Picking a Major Or Picking a Life?

When I was a kid, I'd pull out my dad's old Royal 440 typewriter and peck out news stories, headlines and all, about neighborhood happenings, school events, and "soap opera" updates.

No bicycle wrecks or new backyard fort went uncovered by the neighborhood's cub reporter. I even had my cat answering an advice column called "Dear Pixie," where she responded to letters from the neighborhood pets.

As much as I loved creating newspapers, I also loved creating music on the flute. I would practice scales for hours just to hear the light, fluffy tone of the silver woodwind. As soon as I learned a new piece I would be ready to perform. My parents spent many nights in the living room watching their 11-year-old play a sketchy version of "London Bridges" and years later a more polished rendition of Mozart's "Concerto in G."

Little did I know that in just a few years, when I went to college, my two loves wold come into conflict - and I'd have to choose between the two.

I'd kept up with both music and journalism throughout high school, where I was the editor of my school newspaper and an All-State flute player. My life revolved around newspaper deadlines and music competitions.

But as graduation approached and it came time to choose a college, I was faced with the biggest decision I've ever had to make: Choosing a college that was great for both of my primary interests. I had hoped that pursuing scholarships to both music and journalism schools would make the decision for me.

An audition at the University of North Texas in Denton, one of the best flute colleges in the nation, landed me a music scholarship, so that must mean I should become a musician. But the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, with one of the top journalism schools in the nation, had seen the high school newspapers I had submitted and also offered me a scholarship.

I felt I had to know, at 18, exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Of course, there are those teens who might not have had a problem with this - they're the types who seem to have had one ambition forever. My twin sister, Joni, for example, knew in high school that she wanted to save the earth, so she searched for a school that offered environmental science. Others are waiting for inspiration to hit them on the head. My younger sister, Leslie, falls into that category - she'll be a sophomore in college but still hasn't made up her mind.

The choice of what major, and eventually career, to focus on seems enormous when you're a freshman, but it doesn't determine what you do for the rest of your life. What I realized was that I could have it both ways. If I went to Alabama, I could study to be a full-time journalist while training to be a part-time flutist. And that's what I did. I've found that I can apply my musical ability wherever my journalism takes me.

After my sophomore year, I interned for a small daily newspaper in Alabama. While there, I played a flute solo for one of the town's churches while covering a church event for the newspaper. When I worked for the news bureau at UA during my senior year, I played for several church Christmas concerts and the symphonic band.

We all have to make difficult decisions - some so important they determine where our lives are going to go, like choosing a college. But when faced with a decision between two things you really love to do, the decision doesn't have to be all or nothing.

* Cindy Fisher graduated with a bachelor's degree in journalism and a minor in music. She is working as a metro reporter at the Birmingham Post-Herald.

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