I was pretty shocked when Michael Jackson died – not because I thought he was in the best of health, but he was such a big part of my teenage years. I wasn’t a breathless fan with his poster on my bedroom wall but I did enjoy his music.
In 1992, I remember listening to a concert of his in Munich from a nearby hilltop, with several thousand other penniless fans. It’s one of those memories that takes you back to where you were in your life. I can clearly picture the stormy evening sky, warm but a little threatening. Unable to afford study abroad, I found a way to pay for my summer in Europe as part of a university work abroad program. I worked in Siemens' corporate legal department. That summer was lonely, wonderful and a big influence on me.
At that time a junior in college, I hadn’t decided whether I wanted to be a lawyer or a professor like my father. I’m now surprised how few career options I gave myself. It was an exciting international time – the Berlin Wall had come down and I had recently returned to Checkpoint Charlie, 12 years after I’d lived in West Berlin as a child. Gone were the mines and anti-tank “crosses” and in their place… grass.
I can think of a lot of school and career advice to give myself back then – be more confident in yourself, take a little more time to smell the roses, give yourself more options, don’t be too influenced by what your friends are doing, etc., etc. – the usual cliches. But if I knew all those things from the beginning, then life so far would not have been as interesting. Being too wise would’ve been predictable and boring.
I didn’t tune into the Jackson memorial service today; I’ll stick with my own memories of that time period in my life and how his music was a part of it. The funny thing is that the energy his music brought out in me is still there. So I'm confident that 2 career paths later – and more to come, it will be there to power me forward.