What Prince Taught Me

I think Prince would like this bird. Photo by René Cortin, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

I’ve been thinking a lot about Prince. Of course I’m a huge fan of Prince’s music (I’m no fool), but I’m also a fan of Prince himself. I just loved knowing he was in the world, you know? Blessing us all with his existence. Touching down onto the mortal plane and delighting the universe.

Every time Prince showed up anywhere, he destroyed everything around him with his overwhelming Prince-ness. When he appeared on The View, he made The View almost resemble something sort of almost cool. All he had to do was ride a bicycle around a parking lot and people fell over themselves with joy. He was so cool. And he didn’t try to be. That’s why he won at coolness. He concerned himself with what he loved, and meanwhile everyone around him went right into heat.

Is there anything better than a Prince-encounter story? Everyone who ever met him now has a magical tale they can share with the world until the end of their days. I never tire of the Prince story. By every account he was kind, gracious, and unapologetically weird. Musical genius doesn’t guarantee a winning personality by any stretch. I know one journalist who left the music beat because she was tired of being let down by her heroes. I have to imagine she never met Prince.

I’ve been thinking lately about the real lesson Prince left us with, which is not for everyone to be like Prince. (What a glittering, guitar-shredding paisley world that would be..) It’s to figure out who you are and unapologetically embrace you in all your freakiness. Know your strengths, love them, and work hard at whatever’s calling to you. Examine your weaknesses, forgive them, and love them too, because they prove that you’re human. Embrace your quirks with humor and self-compassion, because that compassion will radiate out into the world for everyone else. Never apologize for what you think you lack; celebrate what you have. You have what no one else does. We need you to be at Peak You-ness.

It’s so easy to forget that each of us changes the world. Think you’re insignificant all you want, but you’re wrong. Your influence stretches far and wide. Your soul is imprinted on your friends and family. You affect every person you meet, smile at, bump into, give the finger to; you leave them changed and they continue that effect on to the next person. It’s a lot of responsibility, when you think about it. It’s also an opportunity.

You don’t have to be a star. You don’t have to be Prince. That job was taken; he did a stellar job; the role is no longer available. In whatever you do, if you live without apology, if you work on yourself, your life itself becomes a work of art. And you’re going to be a light in the world. You just are. You will teach everyone you meet.

I’ve been thinking of this story about the Rabbi Zusya. “When I get to the heavenly court,” he said, “God will not ask me, ‘Why weren’t you Moses?’ Rather he will ask me, ‘Why were you not Zusya?”

If you’re like me, now you’re thinking, “Why don’t I have a cool name like Zusya? Should I change my name to Zusya?” Guys! Focus!

I know this isn’t easy. Many of us (hey ladies) are trained to apologize for ourselves, as if we’re taking up space meant for someone else. We’re taught there are things wrong with us. Okay, so we have baggage. Letting go is a practice. Shit gets in our way. That’s okay, too. I’m sure even Prince had his moments of doubt; there were probably days where all he wanted to do was to lounge in his reflecting pool filled with Fresca and binge-watch Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

The goal has never been and will never be perfection. Let’s just all be weirdos, like we are, as Prince would have wanted us to be. Let’s get crazy, you know, and get nuts. Let’s grow like lil’ bananas til they turn us into ducks. Those are the words, right? You better believe I’m not checking. Prince would have wanted it that way.