Oh, I’m on my way, I know I am.

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?

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  • Reply Key June 24, 2014 at 9:22 am

    Cat Stevens was my boyfriend, my therapist, my philosopher, my poet laureate. I daresay every woman in my age bracket felt the same. PS " take your time, think a lot, think of everything you've got for you will still be here tomorrow but your dreams may not."

  • Reply Anonymous June 24, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    Guns-N-Roses = early teen years.

    I, too, bought jewelry making tools at one point in my life, but never actually made any jewelry. I would have bought one of your bracelets.

  • Reply Becky June 24, 2014 at 2:08 pm

    There was the R.E.M. "losing my religion" phase, otherwise known as the time Becky lost her fun for a while. That was a spring in college that I may have gotten over, but many of my friends haven't. I think they still have a contract out on that boy's head.

    Then there was the Cowboy Junkies "we are on a break" summer. My poor roomate went out and bought me everything they had recorded I didn't own, just so I'd play something else besides "Sun Comes Up" over and over and over. I still listen to them quite a bit, but these days, "Anniversary Song" and "Something more besides you" fit the bill much better. Funny how a band can do both happy and heartbreak that nails it every time.

  • Reply smalltownme June 24, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    Cat Stevens reminds me of my first summer of freedom, going to a 6 week college summer session in between my junior and senior years of high school.

  • Reply Kari at A Grace Full Life June 24, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    Bruce Hornsby.

    I don't know what era he defined for me but his music takes me away.
    To harbors or to fields of gray.
    Who knows.
    All I know is he is my musical happy place.
    Although Cat Stevens is hard to compete with.

  • Reply Jennifer VM June 24, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    My mom still loves her purple bracelet, FYI. And Dashboard Confessional brought me through some tough times earlier this century. I'll also say that Bruce Springsteen is getting me through the 2010s so far.

  • Reply Cha Cha June 25, 2014 at 12:27 am

    Key – Thank you. I think you're great. Also, have you seen ol' Cat lately? Hubba hubba!

    Shannon – Thank you. And I was on that GNR train with you.

    Becky – Well, if we're open to talking about college, I'm gonna need to write, like, 27 different posts, all about my love of Counting Crows. However, Cowboy Junkies? Uh, I was there with you. "Misguided Angel" is the theme song for every woman who ever dated a loser and thought it was the best she could do.

    Smalltownme – That is awesome! That must have been a completely life-changing six weeks.

    Kari – I think Bruce is solid choice. He's like no other.

    Jen – Oh, friend. Thank you. I think Bruce's "High Hopes" could be your new theme song. Onward!

    Also – wouldn't it be neat-o if Blogger allowed me to respond to individual comments instead of this cattle call? Grr. Sorry.

  • Reply Cassi Renee June 25, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    I went through a weepy period in grad school where I would sit out on my fire escape and sing along to Tori Amos's Little Earthquakes. Grad school is no time to try to make a relationship work.

    BTW, my blog is on bogger, and it does allow one to reply to individual comments. I wonder what's different?

  • Reply Average Jane June 25, 2014 at 7:56 pm

    There's an obscure Alice Cooper song from the late 80s called "Step On You" that helped inspire me to leave a miserable job and later kick out a horrible boyfriend. Thanks, Alice!

  • Reply Green Girl in Wisconsin July 2, 2014 at 8:59 pm

    It is with shame, deep shame, that I get all bereft while listening to Celine Deion. But I never stooped to beading because I admit I'm not artistic;)

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