I know many writers enjoy immersing themselves in music as they write, but listening to music has never been a way for me to find that metal space where my words pour from my mind and through the keyboard into my work. It’s not because I don’t enjoy music, it’s that I enjoy it too much. When a song comes on which touches my soul I feel compelled to stop everything and just be. And, if the song is anywhere near my vocal range, I need to sing 1.
I am an introvert, and expressing the depth of my soul to people in public is not something I’m prone to do 2. People who don’t know me will sometimes find me reserved, even cold. Those who do know me will often perceive those bits of my emotional core which seep through the walls of my introversion as bitterness. Neither is true, but it often takes years for me to grant others enough access into my deepest heart to see otherwise. That may be one of the reasons why I write, and why I’m compelled to preach — these are spaces where I can express me, and to hell with introversion. It’s certainly why I enjoyed acting in High School, the characters I portrayed were often more me than the person who walked the halls of my school — where I tried my best to keep my head down so people would ignore me 3.
This week I’m going to share some of the songs which speak to my heart, and try to explain why. The two below, “How Far I’ll Go” and “This Is Me,” are two of the more recent songs which bring me to tears. They are songs for misfits, for those who refuse to be defined by what others say they are and dare to dream.
Far left progressives might bristle at my connection with these two songs. After all, I’m a white straight male. As the most uncaring progressives like to blurt out, I’ve “won the genetic lottery.” When I hear statements like this, and I hear them too often, it’s all I can do not to shout with desperation, “I am not what you say I am!” I find it ironic this is the same urge I feel when conservatives imply I am a stupid, babyish, delusional, or lazy liberal who doesn’t care about the Bible 4.
I am not what you say I am.
I will never deny white privilege exists. I understand this as a systemic and historical reality, and where my feeble hands are able to use it I will express whatever privilege I possess so I can give it away to others. But never assume people who look typical, are. I have no tattoos 5, I have no piercings 6, and most folks would perceive my personal style to be about as “normal” as you can get. But looks are deceiving. I am a questioner of the norm, I’ve never fit comfortably in any single group, I see the cracks in the social structures which surround me, and every day of my life I wonder what is wrong with me. I have never been able to go along with whatever cultural narrative those around me are spinning. My entire life I’ve felt like an outsider, because for the life of me I simply cannot get in line.
And that is why these two songs bring me to tears. They describe the internal struggle with which I wrestle every day.
- I am certain there are videos on Youtube featuring me driving down the road belting out some random song. ↩
- For some reason, writing doesn’t count. I don’t get it either. ↩
- I usually failed. My public high school was a living nightmare. At Lancaster Mennonite people refused let me hide, I had no idea it was because they wanted to be friends — and most of those folks still are. ↩
- The last bit is from conservative Evangelicals. ↩
- I’ve never seen the point. ↩
- I can’t get a shot without nearly fainting, putting permanent holes in my body is not appealing. ↩