I don't even know where or how to begin.
When I heard of Michael Jackson's heart attack, I was in a production office preparing for the 2009 BET Awards, which were to take place in 3 days. The pace was already frenetic (which is normal), and then we heard.
And we Googled.
And then one of the producers received a call that Michael had passed on.
And we Googled.
"TMZ says it, but CNN doesn't yet, so it's not really real." We held out hope for as long as we were rationally able to do so, plus a few moments past. All of the air seemed to go out of the room. The earth seemed to tilt the wrong way on its axis.
Being a relatively young production office, only a few among us had ever lived in a world where Michael Jackson did not already exist, and because he had such an influence on the music industry, fewer still could actually remember a time when he was not the reigning "King of Pop."
Everyone was asking the same question: "What do we do now?" This was last Thursday.
Today is Monday, and I still haven't decided whether I consider myself blessed or cursed to have been this close to a major production at the time of Michael Jackson's death. Of course the show HAD to go on, but there was no way that the BET Awards could take place without reflecting the tremendous effect that this one man had on the entertainment industry as a whole. So the whole show had to be re-vamped. In 3 days. A live telecast. Lord, help us.
But we did it, and it truly took all hands on deck: the producers being the visionaries, the rest of the production staff to be the worker-bees, and the talent to be amenable to rolling with the changes as we had to make them. We did it. I, myself, worked about 50 hours in 3 days. Some people worked even more hours than that. The show was on Sunday, I slept allllll day today, and though this is my first opportunity to share my thoughts and feelings with you about this, you can believe that thoughts of Michael Jackson have been my constant companion since I first received word that his heart had fallen still.
So many beautifully-worded tributes have already been written. Some touch me deeply, and others disturb me greatly because they are written by the same people who never missed a chance to take a potshot at this man. I don't have a tribute for you, but true to form (always learning), I do have a lesson. Here's what I have:
WHAT I LEARNED FROM MICHAEL JACKSON:
- Be excellent. Always. No exceptions or excuses.
- Even the stars that shine the brightest among us have flaws just like the stars that shine the least.
- Be as kind as possible.
- Live as fully as you can at all times, because you never know...
- Do what you love to do.
- You are the only "you" that has ever been, and will ever be. If you don't give what you are supposed to give to the world, the world will not have it. And the world needs you.
- What you do is not necessarily who you are, but who you are should inform what you do.
- When you are in pain or afraid, don't retreat or withdraw - instead, reach out and hold on.
People keep saying that Michael died "too soon" or that his death was "untimely". Though the world will miss him, personally, I don't think either statement is true. Look at what was done to this man:
Healthy, happy people don't do this to themselves. We have heard Michael himself speak (and sing) time and time again of not having a childhood. He appeared to mourn that his entire life. While we lauded and reaped the benefits of what he did for a living (and oh, how he did it), he became a ghost of himself. He had money that most of us will never have, millions of cheering, fainting, crying fans who "loved" him, but had to live a pretty isolated life. How much longer would we have indentured him to this life if we could have - just so we could trot him out from time to time to entertain us and make us happy, not unlike an organ-grinder's monkey, or a canary in a cage?
While I do feel a surprisingly personal tremendous loss, I am sadder still at having borne witness to the extinguishing of what was once such a bright light in a talented little boy's eyes. I celebrate his music, his gifts, his giving spirit, and his accomplishments. Even more than that, I celebrate his gilt cage having been opened and his spirit being set free.
Rest In Peace, Michael Jackson.