By Gabrielle Russon
For the first seven years of Ryan Sleboda’s life, he did not speak.
Sleboda, who has autism, communicated only through noises and gestures. He got frustrated. He acted out. His parents, exhausted and worried, did everything they could to help him. That meant he saw different therapists and went to the right schools.
Fifteen years later, he surprised them by singing a song he wrote called “Overthink” as the family rode together in the car around Christmas last year. Overcome with emotion, his father, Bill, stopped and pulled the car over. His parents cried. They knew how far the Beacon College senior had come in expressing himself.
“It totally blew our minds,” said his mother Susan Sleboda.
Ryan, 22, wrote and recorded “Overthink,” a song that carries a deep meaning about the anxiety he keeps inside. He recently released the music on social media and all major platforms this year.
Ryan probably isn’t going to win a Grammy. He won’t likely be the next big recording artist. (Not that he wants to be one, anyway. Ryan is focused on his goal of opening his own doggy daycare business after he graduates.)
For the Sanford native, the beauty of writing “Overthink” was finding a new creative outlet to share his thoughts. He had never written a song before.
“Since I started my junior year, I really started realizing that I was overthinking about pretty much everything — myself, my autism, the people I hang out with, my family, and even academics … and especially life after college,” Ryan said.
At midnight in his room, when everything was quiet and he could focus, he started writing the lyrics to “Overthink” last year.
Sometimes I don’t know what I’m thinkin,’ my mind’s foggy
All these feelings are making me break, are making me ache, it’s hazy
I do what I can to make my path go right but I’m hesitant
Within a week, the song was out of Ryan’s head and immortalized in words.
Writing it made him feel better, too.
He and his family hope others connect to his song about those feelings of worrying and anxiety.
“It’s how everybody feels at some point in their life — whether you have a disability or you don’t have a disability,” Susan said. “Everybody goes through those moments.”
What makes Ryan’s side project even more special is he found other Beacon students to collaborate with and have fun together in the process of creating his music. Senior Ian Gonzalez, 23, of Orlando, developed the beat for “Overthink.” Ryan recorded the song with another friend, Zachary Murray, who also designed the cover art photo for the song.
Murray, 22, a senior from New Jersey, said he found joy using skills he learned from his web and digital media major at the same time he was helping out his friend.
“It’s incredible because I look at the album cover every day. It’s everywhere from YouTube to Spotify or Pandora to Apple Music,” Murray said.
For Ryan, the finished version of the song took time to get used to, he said.
Ryan, not used to hearing his own voice before, listened to it over and over.
He analyzed his voice and the quality of the recording. He thought about what he can change next time when he records more music and keeps experimenting with blurring different genres of pop, hip hop and rap.
Yes, Ryan admitted with a laugh. He was overthinking “Overthink.”