“We are not idealized wild things. We are imperfect mortal beings, aware of that mortality even as we push it away, failed by our very complication, so wired that when we mourn our losses we also mourn, for better or for worse, ourselves. As we were. As we are no longer. As we will one day not be at all.”
― Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking
It's been a month. A month of beginning every day with his songs. A month of trying over and over to put pen to paper. A month of picking a wound that won't heal. Celebrities die all the time and their fans move on in a matter of days. But this one? This loss feels personal.
Tom Petty was passed on to me like an heirloom. The songs that defined the reckless teenage years of my parents would become the soundtrack to my own youth—to the nights spread out under the stars, to lazy afternoons on the edge of the lake, to long drives through sun-painted cliffs. If I was feeling on top of the world, there was a song for that. If I couldn’t get myself out of bed, there was a song for that. If I needed the courage to put one foot in front of the other, there was a song for that too.
He put words and music to the feelings too heavy to define.
He was the soundtrack to the seemingly in-between moments that in retrospect were the big moments after all:
to dancing around in my underwear in the bedroom of my first apartment;
to trouncing through the mud with my best friend under a thunderous New Orleans sky;
to long desert drives in the pursuit of clarity;
to quitting terrible jobs and ending toxic relationships;
to becoming the truest, most unencumbered version of myself I can possibly be.
Who are we without the artists who shaped us?
Who fills the void?
We fill it with all the love we can muster.
We fill it with new art, inspired by its predecessor, infused with its legacy.
We take the torch and become for others what Tom was for us—a light in the dark. A reminder that we are not alone, that our feelings are true.
We take on the mantle of the artist: to not let us forget who we are and from where we’ve come,
to listen to our heart; it’s gonna tell us what to do.