Sometimes I think it happens that Time becomes a weird entity, mashing together events of totally different origins and reconvening them as if they were occurring together, right then, into a singular story, clear in connection, real and provable. Maybe it’s a Tune in, Turn on, Drop out thing. Or maybe my kids drugged me (which I’ve asked them NOT to do. so many times. goddammit).
Last night, I was walking a dog along 1700 South near 1300 East, singing aloud to “Me and Bobby McGee,” and realized that I’ve been on a journey in this life—wherein I’ve been worn down to almost nothing just so I could find myself again—and as I walked alongside cars speeding with haste to unknown places, the power and strength of Janis’s passionate and authentic life could be felt in her voice, and under the nearing-full moon, listening to her sing lyrics written by someone else for an experience she never personally had, I experienced her journey too, she of the tender soul who felt out of place and unattractive but didn’t give up reaching for the big dreams, and living the big life; living how she wanted, doing what she wanted, carving a path out irrespective of how weird it seemed to others, dying after a life so big she accidentally killed herself by living it.
And I’ve heard people relay Janis Joplin’s story as if it was a tragic one, because there is a tendency to believe that there is something inherently sad about a life of internal struggle ended accidentally at a youngish-age.
About an hour later, still singing the same song (I get on a roll with one song sometimes), I see my oldest daughter’s FB post, in which she’s wearing a sweatshirt a friend bought her that says “I Understand. I Just Don’t Care,” and it tickles me, because it’s so “I could give a shit less,” and even though I know Julia feels tender and out of place and unsure, she’s also living how she wants, doing what she wants, and steering her life in the manner of her choosing, and I wonder if maybe it was Janis Joplin who helped her get this way, and that maybe someday she’ll be me, singing to herself on a dark street in Salt Lake City, and as homeowners exit their cars to go into their homes, into normalcy–pumpkins on porches, and utter predictability—she’ll be okay with weird, with walking down the street, loving the world while also not giving one shit what it thinks of her. That someday she’ll make it to where she loves herself enough to stay calm and centered as she lives each day as if she’s daring the world to judge her.
And I thought that maybe THIS is the end of Janis’s story.
Because there is no stopping Time, it marches and evolves and becomes enriched with past, present and future, and when we pull back from it, any story holds the hope of transforming someone else’s experience so as to exact different outcomes, and if Janis’s life becomes an example that inspires others to perhaps see themselves differently or be aware of a more-enriched bevy of personal choices, then her story didn’t end at her death, but carried on, weaving itself into lives and experiences, meshing her own life into something different for the promise and hope it gave to others. For her life was so big that we could all see and hear the experience, and so real–so authentically her, so authentically noncomformist–that the loss of her manifested as societal change, funneling into a 48 year old unapologetically-singing aloud on the street and an 18 year old facing emotional foes with an altered set of skills and a vision both broader and simultaneously more tender of both her world and her self.
So be yourself, everyone. Love the world but don’t let it tell you who you are. Value yourself. Dare it to judge you. Be authentic; be big; be weird. You’re special.
For in living your story, you’re changing the future for someone, somewhere, in some time.
And thank you, Janis Joplin, for choosing a life of authenticity and nonconformity so that we could all learn from your strength and your struggle.