Note: I wrote this on March 30th, but found it to publish from draft on August 12th.
Do you ever wonder how you end up in certain conversations, on certain topics? This happens to me all the time. Shoot. It's one of the reasons why I love my job so much.
Today's conversation? An interactive art installation sponsored by my job, The Palm Beach Post, like the "Before I die" wall.
But ours would be for SunFest, a huge music concert here in West Palm Beach. It's like an itty-bitty mini version of Coachella. Yeah.
Anyway... I love the synergy that happens when creative people get together over high-octane coffee at the end of a workday. We settled on "The song that saved my soul." And then the room got silent and the smiles kinda faded a bit. The four of us, we were all thinking. Do I have a song that saved my soul? That like, literally saved me?
My dear friend and workplace other half, Dan, said he hated to sound cliche but that his would be "Stairway to Heaven." A perfect choice, really. What about you, he turned to me. And I thought for a moment, but only a moment because the feeling of one song came to me almost immediately. I say the feeling because — other than the artist, Leela James, and the album cover, her afro'ed profile and perfect mocha skin — I couldn't remember the song. Not the words, not the title. Just the feeling. Like that first taste of air after you've been under water just a second too long. You know it, right?
And I remembered the story, where I was coming from and where I was going. I remembered what the song saved me from. After a few shared laughs, I told them:
I was leaving Atlanta. It was 2006. I've only had two boyfriends in my life, and Hassan was my first, and he wasn't a real good dude. My parents saw this before I did. After six years of ups and downs — naturally, I left out the details of college drama, the War on Terrorism, a half breakup turned whole because of a baby mama — I found myself on the end of a goodbye with Leela James croonin' through my Honda Accord speakers, "Naw, naw, no way, you gon' take away, my peace, my joy, my strength..."
She was really singing! And though I'd had the album for a full year, this was the first time I actually heard, like really heard and felt the lyrics to "My Joy."
The windows were down. I turned the volume up so loud that her voice became my own. I drove. With more relief than hurt, more hope than wonder, I drove through the city, Kentucky-bound, and unlike all the other times I'd said goodbye, I didn't look back. There was no rearview checking this time. Just the song as I narrowed my eyes on the future, letting the past go hazy. There was just me and the open road and the song, telling me a truth I'd later come to know as my own: "If I thought you were my end all, I never woulda found faith, I never woulda loved again..."