I remember the first time music changed the way I saw the world.
I was sixteen years old and had just watched someone I’d known almost all of my life transform before my eyes in the worst possible way. She was unrecognizable, unreachable, and destined for a path where loyalty, honesty, and everything I valued so dearly about her wouldn’t stand a chance.
As with most difficult times, I remember reaching out to my grandfather, whom I knew I could always count on to tell me the truth. We sat in the park for hours one afternoon in silence—he always had this incredible way of knowing how to comfort without words—and I finally asked him how I could possibly sort through what I was feeling.
He turned to me and smiled in that kind, empathetic, but never overly optimistic way he used to. “Chopin,” he said. “Turn on some Chopin and you’ll find your way.”
Well, that’s precisely what I did. And believe it or not, somewhere between piano sonatas, nocturnes, and waltzes, everything started to make sense. It wasn’t all good—in fact, some of it was a lot rougher than I thought—but it all made sense. Life had changed, I had changed, things would never quite be the same again, and Chopin had absolutely helped to show me the way.
From that point on, I guess you could say that music became my best friend. We’ve sort of walked through life together—over the hills, up the slopes, and right on through some pretty big hurricanes.
I carried Sarah McLachlan with me through the crazy ups and downs of my first love. And man did she help. I’m not sure I would’ve ever gotten to the heart of my heart without her.
Jonatha Brooke helped me to make sense of the first relationship that really shook my world upside down in a way I had never imagined. Her words brought clarity to an otherwise very obscure path.
I walked around New York City with Frank Sinatra singing in my ears for the first few months of graduate school, hoping to discover if I had embarked on the right journey at the wrong time. Somewhere between “My Way” and “Strangers in the Night,” I found my answer.
And I was listening to Mozart the night I decided to write my very first political blog post in 2009. I stared at the screen for some time tuned in to a piano concerto before making that final decision to hit “send.”
For every major wonderful, life-changing, inspiring, heartbreaking, gleeful moment I’ve experienced, there is a song that has cuddled up with it.
As with most things in my life, my grandfather was right. Every time I turn on Chopin, I think of him. And I’m eternally grateful for his advice to me in the park that rainy afternoon.
2012 is sure to be a challenging year. I invite you to join me in bringing music along for the ride. There will be sadness, happiness, excitement, tears, discovery, longing, loss, love—well, some of those things for sure. I’m hoping that music will do for me what it has always done—help me to discover things about myself I never knew. Experience has taught me that it’s pretty darn good at helping me make sense of confusion, ambition, and self-doubt. And it’s certainly a pro when it comes to broken hearts and newfound love.
So, I’m looking forward to a wonderful 2012 journey. I hope you are too.
A special thank you to all of the musicians who have inspired me over the years and made my vision of life, love, and priorities so much clearer, richer, and more alive.
And to the old friend who inspired this column, thank you for the memories. And the music. I still carry them with me.