I grew up listening to David Bowie from a young age.
My father is a musician, and my mother had no fear of introducing us to strange films like "Labyrinth" and "Rocky Horror" from a young age.
I distinctly recall the first time I saw David Bowie in his Jareth get-up in "Labyrinth."
I felt outside of my own human body.
Who was this man, and why did his appearance not make Earthly, confined sense to me?
He was beautiful, captivating and he scared me in the best possible way -- a way that made me question whether I, too, could be so strangely outside the norm.
From that moment on, David Bowie fascinated me.
I devoured his music, his presence, his words.
From the lyrical quality of his voice to the very real actual glimmer in his eyes, to his seeming fearlessness to present himself in a way that made me question how genuine my own self was, Bowie has always been my beacon of how to live in the frightening realm of abstraction that is humanity.
Anything normal or confined is not real. Weird is the only truth.
Is there anything more valuable than another human being who makes us question our own authenticity and state of being?
This formative questioning of myself, my gender, my view of the "rules" and the normal is what began my love affair with David Bowie.
I was deeply heart-broken to hear of his passing this morning, but here are the lyrics that echo through my soul, as I remember the things David Bowie taught me.
He shaped me, as I am sure he shaped many a human being that encountered his art and likeness.
1. “Let’s sway/ While color lights up your face.” -- "Let’s Dance"
This lyric might not be as morbid to some as it is to me, but it very starkly reminds me that there will be a time, the majority of time, in fact, when color will not light up our faces.
We will be in staunch darkness for the majority of this insane journey through time and space, and we have but only a few moments to exist.
So, let’s dance.
“For fear your grace should fall/For fear tonight is all…”
Tonight is all, and Bowie’s music was always an ever-present reminder for me to open my eyes to the present.
2. “Don't let me hear you say life's taking you nowhere, angel/Come get up my baby/Look at that sky, life's begun/Nights are warm and the days are young.”
-- "Golden Years"
Nothing’s gonna touch you in these golden years.
Even if that is not the earnest truth, how else are we to proceed?
There is no sense in the alternative.
Make your choices, do what is bold, and pretend that these golden years are your invincibility.
Bowie, in his shifting appearances and his ability to put forth truth in a world where we like to feel safe, has always shoved me forth into the light of what I fear most.
What we must do to build the lives we dream of begins now, in these golden years.
3. “You've got your mother in a whirl/She's not sure if you're a boy or a girl/Hey babe, your hair's alright/Hey babe, let's go out tonight.” – "Rebel Rebel"
Growing up with a transgender brother, Bowie was immensely formative in my absolute disregard for gender construction.
That first initial memory of viewing Bowie as this beautiful creature, but acknowledging that he was an undefinable gender anomaly taught me to accept all forms of human life.
I do not need to define people or genders or spaces we inhabit and I attribute that almost entirely to Bowie. Bowie taught me to love humans, regardless of their shells.
He taught me to embrace what is beautiful and strange, for isn’t that what we all are?
He had no time to ask if what he was doing was correct or how to consider how others might react.
He simply was, in the colorful insanity that made him an icon.
4. “And these children that you spit on/As they try to change their worlds/Are immune to your consultations/They're quite aware of what they're going through.” – "Changes"
Bowie has always been acutely aware of the struggles humans face, especially in formative years.
Of all the things Bowie brought in to question, he never questioned youth and their ability to grow and change and adapt.
He inspired me, as he inspired so many youths, to brave untested waters.
While he acknowledged struggles in our brief lives, he never for a moment wavered on whether or not we can endure.
He seemed to have relentless faith in the young, the brave, so I aspired to be brave and follow in his footsteps.
5. “There's a starman waiting in the sky/He'd like to come and meet us/But he thinks he'd blow our minds/There's a starman waiting in the sky/He's told us not to blow it/'Cause he knows it's all worthwhile.” – "Starman"
Bowie is and has always been the Starman for me.
He knew it was all worthwhile, which is why he produced his art until mere days before he died.
Bowie shaped me and made me who I am.
He gave me the courage to approach each day as entirely myself, and not fear who might think what.
For after all, I only have this day, this life, and why should I not dance in whatever form I may arrive in? Or whatever form I find most beautiful?
Bowie was most beautiful and fearless to me.
To the man who continually taught me to be my strange self, to live life "while color lights up your face," and to embrace the real magic of being human.
I love you, David Bowie.
You're a Starman now. Thank you for inspiring me to dance and dream weird dreams.