I’m starting this post as Paul Simon sings the first verse of ‘Peace like a River’.
Ten years ago I was sitting in a chair at my sister’s house unwrapping 17th birthday presents. It was one of those moments when all eyes were on me, something I love and hate. I picked out a small one from my brother. I remember tearing the paper off to see Paul Simon’s face staring at me. It was a greatest hits album and the first true taste of the man who would become my all time favorite artist.
I was already a fan of Paul Simon because my best friend at the time had spent the past summer blasting ‘You Can Call Me Al’ on the radio as we drove from our homes, to the lake, to the mall to the baseball fields, to wherever it is 16 year old girls go on Summer Vacation.
But I didn’t know much beyond the ridiculous rhyming and nonsensical lyrics of Al.
Stephen gave me Paul Simon.
He gave me art to love that was all my own.
He gave me license to be weird.
That’s what Paul Simon’s music is for me. It’s permission to be as weird as I am. It makes all of my quirks feel just right. Paul Simon doesn’t care about the popular pattern for making music. He’s just going to do what he wants to do. He, quite literally, marches to the beat of a different drum. When he got bored and needed fresh inspiration, he traveled to Africa, found something entirely new, and returned to make the strongest album of his entire catalog.
I don’t know what normal is, but I know I’m socially far enough away from it that people have always told me I’m weird. I have always been a little different from most of my peers. I’m unpredictable, quirky, quickly-changing, often loud, usually laughing, extremely goofy, and always moving. I’ve never struggled to have friends, but the ones I have, who really know me, point to my quirks as why they love me.
On a Saturday night in November a decade ago, Stephen gave me that.
I believe every person has an artist inside. My artist is a teenage girl who opened up a wrapped album on her birthday 10 years ago and learned that being different and a little weird is the best art she can offer this world.
As I finish Paul is singing the second verse to ‘All Around The World Or The Myth Of Fingerprints’.