I’ve been listening to a podcast about Michael Jackson. It’s mostly made up of interviews with people who had some sort of connection to him. Some are recent interviews done by the podcasters, and some are clips from old interviews that we now see in a completely different light.
I’m learning about things like perspective, hindsight, mythology, memory, interpretation, and how we respond when we don’t understand something.
I was seven when he made his MTV debut. Soon after, half the kids at school had the red jacket he wore in his Thriller video, and I wanted to know why. I asked my dad how Michael Jackson got famous, and he told me that it was because he was in The Jackson 5. I asked him how The Jackson 5 got famous, and I don’t remember what he said, but I do remember walking away dissatisfied. Ever since then, learning the origins of The Jackson 5 has been an unmet desire of mine. Historical accounts never gave me enough intimacy with the story I craved, but I’m getting it from this podcast.
Of course, these days, I’m not only curious about Michael Jackson’s legacy, I’m also confused by it. I feel uncomfortable mentioning him, at all, but that’s less because of him and more because of me. When I don’t fully understand something, I’m sure I’m going to make some massive faux pas about it, so I usually default to saying nothing. I’m trying to get over that, though, so here we are.
On the podcast, I’m still learning about his early years. Even as a little kid, he was a mystery. No one could make sense of his mature and magnetic stage performances, nor could they make sense of how he rarely said a word off-stage, and when he did speak, it was usually too soft for anyone to hear. The most striking thing is that no one seemed to care, as long as they could cash in.
The numerous interpretations of how his difficult childhood shaped his bizarre adulthood are so varied that it makes me wonder if anyone knew him, at all.
I was also painfully as shy child and struggled to speak or connect with others, so I’d also like to believe I understand the depth of pain he was experiencing at the time, but, like everyone else, my theories are mostly projections formed from my own biases.
It’s made me wonder about how this happens in our own lives. We might interpret an event one way, and then years later, even months later, see it completely differently. Our family members take on their own mythology. We have our own origin stories.
I’m not saying that our stories aren’t built on real events. They are, but it’s interesting how many filters we have before we settle on something that feels true.
I’ve been confused about all of that. I was going to say, “I’ve been confused about all of that, lately,” but it’s not a late development. I think I’ve always been confused about these things.
I question myself a lot—my own interpretations, my own memory. I don’t have a very high opinion of my opinion. That’s why I write. It helps me to get things down to try to make sense of everything. I delete a lot of what I write, too, or just forget it and move on. Sometimes, the most honest thing I can offer is a blank space.
I wrote a memoir that had a lot in it about perspective, but it never went anywhere, and it never went anywhere because I didn’t feel like it was ready. I wasn’t confident in my writing.
I’m coming up on a year in California, but I feel like I’m finally just now completing my move because so much has happened.
If someone were to make a podcast about my life this past year, it’d go like this:
I’m trying to make sense of some of these events now that they’re behind me (at least, I hope they’re behind me). It’s been a rough year, but not the worst year I’ve had. It sits among several years sprinkled throughout my life where my life was crap. I think it’s probably been the unluckiest year I’ve had.
I hope to write about this year in more detail, but like I said, sometimes the most honest thing I can offer is a blank space. Wish me luck.
The podcast is called Think Twice, and I listened to it here.
Here’s an NPR article about the Michael Jackson Podcast, Think Twice.