Multiplatinum singer/songwriter India.Arie actually played a key role in my life, believe it or not. I’ll explain in a minute, but when I was flipping through my DVR the other night looking for something to watch and I saw she had appeared on Oprah’s “Super Soul Sunday,” I immediately pressed play.
If you haven’t seen it, this show – hereto referred to as SSS – is literally like food for your soul. If “Fashion Police” on E! (which I also sometimes watch, I’m not gonna lie) is neon-orange cheese balls, SSS is braised kale with olive oil and garlic.
So back to India.Arie. In 2001, her catchy “Video,” an upbeat anthem to female self-acceptance, was everywhere. I decided it was the perfect theme song to accompany my graduate thesis at that time, which was a multimedia publishing project focused on independent women. I know it sounds very Ms. magazine and hairy armpits, but I promise you it was much cooler than that. It was 2001, not 1972!
Anyway, that was kind of a bumpy period in my life. I was leaving a job with a truly evil boss, I was still getting over a serious relationship that had ended messily, I was reluctantly moving away from my beloved Baltimore for a new job, and I was trying to finish up my M.A. and graduate, despite a deadbeat project partner. Nothing was going according to plan.
In her interview with Oprah, India talks about the year she was nominated for 7 Grammys and snubbed in every category. She talks about how she felt scared of failure and scared of success at the same time. About feeling like her true intentions and self were being compromised to please the people around her, in order to become successful in music-industry terms. And then she talks about feeling like, “If that’s the way it’s going to be, I don’t want to do it,” and walking away from it all.
The rest of the interview, a 2-part series, is fascinating and definitely worth watching. India discusses her spiritual awakening, the link between emotional and physical health, internet controversy, and finding her way back to her passion, music. There’s so much take-away for any one of us.
As for me, I really related to a few parts. Like when she talked about feeling exhausted all the time and having nothing left to give, and how she learned the importance of refilling her own tank. Of her need for calm and space to process her own thoughts in writing. Of how comparing yourself to others is “poison.” And of finally defining – and finding – success on her own terms.
A few times during the interview, she laughed remembering how she used to be. Out of disbelief that she could have ever lived like that, because her life is so much different and better now. That’s how I feel looking back on my toxic boss, my failed relationship, my job I knew in my gut even then wasn’t right for me at all. How could I ever have thought that was the best I could do? How could I ever have let people treat me like that? How could I have treated MYSELF like that?!
I don’t look back with regret and self-pity, though. Mostly I feel relief. Thank God that’s not my life any more. Thank God I learned those lessons, even if it was the hard way. Thank God I stepped away from the cheese balls and embraced the braised kale. It’s actually really good with toasted pine nuts sprinkled on top.
TUNE O’ THE DAY: Check out India.Arie performing her new song, “Break the Shell,” on Super Soul Sunday. Listen to those lyrics… Wow.