Why I chose music over banking

Yesterday was unbelievably hot for the Chicago suburbs in October. I was 18 miles into a 30 mile bike ride, with the 92 degree heat beating down on my back and radiating up off of the highway pavement. Sucking down my final gel pack (150 calories of pure electrolytes) and draining my last sip of water, I knew the final 12 miles were going to hurt, a lot.

It’s hard to put into words what “hitting the wall” is like to anyone outside of the cycling community. Your muscles turn to acid, your throat goes completely dry, and your mind is filled with the fear that this particular highway really does stretch on forever. I’d been saving my iPod for this moment. The latest projects from Kanye West and Foo Fighters helped get me home.

Ok, let’s rewind. My name is tower, and I’m 24 years old. I’m the afternoon drive host on 89.7 Shine.FM Chicago, one of the top Christian hits stations in the country. I also write, do on-camera television work, and compete in triathlons (hence the hellish training ride). I’ve been asked to blog here at Relevantmag.com about music. And if I’m to expect any credibility with you, the reader, I’d better make a pretty clear case of why I want to share my thoughts on the subject.

Let’s jump back 8 years. I’m a junior in high school, trying to wipe the sweat off my palms onto my dress pants as I await the result of two months of interviewing. I’d been competing against 100 other high school students for a high-exposure banking internship that would guarantee a full ride through college, and executive status by the age of 24. I walked into that office, and a salt-and-pepper-haired middle manager informed me with a large smile that I was “the one” that they were looking for.

I went home, traded my black dress shoes for a pair of Chuck Taylors, and headed down to a local coffee shop to check out a local punk band desperately trying to be the next big name/number phenomenon (hey, it was 1999-the year of Blink 182 and Sum 41). They weren’t even that good…but when I felt the energy of the crowd, I knew that I could never trade this feeling of freedom for days putting on a suit and adding up numbers.

So, (to the disappointment of certain family members) I chose the free-spirited world of radio over guaranteed financial success and security.

Just a week ago, I noticed a fan comment on the myspace page for Counting Crows that helped me remember why I’m spending my life talking to people I can’t see and playing songs for people I’ll never meet.

I was listening to Across a Wire for the first time in a long time yesterday on the way home from my 9-5…maybe it’s the stress or just that I’m burnt out, but I found tears rolling down my cheeks when Adam Duritz started repeating “I don’t want to waste my life…you don’t to waste your life, baby” in Murder of One.

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Sad how I went to school for 4 years to get a job that I hate, and I only feel alive in little moments like that.

I think we all know that feeling…to find a moment of sanctuary in a song as the world caves in all around. It doesn’t really matter if it’s Death Cab for Cutie, Stevie Wonder, Switchfoot, Tupac, Rosie Thomas, Johnny Cash…it’s the reassurance that someone else out there has been where we are now. And that things turned out ok.

As someone who has now navigated the first half of of this defining decade (my 25th birthday is just a month away)…I can tell you that it’s a crazy, wonderful, confusing, soul-building time of your life. You’re going to be on top of a few mountains. You’re going to make decisions that will determine the course of the next 50 years of your existence. And you’re going to be broke, heartbroken, and scared along the way. But I’ve found that the journey of this life stage is just a little easier, more lighthearted, and memorable with the right soundtrack. I hope to use this blog to introduce you to music that makes you smile in spite of yourself, forces you to think about life in new ways, and returns you to a place of child-like wonder when all you want to do is wrap yourself in cynicism.

And I’ll take that over banking any day.

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