Today is the birthday of the man who is my first memory of singing along to a song and knowing who the artist was: the legendary Willie Nelson. What is the song you ask? Georgia on my Mind. I was just over two years old at the time. Mama was a fan of Willie’s music before I was born. She passed that love on to me. We both still love his music today. When I was in preschool, the local paper did a piece on my school because it was for children with physical challenges. In the picture, accompanying the article, I had blonde curls, and I was wearing pink overalls coming down the slide. The reporter asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. My answer: Willie Nelson. Mamma said the reporter chuckled. I was too young to remember, but I saw the newspaper clipping years later.
Why did I want to be Willie? He was just so cool. I admired not only his music, but his unfailing commitment to be himself no matter what the world wanted him to be. I still admire him for these reasons. As a grown person, I know Willie story. Having given Mama his autobiography as a gift for her birthday several years ago I read his book when mama finished it. Having read his story for myself, I admire Willie even more for his ability to persevere when things get difficult.
The world needs Willie’s perspective and gifts now more than ever. Too many people are trying to be like those they admire instead of being themselves. Too many looks to social media feeds as their barometer for popularity and success. Willie reminds us all that being ourselves is the bravest, best, course of action we can take. We all need that reminder every day, so that we can live a life we are proud of and make the world a better place by being ourselves while we are here. Happy, happy birthday, Willie! Thank you for constantly reminding a sometimes still shy me that I have something to offer the world through telling my story my way and persevering when circumstances get difficult. Thank you for a lifetime of music and memories. On your 90th birthday: here are to many more happy birthdays and much more music to make.
With immense gratitude and admiration,