Eight years ago, I was training to be an opera singer. I was living in New York City, where I was born and raised. My days consisted of vocal lessons, coaching, rehearsals, and auditions. I had already had my big break when I was just 20 and was invited to sing as a soloist at the launch of the foundation of Marcello Giordano-The Metropolitan Opera’s leading tenor. To put it somewhat humbly, I was headed in the right direction.
But then something changed. And it led me to think about the road not taken. The path that I chose not to go down. What happens when we change our plan?
From that big break, I got my next. I was invited to be a student of a top operatic vocal coach who coached many singers at the Metropolitan Opera. He invited me to join an opera festival the following summer that would take place in Ischia, an island off the coast of Naples in Italy. I was always terrified of flying and wasn’t sure I was going to be able to go because of my fear, but I did.
From that experience, my outlook changed. Traveling to Italy; the land of my ancestors, changed me. My great grandfather was born in Italy and my mother grew up surrounded by a beautiful, loving Italian family. I had always felt a deep connection to my Italian heritage. Being in Italy and experiencing the culture, history, people, and food felt like coming back to where I belonged. It felt like I was where I was meant to be. Suddenly, opera started taking a backseat. I no longer felt the love for singing I once had. I was still singing, but it was more like following the motions of something that I just happened to be good at.
I started developing my other passion that I had loved since I was a little girl. Cooking. From when I was four years old, my mother began taking me around NYC as we sampled the cuisines of India, Japan, Indonesia, China, Spain, and Greece. Being in Italy made my curiosity about other cultures even stronger.
After having spent that summer in Italy, I started cooking more, which led me to travel once again to Italy to attend a culinary program. Once back in NYC, I started my own private dining company. I had, for the most part, stopped singing all together (except for the occasional “Libiamo” at private catered events). Opera no longer felt fun, and I no longer felt the same rush I once felt from singing.
After traveling back and forth to Italy for more than four years, I realized, that’s it. I need to move here. At first, I was convinced to settle in Florence, but I changed my idea and wanted to be someplace that was the complete opposite of NYC. So, I decided to come and search for a house in a small rural town in the South of Naples called Guardia Sanfamondi.
Instantly, I felt connected to the town. I was attracted to the peace, beauty, and sense of community. I wanted to make this my new home, so I did and became a first-time homeowner. I made friends quickly and I started a private dining business. Within three years of moving, I married the love of my life and we now have a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter.
Everything, including music, led me to exactly where I am now. Studying music led me to get on a plane and come to Italy. Italy led me to my passion for a new life and cooking. Cooking and travel led me to settle here in Italy. And being here led me to my new life. Had I not taken these steps, I wouldn’t have my beautiful daughter.
Change can be good. We shouldn’t be afraid of it. I moved to a new country where I didn’t know anyone, had no job and did not speak the language. But that was part of the excitement.
What’s more frightening is the unknown. If we stick to something just because it was part of our plan, is it because we really want to go forward with it or because we’re scared of not knowing “what if?” What if I changed paths? Would I fail? Would I be a success? You don’t know. Just like you don’t know if you’d succeed with your original plan.
If you’re struggling with the idea, maybe just should go for it. Everyone is different, but it could surprise you in the end. Could I have made it as an opera singer? Maybe. Maybe not.
That’s the funny thing about the road not taken. Once not taken, its future forever remains a mystery. And that’s okay. What matters is what’s at the end of the road we choose to take.