My thoughts this week have been swirling around the idea of influence, whether it is a person, place, thing or notion. I sit in this office, within the newsroom, amid the hustle and bustle of downtown Waynesville, surrounded by the Great Smoky Mountains of Western North Carolina. I sit here as the words of the Talking Heads song “Once In A Lifetime” echo through my mind — “And you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?”
It all started in elementary school — an old French Catholic school run by nuns. I wasn’t a bad kid, but I couldn’t sit still (I still can’t at age 29). I wanted to be outside. I wanted to ask every question I had about everything around me. I wanted to know anything about everything (coincidence I became a journalist?). I wanted to know why God did what he/she did, and why things that are, must be? The nuns considered me “disruptive to the other students,” and I was constantly sent to the principal’s office.
But my curiously adventurous spirit would not be broken. With a driver’s license in hand at 16, I took off for destinations unknown, most of the time to my mother’s dismay. I headed out of town in search of new music, new people and new things to expand the world outside my bedroom window.
I wanted to see live music of genres I knew nothing about. I wanted to explore and comprehend the melodic magic of The Grateful Dead, Miles Davis, Neil Young, Peter Rowan, Radiohead, The Velvet Underground, A Tribe Called Quest, Bob Dylan, Philip Glass, and whomever else I threw onto the stereo. I wanted to travel to incredible places I could only imagine in dreams. I wanted to have conversations with unique people where I found myself saying, “Where have you been all my life?”
And then it hit me — writing. Once the literary works of Jack Kerouac, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, Charles Bukowski, Norman Mailer, Sylvia Plath, Gary Snyder and Jay McInerney found their way into my hands, their words seeped into my soul, forever changing the course of my intent, interaction with humanity and, of course, my existence.
The idea of influence is to interpret the things surrounding you, and be able to find a way to filter it down into your own conclusions. There is a fine line between obsession and influence, though. To achieve a sense of your own identity amid those faces and names you admire, you must find the light at the end of your tunnel. You must find your voice, your sound, your words, and have a sense of clarity at what you see when you look into the mirror.
I get so excited by the world. Everything on this great big, beautiful rock in the Universe utterly fascinates me. I find the more your “antenna” (your vibrant soul) is in tune with your environment, the more beauty you’ll discover. When you’re open to experience and the cosmos, chance and opportunity will find its way to you. It could be a life-changing conversation with a stranger while waiting in line for coffee, a song on the radio you hear while driving to your friend’s house, a book you happened to pick up because you liked the cover art, or maybe just silence and tranquility found on an afternoon hike in the mountains — it’s all magic, and all at your fingertips.
Being a journalist, my occupation creates innumerable avenues of exploration. Even if I didn’t work for a newspaper, I’d still pull over and see what some random roadside business or interesting person I see walking by everyday is all about. Provoke the chaos, I say. The more you put yourself out there, in a positive way, the more that your intent will be reciprocated to you tenfold — I can promise you that. Your life is waiting for you, so it’s high time you start living it.
I can’t sit still. I am the human sponge.
1: Americana/folk group Owner of the Sun will perform at 9 p.m. July 19-20 at No Name Sports Pub in Sylva.
2: The “Smokin’ in the Valley” Western North Carolina BBQ Festival will be July 25-26 at the Maggie Valley Festival Grounds.
3: Reggae act The Root of All will perform at 7 p.m. July 18 at BearWaters Brewing in Waynesville.
4: The Andy Roddick Mountain Challenge will be July 25-26 at the Cedar Creek Racquet Club in Cashiers.
5: Appalachian/gospel band Mountain Faith will perform at 6:30 p.m. July 19 at Pickin’ on the Square in Franklin.