Pass me a tissue? This tear rolling down my cheek is about to turn into tears rolling down my neck and I sure could use a material more absorbent than my finger to wipe them up.
I first saw you perform during Admit Weekend 2014. I was a senior in high school at the time and I had just been admitted into Stanford University. I sat in the front row of a room full of prospective freshmen. We were huddled around your feet in the lounge of Burbank that night, every atom in our young bodies vibrating with the energy of each other’s.
When you first opened your mouth to let out that sound, you took the air right out of me. Looking up at you, I felt my lips part and my tongue drop to the bottom of my palette. The residue of the breeze in the room dared not blow and the echoes of the creaks in the floorboards dared not moan. We held our breaths as you unleashed yours. We—I—were in awe.
As your faithful music grounded me, I took distinct note of the amazement—yes, amazement—that my eyes called to my spirit’s attention. Here, like mountains before me, stood the most visibly diverse group of people coming together to form such the most cohesive unit I had ever seen in my life. My experiences at the time, limited to the cultural and geographical confines of the suburban midwest, crumbled under the luscious weight of your Asian, Indian, Latino, Arab, Black, White, Mixed appearance. You all, representing so many beautiful peoples on this singular earth, formed a singular instrument, to sing songs from around the world we all have the privilege of calling home.
It was in that very moment that my past crumbled beneath me and I was left happily clinging to the knowledge that I had just entered what must have been one of the most special places on earth. Here, beneath my very feet, is a place where people are encouraged to break free from the expectations that have been imparted upon them, to throw themselves off the cliff edge of their comfort zone, and to follow their passions no matter what those passions may be. I ran my fingers across the carpet. It was rough and walked-on. It was real.
Last week during New Student Orientation, you came and performed for my freshmen residents in our lounge. (Thank you for making the trek, by the way. I know we’re not exactly central on campus.) My co-staff and I are huge fans of yours, so we wanted to make sure that our frosh got the chance to see you perform up close after your performance at FACES.
Though I wasn’t planning to, I found myself in the front row again. Alas, after instructing the babies (@babies: yes, we call you that) to move back to give you space, there I was again, huddled at your feet and ready to receive the artful gifts of your making.
Sure as sunrise, you began to sing, and I was quickly filled with your grace and power once more. Fixated on every sweet note, I felt your voice swim through the air and push the hairs on my arms up straight. I admired your body pulse and flow with the effort of your song—how your knees bent and your wrists bounced. How your eyes looked only at each other or inside.
Quietly, I peeked over my shoulder to look at my frosh.
Half of them were like me, in that their jaws had dropped to the lounge floor, their lips were parted and chins hung low. Their gazes locked steadfast in your direction as they watched the music move through the airwaves in front of them. “I know, right,” I thought.
The other half of them… oh, Talisman. 🙂 The other half of them had the biggest grins I may have ever seen. Their cheeks turned north from ear to ear, smiles wide and wild. But unlike the first group, I do not know what they were thinking. Perhaps what they felt was similar to the ineffable excitement for all of life to come that I had felt when I first heard you sing at my Admit Weekend. Perhaps they too were surprised and excited at the sight of such a diverse microcosm of our student body. Perhaps they were just happy.
There have been few moments in my life when I have felt with such certainty that I am exactly where I need to be, doing exactly what I need to do. The sight of dropped jaws and mile-long grins brought me one of those very rare moments. I want you to understand that you did that for me. You did that for us.
So thank you, Talisman. Thank you for gracing the earth’s airwaves with your unparalleled sound. Thank you for consistently rekindling the souls of mine and more. And thank you—THANK YOU—for reminding me, just a mere member of the audience, what it means to be sure.
To be present.
To be alive.