What Defines Your Life?
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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