The other night we were having socially-distanced drinks with friends-and-fellow-NYC-transplants Rachel and Josh, engaged in a lively debate about the merits and pitfalls of genre labeling. Josh shared that he had extensively studied the history of musical improvisation from 1300 to today. This fact alone is worthy of a follow-up post, but suffice it to say that this took us down a fascinating line of conversation. And it prompted my wife Meagan to tell a story that was both new to me and a reminder of why I fell in love with her in the first place.
She said, “I grew up in small town Texas – a living Friday Night Lights (here, in fact.) And I can tell you that I did not like jazz. We listened to Country and we listened to Rock. Verse Verse Chorus Verse. Highly predictable. And anything with improvisation was weird and boring and unpredictable. But then I began to travel around the world. And then I moved away. First to Memphis, Oxford, finally to New York, with very few acquaintances to start. And everything there was just so new, and I learned quickly that the world had a lot more possibility. It was spending the wee hours at clubs like Smalls where I started to get it. As I was learning how to live and embrace a varied life, I learned how to appreciate what improvisation was doing, and I loved it. Still do.”
I always knew that Meagan came from a small town, and that there was enormous pressure to conform – to religious beliefs, social norms, gender roles, political affiliation – and she broke from all of it to carve her own path. But I had never fully appreciated how art, film and music, in the form of late nights at Smalls (or her film degree, or etc.), were a way to both accelerate the expanding of her horizons, and to keep her from falling back, both geographically and psychologically.
I can’t think of a more beautiful expression of our goals here with Influenced It. Culture, in all its forms, expands our horizons, deepens our appreciation for other points of view, and pushes us forward. Our goal in mapping influences is to shine a light on the ineffable connections between artists and art, provide new pathways of discovery, and make the experience of culture just a little bit richer.
Meagan has never accepted the status quo of what life could have offered her. She had to work to become who she is. She could have been very happy and successful staying in Texas. I am grateful she did not. Over our 18 years together, now 15 married as of today, her wanderlust has broken me out of my own comfort zones and prejudices in countless ways. I’ve traveled to places around the world that I would never have visited. I’ve devoured things I would never have eaten. I’ve listened to and watched things I would never have chosen on my own. Her indelible influence has made me a way better version of myself.
It’s this aspiration to broaden horizons, this openness to other perspectives and forms of expression, that Meagan has so intuitively lived, and that she generously has given to me. So, even though this project has been brewing in both of our hearts for years, today I am dedicating it to her. Happy anniversary, babe.