Prompt: Tell us about a time you did a 180–changed your views on something, reversed a decision, or acted in a way you ordinarily don’t.

I spent most of 8th and 9th grade listening to Guns ‘n Roses, Warrant, Cinderella, you know, all the hair bands of the 1980s.

By 10th grade I graduated to Depeche Mode, The Cure, REM, U2, The Smiths.

Pop music was always on my radar, but it wasn’t ever a real priority. And country music? Please. I heard enough of that when my dad worked in the garage–Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings–to know it was not for me.

And then after 10th grade, we moved to Montana.

Many of my preconceived notions about Montana turned out to be false. They had indoor plumbing, for example, and I never did risk hitting a buffalo on my way to school. But one stereotype seemed accurate: when it came to radio stations, I felt smothered by country music.

Initially, I just dug in my heels even more, adding They Might Be Giants and Oingo Boingo to the rotation of cassette tapes in my K Car. But eventually, country started seeping in the doorjambs, and I didn’t entirely hate it.

In fact, I started to really like it.

Up to that point, my musical preferences were limited: my trusted New Wave/Alternative genre, and classical (I was going to be a classical pianist, after all). But listening to country expanded my definition of music, and soon, instead of clutching my cassettes, I started scanning the airwaves as I drove through Great Falls. It’s how I discovered jazz, driving home on Saturday nights from my boyfriend’s house to the other side of town where the Air Force base was. It’s how I rediscovered my love for Madonna, on the Top 40 station. It’s how I learned to appreciate the storytelling of The Judds and George Strait.

And today, when I look through my iPhone and I see the variety of music I truly enjoy, I’m so glad I did a 180 on only listening to one genre of music.

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