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BWW Blog: Celebrating 50 Years of Carole King's Tapestry - How It Wove Into My Life

On the golden anniversary of Carole King’s legendary album, Tapestry, I’d like to share a personal essay about a song from the album, “Beautiful”.

BWW Blog: Celebrating 50 Years of Carole King's Tapestry - How It Wove Into My Life

"Beautiful"

It's 1AM. My doctor just cleared me for sleep. I should go straight to bed, but instead I walk to the keyboard in my living room. It has a headphone feature, so I can play without waking anyone up.

The moonlight streams through the window at just the right angle to illuminate all 88 keys. I feel my head nodding, my eyelids closing. But I will not let sleep overtake me just yet. I have worked far too hard and too long.

Left hand: C, D#, G. Right Hand: C, D#, G. My eyes don't focus without my glasses, but the song has become second nature. I don't need to look or think. I just play.

And somehow on this most medically difficult of nights, it is the first time I have played the song the entire way through, with nary a pause or stumble.

And I am free.

My restless heart finally knows contentment, and I am transported.

My name is announced from above. In my signature chiffon red dress, my dark, natural curls are done just to my liking. My heart thrums as I make my way to the ebony grand piano that awaits me center stage. The bench feels so familiar. I don't understand - why am I here?

The audience begins to chant. "Play us a song. Play us a song. Play us a song."

I am dumbfounded. I'm not Carole King. I just know how to play her songs. Besides, I am a mess. I can never be worth something... like her.

"Play us a song." The audience continues.

My eyes unexpectedly well up. "Whom should I play for?" I ask them.

A woman in the audience stands. It is Carole King.

"Play for the version of you that you left behind," she says.

I wake up to the piercing ring of my alarm clock. My keyboard had served as a pillow that night, and the sheet music of Carole King's "Beautiful" was its case. The paper was creased, making it clear that sleep last night had not been my, but rather my body's choice, collapsing forward from pure exhaustion.

Getting my bearings, I remember where I am: I am not in Carnegie Hall, in my magnificent red dress, about to play a concert for a theatre full of people. Instead, I am a girl in her PJs, with Type 1 Diabetes, anxiety, and depression.

I make my way through the day physically, but not mentally. I am unable to shake last night's dream. "Play for the version of you that you left behind" - what does that even mean?

The previous day had been a whirlwind. As a type 1 diabetic, I cannot produce insulin, which is a hormone crucial for the human body to function. My insulin pump will fail on occasion, because technology being technology, it's not perfect. I didn't realize until late in the evening that it had not been perfect that day, when my body started shutting down. I had thought my high blood sugar was due to the stress of my personal life, of which there has been a lot in the past few years.

When my body does not get insulin, it begins to produce ketones, and from there, my body starts to go into shock. Blood sugar levels rise so high that if I fall asleep, I risk diabetic coma, or even never waking back up. That particular day, my ketones were so high that the strip I used to test them turned black. A white strip means no ketones, pink means some, and black means "Dial 911". The on-call endocrinologist at the hospital gave me instructions to treat it, which ultimately worked. Even so, it was four more hours until I was out of danger. The doctor told me that I wasn't allowed to sleep, so I just lay on the couch until 1 in the morning. My only motivation for keeping my eyes open was the keyboard across the room.

A few months earlier, I might have not fought so hard to stay awake. The world can be cruel, and it made me question if I could even continue. Life had really begun to hurt, and it made me wonder if I was strong enough to endure.

Then I found Carole King.

Pre-Carole, I spent most of my teenage years afraid of having more things hurt me.

With this realization, I decided that I was going to teach myself how to play "Beautiful", and I wasn't going to stop until I did.

It took three months. Then, that one night, at 1 o'clock in the morning, I did it. I finally played it the whole way through, without missing so much as a beat.

"Play for the version of you that you left behind."

I finally understood what my dream, and my restless heart were telling me. It had taken years for me to realize that I, and no one else, am in charge of my own happiness... no matter what life may throw my way.

This world can be cruel, and we are given two choices. We can choose to be ugly - and let our circumstances and mindset corrode our happiness. This is what too many in the world choose, and what I had chosen for most of my life, given my circumstances. I played for the girl I left behind - the ugly girl who did not know any better. I forgive her, for believing that life's battles are the end, when they are truly the beginning.

As I strike my last chord, I consciously make a new choice... and will continue to do so for the rest of my life.

I choose to be Beautiful.


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From This Author Student Blogger: Bea Mienik