“I still don’t know what I was waiting for, and my time was running wild …” — David Bowie
They say you never forget your first love, and although I can recall quite a few (dozen) early celebrity crushes (Robert Plant, Donnie Wahlberg, Michelle Pfeiffer, Roger Clemens, Cyndi Lauper … hey, I’m a fickle gal), no other stands out quite like Jareth, the Goblin King.
As a young girl I loved everything about “Labyrinth,” Jim Henson’s surreal musical fantasy, but like so many of my peers, I will never forget the moment I first saw David Bowie saunter in with that giant spiky hair, theatrical makeup, sly smirk, intense gaze and those skintight pants. He was equal parts tender and terrifying, and the confusion only made us love him more.
Normally we might not go for a manipulative baby-napper who hangs out with Muppets, drugs our fruit and threatens to throw our friends into the Bog of Eternal Stench, but Bowie just had a way about him that made his mind games and threats seem more seductive than sinister. Plus, he could turn into a gorgeous white owl at will, which was pretty badass.
I was delighted my children dug “Labyrinth” as much as I did when they watched it a couple of years ago, and it cracked me up when I noticed my daughter dreamily twirling around her room and listening to “As the World Falls Down” on repeat just a few days after watching the film. I figured she was daydreaming about either the Goblin King or that amazing ball gown Sarah wore in the movie, and it turned out to be both. I find it pretty amusing my daughter and I shared the very same first crush, almost 30 years apart, but I guess it just goes to show the timeless appeal of an artist like Bowie.
My son was just as impressed with the Goblin King (for very different reasons, as far as I can tell), and much like myself all those years ago, he and his sister went on from “Labyrinth” to begin exploring Bowie’s vast musical library. I would spend the next couple of decades drawn to different Bowie “phases” at different times in my life, and it would be difficult to overstate his influence on me, either directly or through his influence on other artists I loved.
Bowie was fascinated with music, fantasy, science fiction, space and the possibility of alien life, which are some of my favorite obsessions, and his impressive body of work runs the gamut from the catchy to the downright bizarre. I’m so glad my children had a chance to appreciate a few tastes of his creative genius before he passed away earlier this month.
Of the many, many ways Bowie’s incredible talents have influenced the world around him, his greatest legacy will perhaps always be his inspiration as a creative artist. Throughout his entire body of work, he encouraged others to take chances, fearlessly embrace their “weird” and keep creating something — anything — right up to the very end.
His final album, the hauntingly beautiful “Blackstar,” is widely regarded as a farewell gift to his fans, as well as a final warning to use your remaining time wisely, doing what really matters most to you.
What do you want to do most with the time you have left? For me it’s backpacking, writing books and making art in the mountains — Asheville, North Carolina, in particular — and it’s past time to concentrate on making that a reality. I’ve put it off for way too long, mostly due to fear of failure and second-guessing myself. What if my first book totally sucks? What if they all do? What if I find out I was never good at writing at all?
I’ve recently made a great deal of progress with my book, even encountering a few promising opportunities for publishing, and it’s time to dive in headfirst and get it finished. I still have a day job, of course (and fortunately one I enjoy), but the bulk of my creative energy and very limited free time should be spent finishing my book and carving out the life I want, one day at a time. With that said, it’s time to say goodbye to this column, and it’s a bittersweet farewell indeed.
This is goodbye for “Tao of Jen,” but not for Mobile just yet. We’ve started the process of transitioning into a more temporary rental home, just to set things in motion, but we’re taking our time and will be around for a while yet. There’s no rush to leave the home I’ve loved all my life, and I’m not ready to even think about the day I have to finally say goodbye to friends and family. Asheville waits peacefully with a beckoning smile, but the book calls to me with an urgency that I’ve buried for far, far too long.
To my readers, I want to take this last opportunity to thank you for being so incredibly kind and supportive, all along the way. I am a very shy and introverted person — probably a lot more so than it seems — and it’s been pretty wild for me to share my life and opinions with thousands (Hundreds? Dozens? Just you, Mom?) of strangers over the past six and a half years. I probably spent more time than you might imagine worrying that I sound like an idiot, but you guys have always been so kind.
You gave me the courage to share my work with a larger audience and pursue my own greatest dreams, and it is appreciated more than you will ever know. This is the part where I surprised myself by crying a lot more than I expected, so I’ll just leave you with Bowie’s timeless wisdom …
“(Turn and face the strange) / Ch-ch-changes / Pretty soon now you’re gonna get older / Time may change me / But I can’t trace time.”
Editors Note: “Tao of Jen” has been published biweekly in Lagniappe since 2009. Archived columns will remain available at classic.lagniappemobile.com/Sections.asp?sid=37 and lagniappemobile.com/category/commentary/tao/.
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