What Defines Your Life?

By , SparkPeople Blogger

Over the years of our marriage, my husband has commented many times about how amazed he is that there are many songs I can hear and remember when they came out and were popular. It isn't every song by any means, but there are many that define different significant times and events in my life. Last week I realized just how much music defines my life.

When the world lost "The King of Pop" last week, many radio stations played the music of Michael Jackson in tribute. As I drove around and listened to different songs, I was taken back to different times and events in my life. Most of the memories were wonderful ones that made me realize once again that time flies by really fast and life is what you make it. Others made me wonder if I had made the most of my life so far.

In the summer of 1970, I was an active tow headed 5 year old little girl. One sunny summer day that year, my brother and I were playing outside when I heard the Jackson 5 for the first time. The teenage granddaughters visiting our next door neighbor had turned on the record player in the living room, turned up the volume, opened the windows and were outside on the porch singing along with the hit song ABC. I suppose the reason it sticks in my mind is because they were singing a different version of the alphabet than I sang at home. I can remember that day like it was just last week. As I listened to the song again on the radio last week, I remembered how much fun our lazy summer days were. I wondered if my children would think the same thing when they were my age.

In 1978 I was in junior high school and disco shirts, leisure suits and dance moves were all the rage. If you attended school dances at that time, the boys sat on one side of the room and the girls would dance and flirt trying to get the boys to pay attention. When "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)" would come on, the dance floor would become flooded with boys and girls "trying" to be cool and show their moves. As I heard that song again last week, I was immediately taken back to being an awkward 13 year old all over again. I looked over at my 13 year old son and was filled with wonder at how I could be the mother of this child when I could remember being his age not that long ago.

When Michael went solo with his Off The Wall album, he became a radio mainstay for the remainder of my high school and college days. As I heard "Thriller" being played on the radio, I was taken back to the age of 15 when my brother and I put our money together to purchase the album. I remember how expensive that $9.99 cassette seemed and remembered how I was certain I would have so much more money once I was out of school.

In college the song "Bad" was a great psych up song before a volleyball match to help me get into game mode. As I listened to the song again my memories were filled with college friends and experiences that made me smile as I remembered. I was reminded that back then exercise was part of daily living compared with today when exercise has to be scheduled into my day.

In the spring of 1985 when "We Are the World" was released, I was traveling to Florida on spring break with a group of college friends. As we would drive and find new stations along the way, we would wait for the song to come on the radio so we could play "name that artist" to guess each of the voices. Hearing that song so many times during that trip sealed the meaningful words in my heart for years to come. Hearing it again and seeing the video over the weekend filled my heart with wonderful memories and a new resolution that I am part of the world and CAN make it better.

I graduated from college in 1988 and started a year long internship. The song, "Man In The Mirror" resonated back then because I was moving out on my own and learning that my life was going to be what I made it. Hearing it last week was a wonderful reminder of that hope filled twenty-something that believed anything was possible if I just wanted it enough and was willing to work hard enough to get it. I smiled as I realized I was still that same hope filled goal setter over 20 years later.

As a parent, the song "You Are Not Alone" became an anthem for me with my children and a realization of my role as their protector in the world. Listening to that song again and looking at my teenage children brought tears to my eyes as I realized my ability to protect them is slipping away as they become more independent. How fast the days have gone since they were babies that woke to eat in the night and would be rocked to sleep with gentle words that they were not alone. My mind raced wondering if my husband and I have done enough to help them feel protected and supported as they have moved through life. I realized that parenting is as much a growth experience for us as it is for our children.

Our children were fortunate to attend a neighborhood elementary school where music was valued and used as an important part of character development. The music teacher was wonderful at helping the students learn patriotism and a sense of social responsibility through music. "Heal the World" was one of those life shaping songs. When all 800 plus students presented it at the closing of a Memorial Day program, there wasn't a dry eye in the building for parent or teacher.

Today, those chorus lyrics ring out louder than ever in my mind. "Heal the world; make it a better place, for you and for me and the entire human race. There are people dying, if you care about the living, make a better place for you and for me." As I heard that song again, I found myself wondering - am I actively doing something to make the world a better place or am I too busy living in my own world to even notice the ways I can?

Music helps me define and remember very important and influential moments in my life. It reminds me of all that is good in my life and how fast time goes by as well as the importance of making the most of every day. Losing Michael Jackson so young and recently seeing the movie UP, reinforces the truth that we need to live our life today to the fullest. Putting off tomorrow what we can do today could result in us never doing it at all.

So what defines your life? Is it the music of a certain time or artist or the world events that take place? Perhaps it is the goals you set and the personal accomplishments you achieve. As the quote states, “It is not the length of life, but the depth of life" and Michael Jackson lived a very deep life. How about you? Are you living the life you want to live? Can you look back with pride at what you have done or are you filled with regret for what never happened? Although time marches on, it is never too late to make a change. How will the events of the past week cause you to reflect and define your life?

How deeply do you live? What defines you and are you living the life you want or are there changes you need to make?

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Music was the primary focus of my life for many years--from age 12 through most of my adult life. I was a musician. As a young man I preferred jazz. I loved, and still love, classical music.

I lived through the beginnings of early rock, hard rock and all types of popular music through the years. My favorite singers were Sarah Vaughn, Ella fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Vic damone, Tony Bennett. I played shows for some top artists and still love that type of music. I also love Tejano (Selena), country (Tammy Wynette), some rock. Obviously, I'm from another era.

What defines me now is the life I live each day and the way I treat people, and the striving for goals I have set for myself. I no longer play music, but I write fiction.
I don't understand why some retired people say they don't know what to do with thenselves. I could use more hours in the day. Report
I too trace parts of my life back to music, more when I was younger than now. Each boyfriend had his set of songs, each breakup, each set back, had songs I listened to. I wonder now that most of my music listening is done while exercising if I will look back in 10 years and say, that song was when I ellipticalled, that song was training for my first 5K, etc Report
What defines me, first and foremost, is my relationship with God. He, above all, keeps me on the straight and narrow, supports me unconditionally etc., and loves me regardless of what goes on in my life. My family defines me and how much I love them. My hobbies, ideas, creations and all the things I love and enjoy. Many things define me. I have songs that are my life anthems:
Inside of You by John Schlitt
Desert Rose by WhiteHeart
First Love by Petra
Your Eyes by John Schlitt
Picture Perfect by Michael W Smith
Ask Me by Amy Grant
Secret Ambition by Michael W Smith
Inside Out by David Meece
I Have Decided by Amy Grant
Learning To Trust by David Meece

There are many songs and I have them all on one cassette and listen to them from time to time. They lift me from despair so I reserve that one tape for those times. God leads people and songs into my life at specific points because only He really knows what I need, when I need it and it is Him, God alone, who knows what I need to define my life. Report
Love the article! I have so many great memories of my younger years :-) and MJ songs. My friends laugh at me when I hear a song and say, "you remember when we were doing?" or "when we did?". Songs definetely define my laugh and help me remember good times. It's truly a universal language and some have such a way of touching and imprinting our hearts. Thanks for the blog! Report
Great blog.
It's amazing how hearing songs from my past can transport me back to that time with all the emotions that go with it.
My life has always gone though ups and downs but in the past years I have realized that every minute counts. I do forget this at times and have to redirect myself. I spend more time with my children,especially now cause they are in there teens and sometimes feel that their freinds are more important. I try to listen to people more, instead of talking and also listen to my kids when they are taking. I want to live life not watch on the side lines. I enjoy music and feel it inspires me and lifts my mood. We all have those sounds that remind us of are past. It is nice to listen to them and enjoy are great remories. Report
Life was "living, not dying, not leaving your loved ones, and just existing" - when it was the time I faced the deaths of my grandfather, my father, my uncle. I was still a high school kid. Growing up and having encountered many changes in career, life, and especially went through near death experiences gave me different perspectives about life. I am now detachable of anything, have no crazy attachment at all to materials, emotions, family, or loved ones. I focus more on my phsyical and mental health. I believe you can only live once, every thing has its own cycle, except your health.
I heard it so eloquently stated last week that Michael Jackson's music is the soundtrack of our lives! Report
What a lovely blog/tribute to Michael Jackson & how his songs represent different eras/moments in our lives. Report
Music has played a very significant part in my life. I am always amazed that I can recall very specific moments down to the detail when I hear a certain song.
Maybe music is the cure to alleviating Alzheimer's Report
Can you imagine a world with no music? I certainly can't!! Report
For me I am just happy to be able to hear music. I'm hearing impaired and wear two aides. I grew up listening to all kinds of music, and have enjoyed every minute. Memories can and do come back for me too. But like I said I am just mistififed that with technology I can hear. I would like to point out though, Beethoven was deaf and the moive "Children of a Lesser God"was about music and the deaf. So many poeple can enjoy music, lets make sure we keep music in our hearts, minds and souls forever. Report
Bruce Springsteen has always been there for me since the beginning - Thunder Road and I always related to Satisfaction by the Stones and once when I was really depressed their Hang Fire got me through Report
Making music defines who we are. Listening to music defines how we identify with the culture. Report
I do remember the younger, better days of MJ. But his music does not relfect my life. The praise and worship music I listen to now reflects who I am and my purpose in life. Report
I recently blogged about Miley Cyrus' latest song "The Climb." It's words are so true of any life challenge, but really resonated with me about my journey. Losing weight has been a challenge the entire way, but I've learned to take each day for what it is. There may never be tomorrow. Report
This article definitely has some serious meaning. Too many people worry about just getting by and don't actually live their life. Parents put their emphasis on making sure that their children are actually living while they don't and spouses worry about each other living a happy life that they forget about themselves and their needs. This article definitely has me rethinking my life as well. Report
I love music and attach a lot of significance to lyrics that speak to the common and not-so-common events of our lives. As demonstrated by this blog, music triggers memories and in some ways it creates a foundation that contains the milestones of our lives.

But the blog posed these thought-provoking questions: How deeply do you live? What defines you and are you living the life you want or are there changes you need to make?

How deeply do I live? Well, since I nearly died more than a decade ago, I try very hard not to get lost in the insignificant minutiae of every day life. I try to seize every day and appreciate every moment of it. I try to have the things I do and say be of some consequence and to be grateful for whatever comes my way - good, bad or indifferent.

I have been defined by many things in my life - by my career, my marital status, my children, my health, my strengths, my successes, my weaknesses and my failures. I am generally happy with the life I am living, but I hope I never lose the desire to better myself, to learn new things, to find new ways to give back to the world, to discover hidden talents in myself and in others.

I do not believe that one has to be extraordinarily gifted or talented, nor does one have to do grand things, solve great mysteries, create masterpieces or become celebrated and famous in order to live a heroic and important life. The individual daily acts of each of us are woven into a great tapestry. Our kind and loving acts are gold and silver threads. Our less honorable acts are rough, harsh fibers.

I want to weave a rich tapestry full of thousands of gold and silver threads and so few rough, harsh fibers that they can barely be detected. That would be what defines my life - each individual thread. Report
WOW...I'm not sure what else to say. This was very heartfelt and wonderful to see how others are able to relate different things to various parts of their life. For me, it was sad because I cannot do the same. I do need to learn to live...and not just be alive...make sense? Report
"I love the Lord. He heard my cry. And pitied every groan. Long as I live, and troubles come, I'll hasten to His throne."

This song as well as so many others (Michael's) included have been the source of inspiriation for me to meditate on who I belong to and to whome I am eternaly grateful.

I often become sad when I think about missed opportunities and mistakes I've made and I also become pleased when I am aware of successes and acomplishments I've made. However, (here goes another):

"To God be the glory for the things He as done... And should I gain any praise, let it go to Calvary. With His blood He has saved me (from my awfulness), with His power he has raised me (from my failures), to God be the glory for the things He has done." Report
This is a GREAT blog. I think certain songs bring back memories for all of us. I think Dick Clark said it best when he said, "Music is the soundtrack to our lives." Report
I think we are all defined by the "Music of Our Lives"...we can all relate some memories from the music we have know throughout our lives. I am 66 years old, grew up listening to the Big Band Sounds and Easy Listening of the soft sounds of Nat King Cole, Patty Page, Rosemary Clooney, Doris Day, Frank Sinatra, etc. I remember watching the Hit Parade and Lawrence Welk. Then came early Rock & Roll with Elvis, Ricky Nelson, Fabian, Pat Boone, Frankie Avalon, and others. That was the music of my life--Today when I watch the PBS Reunion specials of Doo Wop and other earlier music, I am transported back to those good old days of my youth. Now, I have added music of my daughters' lives--music of late 70s and 80s filled our home and are now the memories I have of them growing up in my home.

My favorite Michael Jackson song is "We Are the World"...that was done about the time we all did the "Hands Across America"--standing in the line where we were holding hands with our neighbors--all across Americal--to show solidarity...I don't know what happened to that kind of unity, but I sure wish it would be that way now.

I agree with DCBOHART....great blog. THANK YOU!!! Very touching and so true!!! Report
Me, an artist, musician, dancer, writer, mother, wife, daughter,pet lover.I live a life that I want, I don't need any change. Report
While reading your blog, I sang every one of those MJ songs you mention. :0) What a great way to explain how much music impacts your life! I feel the same about several different artists. Lyrics have a very important part in my life. When I starting singing particular lyrics over and over, it usually means that I need to focus on that lyric and listen to the song to understand what I'm really thinking and feeling. Works every time, and I learn about about myself, and I guess, my subconscious! :0) Thanks for sharing how MJ has impacted you! Report
Thank you. This is a great blog! Report
I too grew up listening to Michael Jackson and his death was a sad ending to an icon of music. The more I read from this post, the more teary eyed I became. My teenaged children are growing up and also becoming more independent. You expressed the feelings that I, and so many more parents I'm sure, are feeling. Where did the time go? When did our babies grow into such wonderful young men? I too hope that we raised our boys to be thoughtful, loving young men. I am sure the music that is heard in the future will bring many memories of the growing years of our children. Report
I am 52 years old and I grew up with Michael Jackson and his music. I was deeply saddened by his passing, almost as if he were a member of my family. After seeing a movie about the Jackson 5 in which Michaeal was protrayed as wanting a "normal" childhood and was never able to have that as he was made to rehearse over and over for hours, his tragic and lost childhood brings tears to my eyes. As I read in a newpaper article, the words of his music tell a haunting and sad story of a man who was mostly childlike because he was never able to be a child in reality. Even though Michael was a icon, he was also a human being and I pray for his family at this most difficult time. Report
My son grew up with Micheal Jackson.. I was curious as to what was written here ... so agree .. seems like I grew up with his music too..
I try to live each day as it comes trying to live in the now.. not future not past... but the here and now.
That being said I think I need to tweak this and start living for what I want my future to be.. getting to my goals and enjoying the journey.
thank you for this blog Report
Singing and dancing to the music of my life still inspires me. Now I find myself wanting to share it all with my children and waiting for the music to define tomorrow... Report
I am 60 years young now, and I remember Elvis, Ricky Nelson, the trumpet solo Wonderland By Night, The Canadian Brass, Bobby Vee, Barry Manilow, and so on.

My favorite music was and still is classical. I grew up in a musical family. My Dad was a music teacher, Mom and I sang, Dad played flute, I played alto Sax, my brother Robb played guitar and trumpet, and my other brother played trombone and drums. I went on to play professionally, but not until my later years at age 40. I had a lot of fun, and I am so grateful to have had those experiences. Music has shaped my life and it will always be in my blood. I no longer play because of my asthma, COPD, but I still have those memories. I do play the keyboard for my own enjoyment. Report
The question "what defines my life" is being a missionary and serving God and my fellow man. Report
Opening number from the musical Wicked. Says alot about me. Don't listen to much music with lyrics. My Ipod has sound track to Sweeney Todd and Wicked. Both very dark musicals. Rest of the time I either do not listen to music, drive with radio off most of the time and only use Ipod when working out of the elliptical. If I have music on it usually classic. No words. Report
The song "Killing Me Softly" comes to mind as I read this article. You have just painted a picture of my life, too, and of the power and influence music had over moments as they happened and how I remember them decades later. My chest feels tight with emotion, my eyes are misty, but I am smiling as I allow your words to gently wake me up. I am looking at my two young children now-with whom I also saw the movie "Up"-and am determined to make as many good decisions for our health and fitness as I can. I will read this article again tomorrow and the next day and for as many days as I can use it to light this fire. Thank you, Tanya! Report
Michael was a VIRGO and very shy by nature. People didn't understand that he was a HIGHLY SENSITIVE PERSON. For those who are check out www.hsperson.com as Dr. Aron has great help for about 20% of people who fit this description. I always loved Michael's music and felt sorry for him for the hateful people that only wanted to get his money. Report
Great Blog. I agree that music holds a lot of memories and can be very inspirational. The movie Up! made me think as well that we need to live every day to the fullest because life can be too short sometimes. Report
Music is so fulfilling. I remember my first cassett tapes that I picked out myself; George Michael's "Faith" and Prince's "Purple Rain." At my wedding I had a different song played for each bridesmaid that has a special meaning to us. From The Jackson Five, to Steppin' Wolf, to WIll Smith. We each got jiggy wit' it in our own way, with our favorite memories. Even now, I'm trying to stear my kids into good (I know that's subjective) music. I like Weezer, Foo Fighters and still a loyal Nirvana fan. What if my kids like Country? Good thing that parental love is unconditional, because that would definitly be pushing it around here! Report
Oh you hit a note alright, I was young teenager when Michael started singing and listened to and bought many of those 45's you are talking about. Listened and danced to most of Michael's songs. Now I am doing most of what I would like to do. Sewing many quilt for my family and friends too. I am involved in my church and do garden in my backyard. I am trying my hand in organic gardening mostly not adding those chemicals that change the way my plants grow. Report
I grew up in the military and when I hear a song I remember where I lived. For example, with "Boogie Wonderland" or "September" by Earth, Wind & Fire, I remember first hearing those songs when we lived in the Philippines. I heard songs from Genesis and Olivia Newton-John ("Magic") after we first moved to Arkansas. It was during our 6-year stay in Arkansas that "Thriller" was popular. I had an album for me, and my father (who died at 52, heart attack) got one for himself. I was 12 or 13 around that time. I was also listening to Duran Duran, Nu Shooz, Culture Club... I am an 80s kid.

When we moved to England, Madonna's "Open Your Heart" was a Top 40 hit. For a few years I was out of sync with whatever the hits were in the US... Kylie Minogue did more than "The Locomotion." Ever heard of Rick Astley and Jason Donovon? When I came back to the states to go to college, Mariah Carey was big as was MJ with "Bad." However, at some point soon after college graduation, I stopped listening to the radio and found jazz songs that I liked, and got stuck in the 80s.

So yes, music takes me back. Even the obscure songs I listen to now take me back to life in San Francisco, where I lived for 5 years, until last year, and there are songs that remind me of the move back to North Carolina.

I live deeply. That's my problem. If I cannot connect to music I cannot listen to it. I have to feel the music. Even "Boogie Wonderland." I feel it. Maybe that's odd but that's how I roll. Report
Thank you for sharing your personal memories and for the inspirational challenge. Report
This is a very thought provoking blog. We all said good bye to an era of our life last week. The shock was felt by anyone who grew up during the time MJ made music. Too bad the end of his life was so troubled. Report
Well, the thing that most defines my life is my relationship with Jesus Christ, but music is a huge part of that. I was so saddened to hear about Michael Jackson's death, especially as information begins to come out about the possible reasons for his untimely demise. Even sadder, is hearing some of the interviews, and remembering how much pain and heartache he had suffered during his life. I only hope that he felt appreciated during the majority of his life, because he brought so much joy and positive messages during so much of his lyrics. Report
Lovely post, dearie! Michael was an important part of my growing up, too. Music is so powerful.

There's nothing I would love more than to be able to write, sing and perform like him and others who are so gifted, but I'm afraid that just isn't going to happen (an understatement-ha).

I'm sorry he couldn't live longer and give us more of his talent, and perhaps time would have offered him more healing.

Thanks for the post. Report
I had just recently introduced my daughter to Michael Jackson's music because she is very interested in both music and dance.I have so many great memories of listening to Michael's happy songs. I also wanted her to know what a gifted and talented person can do to help others. Michael did this in so many ways.

I also got a chance to enjoy the songs and videos with her and remember the time..
Thanks for the blog and thanks for all the great comments; I enjoyed reading them. Report
Music always bring back memories, good or not-so-good. I was more a Boy George and Cindi Lauper person. My husband loved Michael's music and our 7 year old son learned to love Michael Jackson too. He sure was a very talented artist. Great article. Report
After losing a very good friend this past weekend and with MJ it's definitely made me take a step back and look at just how I'm living my life day to day. Music and sports has been such a big part of my life and there are so many memories of our friend at football games that I can only look back on in my mind and pictures knowing that it will never be the same. I know that I don't always make the most of my days and now I will listen to MJ and "make that change". You have to tell and show those you love just how much you love them everyday. Report
What defines MY life? Well, first of all, I have one HUGE regret: not asking this guy, who was a great friend, out! We were seniors in high school, lvoed the same music, cars, foods, had many of the same dreams, loved the same books, had the same values. (That was 38 years ago and is still painful for me)
I never did, we were both very, very shy, he was and is, very handsome and smart. We went our separate ways, both married, we never saw each other after our graduation parties. Ironically, he is a railroad engineer and drives the train that runs on the tracks BEHIND MY HOME EVERY DAY!!
Now for what defines my life: my deep faith, how it threads through my everyday life, my daughter, my only child, how we mesh in each other's lives since my divorce. How HE arranges my life and blessings, defines my life. Report
As I read this blog, I recognized all the same feelings I had when Michael Jackson died last week.... I'm the same age, was the same age when those songs mentioned came out.... I remember my cousin's little record player blasting The Jackson 5, I fell in love with Michael with the Off The Wall album and we danced to it in our dance class, Thriller was a nationwide event.... It seems so surrreal and yes, I define my life by music.... My husband laughs as I say oh, that song reminds me.... I couldn't figure the reasons I feel so deeply disturbed by Michael's death, but it is b/c his music was the background of my life for most of my life! I often workout to Off The Wall or his Greatest Hits CDs and feel such a sense of loss. Thank you for this blog and for putting my feelings into words. Rest In Peace, Michael Jackson, the singer of our lives! Report
What a wonderful tribute to the songs of Michael Jackson. While I am several years older than you, I can relate to the songs you mention. I remember seeing the Jackson Five on TV when they performed "ABC" and "Thriller" was hot in college. But the people (groups) who had the biggest impact were Bruce Springstein and the E Street Band and Bon Jovi. (Can you tell I'm a Jersey Girl?) with their gritty heart of America tunes.
Music is a big part of my life. Everything from the rock and roll I grew up on to the Christian rock I listen to today and the Oratorio music my oldest son performs, it is what defines me, gives me depth, and makes me complete. Report
Bon Jovi music, especially his classic songs, are the ones that have defined certain periods of time for me. Crossed the finish line on my first marathon to "Want to Make a Memory", got over my having heart broken to "Bed of Roses", can't even tell you how many decisions I've made to do something differently to "Blaze of Glory". Report
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