My first impression of David Bowie was from the movie, "Labyrinth". I have always been boy crazy, even as a five year old. So I spent much of my young life thinking the Goblin king was hot. (I know, I was a very shallow five year old.) It wasn't until I was in my teens - coping with a medical condition, that I really started to get into his music. There's always been something very dazzling and magical about David Bowie, and simultaneously very provocative.
He had a way of expressing himself and I couldn't help but become captivated.
My only regret is that this story will never meet his eyes. My consolation, my hope is that I can at least have the opportunity to express to his family how much this man - I have never personally met, yet is not a stranger; How much my friend, David Bowie meant to me.
First, let me start with the personal stuff. (I'll try to make it quick; But its relevant so hang in there.) I was diagnosed with epilepsy when I was seven. As a teenager my treatment became very dangerous. The depakote I had been taking practically my entire life at that point , although controlling the seizures was causing very deadly side effects to the rest of my body. I was showing the beginnings of kidney and liver failure, I was chronically depressed. The doctors said, I would end up on dialysis and probably be placed on the donor list before the age of thirty. I likely wouldn't even make it to thirty. At seventeen I was faced with a choice: to stay on the meds because it was controlling the seizures. We all knew it worked in that area. But it would eventually kill me. Or switch to a completely brand new medicine that hadn't even been on the market a year. It was a risk because we didn't know if it would even work let alone what the side effects would be later down the line. It was such a complicated thing my body was going through at that time - in addition to being a teenager. My closest friends had a difficult time consoling me with this. I knew they tried but they never knew what to say. After each Dr.'s appointment, the news was always worse than the time before. They were just kids, too. I felt bad expecting so much from them when this was something they couldn't understand. Their biggest concerns were about hair, make-up, boys, and bitches flirting with their perspective dates...
In a way I was envious. I wished for problems that people could relate to. On the other hand, I would never wish this on any of them. I was confused and frustrated. I felt alone. I felt like I was an outcast. I felt like I was from outer space every time I talked about what I was going through. Like I was speaking a completely different language as everyone else. Everytime I opened my mouth it was as though all anyone heard was, "Gleep glop. Beep boop. Yabba yabba yabba." It went on like that for the better part of my Jr year in highschool.
One Saturday or Sunday, instead of writing an English paper, I went to the mall with a buddy of mine. My friend *Josh and I used to go buy CDs together. That was sort of our thing. We dated briefly for a month or two, the year before but the chemistry was off. He eventually came out of the closet a year after graduation - I guess that explains it.
Anyway, I wanted something different from all the mainstream music we were constantly hearing. I wanted something to get me out of my head. I thought to myself, 'I wonder if I'll like David Bowie? He was great in Labyrinth...'
There you have it. Seventeen year old logic.
I scrolled through the albums they had and it was a choice between "Low", "Aladdin Sane", some two disc live albums that were over my price point, stuff I wasn't sure would be in English, and "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars". While debating which album to start myself off with, not knowing that this would inevitably be the first life changing decision I would make, it came down to this single thought: Spiders From Mars, eh? I gotta check this out!
*Josh wanted to hear his Perfect Circle album first because he had what he called, a "man crush" on Maynard. (-And I still didn't get it.) Plus it was his car. So I had to wait until I got home to listen to my new CD. I figured I would play it while i eventually wrote my English paper that was due that Monday. Possibly the very next day.
I wish I could say that I put in the CD, pressed play and then, voila! Super fan!!!
It didn't work out that way. It wasn't instant. I had it playing as background sound while I hastily wrote my paper.
I don't remember exactly what the paper was about or the exact moment, but at some point I heard him desperately crying out in a song. It got my attention.
"Oh No Love, You're Not Alone!"
I had to stop what I was doing and immediately start that song over. Who was he singing to? What was this story about? I didn't know at the time that all the songs on the entire album played into each other. So I didn't quite understand, but I liked it.
It was then that I understood, what my friends couldn't say to me, this guy just did.
I'm not alone.
Suddenly, I didn't feel like I was.
The best part, as I started to learn what this album was about - Ziggy was from outer space? It was perfect! I only wished there were about twenty more songs on that CD. Unfortunately, there weren't. I had to go out and buy more albums. That's how it began.
My CD case was filled to capacity. (I did eventually buy that double disc live album "Bowie at the Beeb".)
Over time I started to realize that the world is such a big place. There's always someone out there - maybe who will understand what I might be going through. Or at least relate to it, somehow.
I couldn't imagine what inspired David Bowie to create those albums but I'm so grateful he did. I didn't realize that I was headed into a downward spiral until I had something else to get me out of it.
I know I'm running the risk of sounding cliche but I don't know how to say it without saying it. I wouldn't be here, if it weren't for him. I think I would have stayed on my old medicine. In a way it was the safest. I knew exactly what would happen, even if the outcome would be bad. I guess I was inspired to not be afraid of the unknown. My eyes were opened to a world of possibilities.
David Bowie could wear a dress, and make up in the 70's and get up on stage and sing about it like a fucking rock star. Ultimately putting himself out there time and time again taking all kinds of risks, pushing boundaries and continuing to do so all the way into the 2000's. If he could be that way, I could take a risk and try something new too. I would hope for the best and take the steps necessary to try to prolong my life. Even if I wasn't sure what would happen.
...And eventually I had a Thirtieth birthday.
Then, a 31st,
Followed by a 32nd...
Jan 11, 2016, I turned 33. No dialysis, no transplant. All the symptoms went away as soon as the old medicine was completely out of my system.
My 33rd birthday was bittersweet since it is also the day I received the sad news of David Bowie's passing.
Many of my friends texted me their condolences, rather than birthday wishes. Which seemed fitting and yet, so unfair.
I prayed all day that it would turn out to be one of those hoaxes.
Perhaps if I prayed more often than that one time, things would have gone differently.
But probably not.
I learned a lot about the person I am because of David Bowie. Like any and all good friends, they help you to become a better you. I feel that is the impact his music had on me. It helped me to feel less isolated, more inclined to celebrate my uniqueness, to love myself in spite of my mistakes or in spite of things that happen outside of my control.
I learned also, that even if your closest circle can't wrap their head around what you may be going through, that's okay. It doesn't mean they don't love you; try to resist being frustrated with them.
In situations like that, Look in places you normally wouldn't. Go outside of your comfort zone. You may feel strange and may seem a little crazy, But, you might discover exactly what you need.
I am profoundly grateful for the works of David Bowie. He became more to me than a sexy Goblin King. He was an inspiration. He had the capacity to create with his heart and his mind.
I feel that his life ended too soon. But that's not my call.
May he rest peacefully into eternity. May his music blast on earth for all time.