Lessons From Bowie

It’s been just over a full day since the world lost David Bowie. I guess the same amount of time has passed since I lost him too. The news is awash with folks weighing in about their favorite Bowie hits and stories of when they met, stories about what a normal guy he was. I’m not trying to judge them but it’s hard to take when I never met him but needed him. I never had a single favorite but have Bowie histories within my own personal history. I never thought that anything he ever showed me wasn’t normal.

Like so many other outcast kids discovering him was an awakening. Here was a person (probably a person…) who didn’t even try to fit in but pushed his pendulum far in the opposite direction. So many times when facing a struggle I could lose myself in his lyrics, costumes, music, or movies and emerge with not just an answer but always the right answer.

Here are some of the lessons he taught me.

Love the person, not their look.

  • One of my major exes exploded at me once after asking about my exes. He was upset they weren’t similar, that they were so all over the map. He was further angered seeing their pictures. They looked like the rainbow they were. Lots of colors, lots of different styles, different talents, different ages, varying faces on a traditional spectrum of beauty. I don’t know if he was looking to feel better about himself, looking to feel like the one thing I really wanted in comparison to “the other guy” or what but I’ve since found out that Bowie had a similar approach to love. Man or woman, black or white, young or old didn’t seem to come into play. If they were fascinating and compelling they could be loved by him. It’s what’s inside you that I’m interested in, the other stuff is like the buttons on your jacket – I might like it or not but ultimately, it’s not so very important.

ava cherry

Bowie and Ava Cherry

 

Let your outsides reflect your insides.

  • This may seem the opposite of what I just said but hear me out.
    I can’t remember the first time I saw Bowie though I suspect it was watching Labyrinth like a lot of kids from the 80’s. All I know is that once I saw him I seemed to see him in a lot of places. In a lot of forms of dress. It seemed that opposed to what kids in my elementary school were telling me you didn’t have to be one kind of person or look like one kind of person. I stopped caring about trying to be one thing and embraced clothing for what it was – a costume.
    If I’m really into some old school down and dirty punk stuff my clothes will let you know it. If I’m going through a domestic and feminine phase you’ll be able to tell that too. I’ve been told I have a face that can’t lie. My wardrobe does the same thing. It may look insane of casual but it’s a carefully considered and curated construction I can treat as a tiny art form for the day.

bowie paper dolls

 

Be honest.

  • If you need to quit the impending success of your pop career to study mime for a year do it. Only you know what’s best for you and how to properly invest in yourself. Another tragic loss came recently when Lemmy departed us too soon. He said “I don’t do regrets. Regrets are pointless. It’s too late for regrets. You’ve already done it, haven’t you? You’ve lived your life. No point wishing you could change it.”
    My only regrets are from missing out on big opportunities because I was trying to take care of others by limiting myself. A lot of people  guys from my past were really into catching me then trying to categorize me, tame me, and ultimately change me. It wasn’t until I stopped allowing that to happen I found the person I really love. It’s still a lot to ask of someone to be myself and I’m figuring out how to be reasonable and to do me without being selfish. Encouraging the people you love with make them better and make you happier because of it. With work, with growth, with love. Always be honest.

LK and DB

Lindsay Kemp and Bowie

 

Find the right collaborators.

  • I’m not an especially strong team player. I think being a weird kid and finding the safety in alone caused me to find a little too much comfort there. I’m an extrovert but at the end of each day I found peace and safety in myself. I almost always knew what to expect there. As an adult I’ve learned that we have to work together to create the truly great stuff but it can still be hard for me to identify the proper collaborators I need for various projects. Once identified it’s even harder to reach out and ask for help.
    The right people with strengthen your work, adding dimension and depth. The wrong people will try to get you to sprinkle your magic pixie dust all over turds. Wading these waters is hard but I look to the collaborations Bowie made to try and understand what kind of collaborator I may be dealing with. Is this person a Pop or a Visconti?  An Eno or a Ronson? Each serves a different purpose for both parties, each is integral for different reasons. I’m trying to stay aware. Trying to be more open to the collaborators who appear before me.

 

We all feel lonely.

  • Just because you have fabulous collaborators, love, friends, family and kindness in your world does not mean you won’t go through times of isolation. To feel lonely is to to be forced to consider yourself. Many try and avoid this, experiencing discomfort or facing truths they’d rather not face. Instead, I embrace it, albeit awkwardly. Chances are if the universe has left me alone it’s because I need to do some thinking. I’ll use this time to dig deep and get honest with myself. To create a little art or reach out to someone who’s drifted a bit too far away. Loneliness is a nice barometer. Lyrics like Bowie’s make it delicious.
British singer David Bowie

25 Jun 1977, Paris, France — British singer, songwriter and actor David Bowie. — Image by © Christian Simonpietri/Sygma/Corbis

 

Your flaws are beautiful.

  • This is a lesson punk rock also taught me. Embrace your flaws – they’re human glitter. Instead of trying to adapt his look to look to be more like everyone else Bowie instead took them to the extreme. By embracing them he changed the world. Now, I’m not claiming this will happen for all of us but I do know that we’ll all be a happier lot if we accept how gorgeous we all are.

eyes

 

Fuck ’em.

  • Change before they’re ready. Add mime to a rock show. Quit if you have to. Experiment with what you love. Stay strange and honest about it. You know what you’re doing. Your world will either get that or catch up with you if they love you. If they don’t they’ll move on and you’ll be better off without them.

fabulous

Flash needs substance (and vice versa).

  • Too far in the direction of flash and you wind up with a Glass Spider Tour on your hands. To far in the direction of substance and you’re smack dab in the middle of Tin Machine. The truth is that if you’re doing great shit and it’s not packaged correctly folks may not take notice. That’s fine unless you want to change the world. Letting people see your ideas means they can copy you, adapt you and continue your good work. So dress it up and make it fun to interact with and too tempting not to replicate somehow. On the other hand if you’re too worried about the packaging and you don’t spend time creating quality work you may get attention but won’t create an impact worth creating.
    Everybody wants to be Ziggy but if we were all Ziggy he’d be less special. With any luck you’ll hit it out of the park somewhere into Diamond Dogs territory. There can be no excess of Diamond Dogs.

 

When you start to feel crazy take care of it.

  • A lot of us weirdos can feel crazy from time to time. (Define crazy as you will.) Some think it makes us better artists, some think it makes us annoying nuisances. Regardless, when you feel your dark thoughts bubbling to the surface take care of it. I recently finished Duff McKagan’s newest book and in it he talks about his own battle with depression saying that movement is the enemy of dark thoughts for him. I agree. Going for a long walk with my dog is a good start for redirecting my rudder. For Bowie addressing his fear of insanity through song writing helped. No matter how you deal with your darkness don’t allow yourself to soak in it. You deserve better.
DB-Terry

Bowie and Terry

Always look to future.

  • Being great can happen to almost anyone. Staying great takes work and planning. To stay relevant you need to keep working, not just resting on that cool thing you did. Challenge yourself by considering your future and cluing into the fact that we can all continue to learn and hopefully grow as artists, creators and most importantly – as humans.

db dad

There’s so much more than this that he gave me. But I’m keeping those for myself. I’m going to be sad for a very long time about this. I might talk about it, I might not. I’ve lost my original collaborator in his death. My imaginary friend. My first and longest lasting crush. My hero. The savior and advocate of all the weirdos. And the rock star who had the most seemingly effortless transition between sex, silliness, self deprecation, bad ass rock, and thoughtfulness. I have other people I look up to but I wanted to have Bowie grow old and be a shining example of all that could be accomplished as a 70 year old, 80 year old, 90 year old and beyond… (Did I think he would ever die?)

I will take these lesson into my future and be okay. So will you.

Provide Magical Face-to-Face Service

So I’ve just wrapped up my second semester of Library School. It was fun, it was a lot of work, and I’m SO glad I’ve been working in libraries for what will be a decade next month. Pulling from my own widely varied experiences have made studying so relatable.

Among fellow librarians I’ve talked with during this semester it’s agreed: if you’re toying with working in a library someday and want to get the degree GO WORK IN A LIBRARY.  Make sure you really like working with the public. ALL of the public, not just what you see on television. (It’s less Desk Set and more Buffy in real life.)

For one of my last assignments I had to create an infographic so I took the opportunity to do something I’ve wanted to do for years. I made a flow chart about offering basic excellent customer service to our face-to-face patrons. When I was nearly done I had my buddy Sarah Anne take a peek at it since she’s the head of our Circulation Department and she asked for a copy when I was done to hang in her department!  It made me realize it may be helpful to folks working in libraries or those who are curious about what those interactions should look like.

I’m frequently told how uncanny it is I can give folks bad news (“No, sir, you can not use the children’s restroom.” “No, sweetheart, you can not hit her in the face with a laptop.”) and they leave happy about it. I firmly believe this can be chalked up to genuinely caring and entering each transaction believing the request I’m about to receive is important and worth my full attention. Folks respond to that. They appreciate feeling heard and important. And I never leave them simply shut down, I provide options. (“No, sir, you can not use the restrooms in the Children’s Department but did you know there are adult restrooms on the 1st and 3rd Floors? I’d be happy to show you where!” “No, sweetheart, you can’t hit her in the face with that laptop. Did you know that the library’s rules say we’re supposed to ask people not to come back for a year if they act violently towards another person? I know you were playing but it’s something to keep in mind. No laptops to the face, no aggressive tickling with spaghetti, no karate chops to your friends’ ponytails.”)

So here, have a peek at my work! (I got a 100%, btw – Woohoo!)

Providing Magical Face-to-Face Reference Services (1)

Lists…

I love lists. I fought against them for a long time because my mother, the amazing Lynda, insisted I create them. She wanted me to make them for packing to go to camp (“You’ll forget something”), to remember all I had to do in a day/week/assignment (“You’ll forget something”) and for some other reasons I don’t really remember. (I’m fairly certain she thought I was going to forget something.) Eventually, I realized the woman was right. I had my candle burning at both ends and that wasn’t enough. I grabbed more candles and immediately lit both ends on each one and you know what? I forgot stuff. (Stuff is even more than something.)

Fast forward to today and I am notorious for my lists. If it isn’t written down and therefore physically manifested it in’t real in my world. (It also isn’t happening.)

Screen shot 2015-11-12 at 8.47.32 AM

I have been so immersed in school, life, and work and I’ve had about a thousand ideas of things to write about. I’m going to prove it with a list for you that will also remind me to be better about blogging. Here you go:

Screen shot 2015-11-12 at 8.42.29 AM

I promise I will write about this stuff soon. But life has kept me distracted. To press pause on life would detract from the honesty of what I’m trying to create. Stopping to write before life let’s me would be a serious disservice to it and I won’t do that. We’ll talk soon. I promise.

I love my city. 

I was planning on talking about my last
week at grad school. But I can’t. 

Right now I’m waiting for a plane to take me back to Chattanooga. I’m watching the news and obsessively reading through Twitter to try and gain some understanding about what just happened in the city I love and have adopted as my home. 

I picked this city to raise my family in. I’ve had people try and talk me into leaving and I just won’t. There is something amazing happening here. It is the most optimistic place I’ve ever been. Since the minute I got there I’ve been met by a feeling of “of course we can change the world, we’re already doing it!” 

Mayor Andy Berke leads a storytime on the second floor

There is art everywhere. 

   
    
    

There are more trees here than I’ve ever seen in a city.  

   

  

We have a deep river that doesn’t divide our shores, but seems to enhance them.   

  
   

There’s so much more than this. I’m ready to try and help when I get home and I don’t know how much of that will be within the walls of the library I love our outside those walls. But being ready to help us what makes me from Chattanooga now. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I love my city. 

First Day of School

When I was in high school I had an incredible Latin teacher. Liz was intensely dedicated to her students and the art of language. She taught the class in Latin. There were 2 grades: A or F. We were all required to take the National Latin Exam every year (We all always medaled. Seriously. All of us. EVERY time.). We also had summer homework. We would be given a text to translate from Latin to English each summer at our leisure. I loved it. I hated the pressure during the school year but when Summer came I could devote all my focus to the class I loved the most and just read, think and write.

So far, that’s what grad school has been like. Well, sort of. I mean, there’s still a lot of stress from work, home ownership, new marriage, dog, cat, book and a few other monkey wrenches the Universe decided were appropriate for just this moment… But seriously, I have finally reached a point where I’m studying only the thing I’m obsessed with. Can you imagine!? I think about libraries. All. The. Time. But NOW! Now I get to think about libraries and do extra projects about libraries and (here comes the best part…) challenge myself when it comes to what I think I know about libraries.

I’m a weirdo in basically all aspects of my life. I’ve never quite fit into any of the molds I tried on. Snowboarder with no patience for the cool factor. Beat poet enthusiast who can’t stand Ginsberg. Seamstress interested in making intentionally tacky or inappropriate costumes resulting in social discomfort for my friends. Punk Rock lover who does not like Sid Vicious. Loudest librarian in the building interested in adding more loud people who will do weird things with me (Wool felting for cat lovers! ).  These are not historically popular niches.

f+g

Now HERE are two beat foxes! That is literally one lucky dog.

I like being a weirdo. I’ve gotten comfortable living on the edges of all these colliding identities and library land has actually started encouraging people to work the way I work. I can’t wait to see what cool new versions of weird this experience is going to pull out of me.

I’ve been doing homework for the iSchool for weeks now. Prepping for an intense week long trip where I get to study for 7 days with peers. It feels a lot like when I was 9 and we moved to Maine – “Will they like me? Will I be too weird? Will I make friends?” It also feels like starting a new job – “Will standing up for what I believe in make people angry at me? Will I get to do what I want?” and somewhere sprinkled on the fuzzy edges it feels like falling in love – “I can’t sleep! I want to look nice!”

So I’m finally here and ready. It’s 7:45am and I’ve got on the special outfit I picked out and I tried to make my crazy hair cooperate and it’s my first day of school. I hope that I don’t cry (for any reason) and I hope that I don’t get a tattoo. Even more than that I hope my ideas are good enough. That all this weird has culminated into the kind of person this community will think can make a difference.