out of music for me (this was not the case for most of my classmates. It’s just me. I’m weird).
If I could emphasize one major life lesson learned during the ages of 18-23, it would be this: never make absolute statements, and if you must, whatever you do, don’t make them out loud. In addition to my life-long vow never to wait tables, as my parents dropped me off at school in 2002, I promised not only to never leave the Catholic Church (oops!), but I promised never again to be an Indiana resident. I was convinced I had bigger and better plans, and I was also certain I knew exactly how my adult life would play out. Ah, the pride and foolishness of youth. Now you all can understand why I was depressed at the age of 24, when I moved back home to Greenwood, Indiana, unemployed and started waiting tables at the Olive Garden.