Remembering Michael Jackson
Remembering Michael Jackson
June 25th, 2011 marks the two year anniversary of Michael Jackson's death. Millions of fans will spend that day remembering Michael Jackson, his music, his moves and his words. Some fans will have the chance to go to LA and visit Forest Lawn where they will meet hundreds of other fans. Others will spend the day alone or with a few chosen friends to watch DVDs or listen to his music. Even though, June 25th will always be a day when fans suddenly turn up in huge numbers, I think it is important that we keep the man's legacy alive throughout the whole year and remember what his messages to the world were.
What this lens will be about: First I will tell you, how Michael Jackson first came into my life and move on to how he influenced me over the last 20 years. Then I will show you, how Michael Jackson still is a part of my life and always will be.
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The first smile
How Michael came into my world
When I was only eight years old, my parents decided to put a TV into my room. Their thought was, that the TV would keep me busy and out of their way, esp. out of my father's way. I did not use the TV that often; I preferred to use my own fantasy. But one day, I was not very happy and did not feel like making up any games, so I turned on the TV. My timing could not have been any better because when I browsed through the channels, my attention was caught by a movie that had just started.
The movie was called "Moonwalker" and the main character was a young man called Michael. I had never heard of him before but from the moment, I saw him smiling at the camera, he had my heart. I wished, someone would smile at me like that in real life. I did not have much love in my life as a child, so Michael's smile warmed my heart like a ray of sunshine. I watched the hole movie and enjoyed the music very much. I did not understand all of the movie because only the dialogues were translated (I lived in Germany when I was younger). After the movie was finished, I wanted to learn more about Michael and I wanted to learn the language he was speaking.
The next time I received my allowance, I used parts of it to buy a magazine that teaches English and had a cassette with each issue. Again, it seemed like very good timing, because that magazine had only just started up and I got #1 of that new series. Every day, I would listen to the cassette and remember the vocabulary and test the words. I imagined what it would be like when Michael comes around the corner and I could say "Hello! How are you?" to him. I knew, I would have to learn a lot more if I wanted to ask him to save me from this life and take me with him. After all, in the movie, he saved children from evil people! As a child, I was sure that I would one day meet Michael Jackson - and I wanted to be prepared for that day by learning as much English as I possibly could.
Michael and my teenage years
How he taught me to be strong
During the first years of my love for Michael Jackson, I did not have much of him in my life apart from the music videos on TV. My father died when I was nine years old. To keep a long story short: He drank himself to death - and I'm sure most of you will be able to imagine that having an alcoholic and unloving man as your father, is not a very positive thing. Once he was dead, it was easier for me to buy Michael Jackson cassettes and CDs (CDs were starting to become more popular during my teenage years). My father had been against Michael, so for a while, I was always hoping that MTV or Viva (another music channel) would play one of this videos. Even though I was not able to understand the messages in his songs, his music touched me in a way I could not explain. After all, I was just a child. I knew nothing of souls and their connections.
When I entered secondary school, real English lessons came into my life and my teacher was impressed of my already existing vocabulary and grammar. During all my school years, I always was the best in English classes. No one ever managed to be better. I loved the language, I could not get enough of it and dreamed of one day living in a country where people speak English - preferably as Michael Jackson's sister. The older I got, the more I knew it would be quite unrealistic to ever meet Michael, but I still believed in it. I had my dreams and I also had the necessary vocabulary to tell Michael what I wanted to tell him.
During my teenage years, the first trial against Michael Jackson was held. I will publish another lens about that someday, so I will not go into details here. What I remember from this time is that I was shocked. I asked myself "How could anybody think that he is capable of doing something bad to a child?". When I was a child, he had my complete trust - and during all my life that never changed, maybe that is because I understand him on a different level than other people. I understand him from the perspective of someone who also has had a difficult childhood with a difficult father. Maybe my problems with my father were even worse - at least Michael's father had loved his family.
So during the trial, I was horrified about what other people said and wrote about Michael. I wondered how other people could be so spiteful. When Michael faced the public in a video that was especially recorded to address the issue of the trial, I admired Michael for his strength and for his ability to face all the humiliation and still be someone people can look up to. To see him talking about what has been done to him, broke my heart and I had to cry when I saw that video. But it also taught me a lesson: Even if the world seems to be against you, you still have to believe in your dreams and stand up for them.
I did not have an easy life at school. Unlike other people I did not have many friends and I did not really belong to any of the groups that usually form at schools. I guess, today, some things that have happened to me would be called bullying. Of course no one ever put me on trial, but in a way, I understood how hurtful it is to be the subject of lies and humiliation. I could only imagine how much harder it must have been for Michael to be humiliated in front of the whole world.
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How I missed my only chance to see Michael live
When Michael came to Germany with his HIStory tour, I thought that was my chance to finally meet him. The city he went to (Mannheim) was just a short train ride from where I used to live (Heidelberg). However, my mother did not allow me to go there. She said "Once you are 16years old, you can go to concerts." I was 15, only a couple of months to go until I would be 16. I was devastated but too good a girl to disobey and just run off. Today, I wish I would have gone and I wonder what would have happened if I had seen Michael live; what kind of effect it would have had on me.
I was still very much of a dreamer, so I during the time Michael was in Germany, I wandered the streets, hoping that he may magically just turn up one day and that I would get my chance to talk to him. I wanted to tell him how much I recognized myself in his song "Childhood", how much I love the words he is singing and how much I loved reading his book "Moonwalk". I wanted to tell him that I understand him, love him and that I would love to be adopted as his sister. I wanted to tell him that it was him who kept me alive and dreaming. Because of him I believed that the world could be a better place if we only worked towards it (I had strong beliefs, also was a member of a Greenpeace junior team).
Of course, you don't just run into Michael Jackson - I knew that, but I still kept hoping. I never met him. And I never got the chance to see him live again. The HIStory tour had been my last chance ever to see Michael Jackson live.
How I learned about it
During the following years, I followed Michael Jackson in spirit. I've read the magazine "Black&White", bought his albums and tour videos (later DVDs) and still kept dreaming. People say that you should stop dreaming when you grow older, but I think without our dreams we would just be empty shells and for me my dreams have always been a lifeline. One of my dreams turned into a reality: I am indeed living in a country where people speak English (New Zealand) and now speak, listen, read and write English every day of my life. Without Michael, I may never have been that determined to master the English language in the way I did. It is thanks to him that I developed a general love for languages and stood out for my achievements in languages in my schools.
On the day of Michael's death, I was already living in New Zealand. In June 2009, I was still working on a historic paddle steamer and close to the end of my shift I received a message from a workmate who had a day off. He told me "Michael Jackson has been taken to hospital". When I received that message, I did not worry too much because he had been taken to hospital before. I had no idea that this time would be different. When I arrived home after work and turned on the TV to watch the news, I saw the headline: "Breaking News: Michael Jackson is dead." I stared at the TV in disbelief. My brain did not want to take that message in.
After sitting in front of the TV for what seemed like ages, I finally accepted the truth of the words that were now on all TV channels. Michael has died. Just like that. All of a sudden. Gone. I was shocked. I was devastated. Even two years later, I still am shocked.
I had no one to talk to about this. At that time, I did not know any other Michael Jackson fans in New Zealand and I had gotten used to people not understanding my love for Michael. There was no one I could have talked to about how hard it had been for me to learn about his death. I had to face stupid workmates who could do nothing but tell silly jokes about his death. It was a hard time for me - everybody thought I was okay, no one really cared anyway - and during my life I have learned to put on a mask. No one noticed that my inside was slowly crumbling to pieces.
After Michael's death
It's all for L.O.V.E.
My life did not only turn into shambles because of Michael's death but his death was certainly a factor that made life look bad. By the end of 2010 I had lost a lot of energy. I had become a student yet again (for the NZ business diploma), but did not know whether I was doing the right thing. I also did not have anyone I could truly talk to. Some people had disappointed me terribly and I know that my trust, maybe naivety, is to blame for that. In December 2010, with the - for me - depressing Christmas time approaching, I asked for a sign. Any sign.
On the same day, my flatmate talked to me and said a Michael Jackson concert would come to town. Was that my sign, I wondered? I looked up more information and found out about the tribute artist Kenny Wizz coming to town. I was skeptical, but I thought, that this must have something to do with the sign I had been asking for. After all, Michael Jackson was involved. Finally, I had something to look forward to again.
My experiences with Kenny are a different story (and I'm currently writing on a fictional book based on that). One thing is sure: My life has changed. Michael Jackson is more present in my life than ever before. Kenny showed me that I do not have to be a dancer or singer to be like Michael. I learned that I already am like Michael in many ways and that I am able to keep his legacy alive in my own way: by writing and by helping the planet and other people. After Michael died, I had lost a lot of confidence in myself and in my dreams. I thought, there was nothing I could do. My life reflected my thoughts. It was going downhill rapidly. After I saw Kenny and talked to him a few times, I realized, that I do have things to offer to this planet and that I can dedicate my work to Michael.
Being a Michael Jackson fan is not about spending all your money on merchandise or changing your name to Jackson. It's not about wearing a mask and hiding who you really are. It's not about being famous or popular. Every single one of us has the chance to keep Michael's legacy and messages alive. He inspired millions of people and if each of us does a little part, we can indeed make the world a better place.
He always said: It's all for love - L.O.V.E.
I now have that message tattooed on the back of my neck - in Kenny Wizz's handwriting. And I do my best to live the message.