“When I get older, I will be stronger, they’ll call me freedom, just like a waving flag,”
Wavin’ Flag by K-naan
In high school I never had an answer to the question of what I wanted to be when I grow up. I was from the Midwest, and there wasn’t one adult around that had a career I admired. Like many teenagers I was lost. There was one person though that seemed to have things figured out, an author I stumbled upon from one of my hippie friends, Jack Kerouac, author of “On The Road”.
Kerouac didn’t really do anything groundbreaking in that book; he traveled around with his buddies, chased women, embraced the loneliness of looking deep within, and philosophized on our country. But, the way he wrote about it, the prose, and the passion for living with freedom that stuck with me, and is still with me to this day.
I later found out that Kerouac basically drank himself to death, and didn’t really seem to live out a happy American life in the end. It was a sad thing to learn, but an important life lesson.
When I started traveling around, first following jam bands like Phish and Widespread Panic, I got my taste of Kerouac’s America: long drives on lonesome highways, nights of excitement in the cities, and sharing freedom with friends. My next stage of travelling was with rock climbing; it was much healthier than going to concerts day after day, and the freedom that the climbing life provides, well that’s the stuff great novels are made of.
I chased that freedom all around this country, to the point of having too much freedom. Such abandon from work and responsibility left me feeling lost. Having nothing to do but climb left climbing feeling more and more meaningless.
This is when I really picked up the pen, or in these days, started typing away. I had plenty of experiences to reflect upon, and stories to tell. I had found my career.
Eventually my career led to a full-time job, working mostly as a writer in higher education. I saw freedom slipping away, and wanted it back. With freedom in my rear view mirror I made a U-turn to find it again.
So I’m sitting here as the writer, looking out my window at my little corner of America here in Durango, Colorado, my home for now. I’ve got freedom back, but I’m still at a loss with a master plan of how to keep it. Any adult comes to the realization that money is needed for freedom. So I sit and wonder how to keep the money coming in.
I know what I want to be when I grow up, and I know I want freedom.
Again I’m looking to American literature. This time I’m captivated by another book, “Decoded” by Jay-Z, the great American rapper.
Jay-Z has led an incredible rags-to-riches life, growing up poor in the Marcy Projects in Brookyln, New York to becoming one of the most influential figures in the music industry. He’s been successful, not only as a rapper, but as an entrepreneur.
In “Decoded” he writes about hip hop and his life with such passion that it’s impossible not to get swept up and carried away in the book, what any good book should do. One incredible thing about Jay-Z is that he took what he loved, hip hop, and made himself a millionaire while still staying true to the art. To me Jay-Z embodies the spirit of freedom. Pick up the book for yourself, and once you sink into the paper and become captivated, just try to put it down. The book could also be considered a blueprint for the artist looking to be commercially successful, while remaining independent and respected by one’s peers.
So I realize it’s a big stretch to connect Jack Kerouac and Jay-Z with my search for freedom, but both have given me great gifts through their art. I embrace Kerouac’s spirit and Jay Z’s vision. As I work my way to becoming a famous writer, one who writes about my passion and hopes to become free through it, I think of my heroes that became free, if only for a moment in time, and the poetry and prose that led them to that state of freedom.
Kerouac's "On the Road" and Jay Z's "Decoded" can be purchased through Amazon with the following links below:
[DECODED]Decoded By Jay-Z(Author)Hardcover(Decoded) on 15 Nov-2010
On the Road (Penguin Great Books of the 20th Century)
Friday, April 15, 2011
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