I’m sitting here with my David Bowie shrine glowing, still trying, after fourteen hours, to process the information that came to me via Facebook just after midnight.
I have a lot to do today, but I keep just sitting here.
I’m blindsided. Heartbroken. Devastated.
David Bowie was 69 just last week, and I spent the 8th, 9th, and 10th listening to his latest album on repeat, reveling in its weirdness and glowing with the idea that he was still innovating the pants off of the world. When I saw the announcement on Facebook I was certain it must be a hoax. I’d been living under the assumption that more would follow, that new incarnations would appear, that someday perhaps I would see one of them on a stage somewhere.
The next transformation has come, and it’s left us wanting more, just like all of the ones he made before. He’s always been many steps ahead of the rest of us, and here we are again.
I don’t need to tell you how David Bowie influenced my life. Right now the world is full of other weirdos, freaks, misfits, and visionaries telling their own tales of inspiration, exploration, and awe. My story is similar to all the others.
Sometime in my childhood I became aware of the existence of the mysterious, androgynous, beautiful person behind my favorite movie–Labyrinth was my go-to choice at the video store from as early as I can remember, and it still amazes me that my parents let me watch its bizarre, glitter-streaked weirdness over and over again on the family television. As I got older I discovered that the wicked grin and slithering movements belonged to a musician, and every song I heard drew me nearer to David Bowie’s flame. A few other gender-bending mad geniuses like Tim Curry, Marilyn Manson, and Grace Jones came along and helped me on my way, but none affected me so deeply or spoke to me so closely. I had dreams–and sometimes still do–of Bowie befriending me and teaching me what it means to be brilliant. I dressed up as different Bowies for different parties, eventually finding a sky-blue suit very like his outfit in “Life on Mars,” which awakened something electric in my psyche and sexuality in college.
As I moved into adulthood, I found myself evolving along with his music. At the lowest and highest points in my life, there has always been a Bowie album that–when played on repeat–has helped me navigate. Ziggy Stardust was my college anthem, and 1984 my post-college depression soundtrack. Hunky Dory let me process the fall-through of a television deal in my late twenties. Low got me through an intensely stressful time around the opening of my art show. Station to Station guided me along the intricate process of extricating myself from New York City. I have already told my closest friends that they have been charged with getting a live band to play “Let’s Dance” at my funeral and to lead everyone out of the service, dancing.
My Bowie fervor has gotten me made fun of by friends and family. Every time there is a new David Bowie headline, meme, or retrospective, multiple people post them to my Facebook timeline. I am everybody’s go-to Bowie nerd. And I have never been less apologetic about anything that makes me who I am.
Bowie showed me that being weird is okay, that being too much is never enough, that flying your freak flag is not just brave but necessary. And that the world needs to see our flags. All of them. He taught me that the pursuit of art is worth everything, and I am still trying to figure out how to make that true in my life. He inspired me to be a smarter poet, a more thoughtful author, a deeper human being.
I don’t have a way to end this. I don’t have the words. It hurts too much to bear. Maybe in a few weeks, when I can hear his music again without bursting into tears, I will have some wisdom to offer. In the meantime, this is my very personal farewell to the greatest inspiration in my life.