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Yesterday I came home from the gym with absolutely every intention of sitting down in front of my computer and finishing a post I’ve been working on all week. It’s not a sponsored post or a product review, or anything with a particular deadline. Instead it was a story of a postcard from Arizona and how the random memory sent my brain into a tailspin of thoughts and contemplation. These moments of contemplation seem to happen a lot more frequently as of late, I must be growing up. Regardless, I’ve been struggling to put together the right words to finish the post, and I was more than eager to finally hit the publish button.
But when I sat down at the computer and clicked over to Facebook as I often do while trying to write (the bane of my productivity and fuel to my procrastination) I learned the tragic news that Prince had died.
Yes, I said tragic.
I’m not one to follow the gossip train that is Hollywood. I can’t tell you the last time that I watched a reality TV show. I have no idea who is on the current top 40 list, hell, my kid just taught me what “whip and nae nae” meant, even though that trend has long since come and gone. I’ve been to the movie theater three times in the last four years, and I don’t watch television, unless you count the occasional Netflix “Bobs Burgers” marathon. I don’t know who played in the Super Bowl half time show, or even when the Super Bowl takes place for that matter. Frankly, I’m a sheltered little hobbit when it comes to pop culture; I’m more concerned with knowing who won Western States rather than who won a Grammy. So when a celebrity passes away, I think “that’s a shame” (assuming I know who they are) and move on.
But the news of Prince passing felt like a sucker punch in the gut, and I’m certain I wasn’t the only one who experienced that sensation. And that empty, sad, sick feeling in my stomach genuinely surprised me. As mentioned above, I’m not one to worship celebrities. I’ve never been star struck, nor seen these people as anything more than another human being with a vastly different career choice than mine.
So I stopped to think about why I suddenly felt the way I did. Why do we feel such sorrow, why do we mourn, over people that we have never met? People who likely didn’t even know of our existence? And why does it feel that much more tragic when it is a musician, rather than an actor, author, or politician (for example) dies? Here’s what I’ve come up with, and since writing is such a soothing form of therapy for me, I’m going to share it.
Music has so much emotional power attached to it. Personally, I can hear a song and immediately be transported back to a specific moment in time. Sometimes the memories are vague, and I am reminded more of a general time in my life rather than a specific moment. Other times, I will hear a song and I can tell you without hesitation exactly who I was with, what they were wearing, where were standing, what we were doing, what the weather was like, and even what they, myself, or that place smelled like. The memory is so incredibly strong it is as if I have suddenly been transported right back to that very moment.
It certainly is scary how powerful the mind is.
And I realize that it sounds silly, but this is why I can’t listen to music when I’m trying to fall asleep. Or even more so, why I’ll sometimes wake up in the middle of the night with a song in my head, and the memories that are triggered by that song, good, bad, or indifferent, are enough to wake me up faster than a shot of caffeine. The memories associated with music are fiercly powerful.
And for me, the notes of the song can trigger a flashback more powerful than any drug is capable of (or so I imagine.) The memory and the song are so tightly intertwined that you simply can’t have one without the other. So when a musician dies…especially an absolute musical legend…it’s almost as if a tiny part of our past, and therefore ourselves, dies with them. It goes without saying that Prince is one of those musicians for me, and his music is hopelessly woven throughout the last 34 years of my memories.
I’ve got a 50K tomorrow.
I haven’t raced in 139 days, which is, incase you were wondering, 38% of an entire year. That is completely unlike me, but I am OK with this shift in focus. Miles because I love them, not because a training plan calls for them. But I digress. Since I’ve gotten into much longer distance racing, Geoff and I have ended up having one particular song that sticks in our heads, which we randomly sing to each other throughout the race. It is equal parts hilarious and obnoxious, but it helps get us through with a smile on our faces. For the last two races, it was Elton John’s “Philadelphia Freedom” at Paris Mountain 50K, and Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long” for One Epic 24 hour. Yeah, we have an eclectic taste in music. Now, every time I hear these songs, I remember my aching legs and exhausted body, the glorious trails, and being surrounded by the endurance community I love. Such happy memories are associated with those two songs. And while these songs, at the time, were completely random and not forced, I’m going to try my damndest to bring Prince along for the run tomorrow.
I apologize to those who come here strictly for running posts, but I would feel amiss if I didn’t verbally spew out my feelings on this page, and say thank you to the legend that we lost yesterday. Even though I never met Prince. Even though he never knew I existed. His music made a profound impact on my life, and will continue to do so. Here’s to many more memories. Here’s to never letting the elevator bring us down.
(Oh no, let’s go!)
Thank you, Prince. Rest in peace.