A baby is born with a strange medical condition:

Instead of blood, it’s music that keeps

her heart pumping.

When she turns four, her mother films her in the living room

Choreographing a dance and singing along to the soundtrack from Disney’s Hercules.

All her world is a stage.

When she turns seven, people ask her what she wants to be when she grows up

and she responds “a singer” with a grin a mile wide

even though she has two teeth missing.

People smile back because at seven years old,

big dreams are adorable.

Dream on, little one.

At nine years old she writes her first song

about how much she loves the color purple.

As years pass, music wraps around her

like a warm winter coat.

She is immersed in tunes; her iPod is full.

Her fingers are magnets to piano keys

and her family begins to pull their hair out when

the melodies she sings out loud hover over her,

an omnipresent cloud.

At thirteen years old she sits at a table with girls that she thinks are her friends,

discussing the big looming future ahead:

This girl will be a basketball star

and this girl will cure cancer

and this girl will be on TV

et cetera, et cetera,

A hogwash of grandiose fantasies being dished out for lunch.

She waits with a hopeful smile (not too wide because of braces)

for her serving.

The verdict: “You could be a teacher”.

Smiles fade; Her dream

isn’t worth being entertained.

At thirteen years old, with scars on her wrists and her heart,

an album saves her life.

She vows to grow up to save someone else’s.

Sixteen-year-olds aren’t supposed to dream anymore.

She doesn’t remember when reality was thrust upon her

but she wants to be seven again,

wants the days when music was an acceptable path to follow,

wants to receive smiles instead of questions

about backup plans and income.

Barricaded by doubt, she flickers.

How could she be good enough to make it?

When she is sixteen, a boy she reveres tells her, “do what you want to do”

So she does.

When she is seventeen, she is winning awards thanks to her voice

and her newly found confidence.

Strangers who hear her perform approach her

with hopes that she will be pursuing a career in music.

She enrolls in her dream school.


She still practices her Grammy acceptance speech in the shower

(“Thank you to all those who supported me,

and fuck you to those who said

I could never make it”).

The microphone mesh is no longer a jail cell

The shampoo bottles applaud her.

She never stops dreaming:

At eighteen she is producing her first EP.

At nineteen she is discovered by a major record label.

At twenty she is on her first international tour.

She interviews on radio talk shows,

she pays her parents back for her student loans,

she buys her own apartment in New York City.

Countless autographs are signed; countless pictures taken.

When a fan first tells her that she saved their life, she sobs.

She carries a story in her heart pocket

built to share

to her loyal, loving fans:

If you have a dream, and it makes you smile as if

you were seven years old and didn’t care

if you were missing a tooth,

then you follow it,

and you never listen to the ones who stand in your way,

you listen to you.

In her senior year of high school, her health teacher says

“there has never been a famous alumni of this school”

and she whispers to herself: “yet.”


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