Ten years ago this summer, I spent a lot of time alone in a sticky home office. The window A/C unit that had been passed around the family since I was in college whirred away, and I made beaded jewelry.
I had this idea that in addition to being a freelance writer, I’d also be a jewelry artist, selling my wares at art shows. Between the fledgling writing and barely there jewelry careers, I was flat broke. This was before I realized that I like wearing jewelry a lot more than I like making it, and that 1 self-employed trade was plenty.
But I would sit in my uncomfortable, second-hand metal desk chair, night after night, beading bracelets and listening to Cat Stevens. I was still young; that was my fault.
I was alone because my live-in boyfriend was gone all the time. He traveled for work. And when he was in town, he managed to be out of the house. At the gym. With friends. With a particular female friend. Not with me. Not interested in me. I was just starting to admit that perhaps this wasn’t going to work out.
I would listen to the Cat Stevens CD that my brother had burned for me illegally off a library album. He’d told me about his Cat Stevens epiphany, about how the music had shifted his outlook. I took the CD, skeptical. But I’d listen to the album, and I’d be overcome with what felt like a giant bubble in my chest. It was overwhelming, like I was about to explode. But I wasn’t the exploding kind. I was the nice, make-it-work kind.
I would sit, and I’d bead, and sometimes I’d bead with tears running down my face. I didn’t know why. I began to sense that I was on the cusp of something big. I didn’t know what it was, or I didn’t want to face it yet. But it was a huge change. I was lonely. And I was scared. And I had no idea how to even begin to put any of it into words.
So, I made some truly heinous bracelets, and a few that were OK. My friends bought my jewelry because they are good, kind people. Perhaps they knew that they were investing in my future, providing seed money for my escape. I didn’t realize it.
I would sweat and string beads and cry. I thought I was at the end of the world.
Turns out I was only on the edge of the world I had known.
Things got worse before they got better. But they did get better.
This weekend, I gorged myself on free HBO. Seeing Cat Stevens inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame made me think of that sticky summer, and that now-battered CD. Yusuf, I’m sorry my brother pirated your music, but I like to think that you understand. I also like to think that you know how appreciative I am of your gift of music. Thank you.
What music defines a period in your life?