Can you tell the story of how you became a Sheerio? 🙂
Sure. This is actually something I had already written but haven’t shared before, but it fits your question, so… here you go. 🙂
My brother had been in prison for a few months when I heard Ed Sheeran’s music for the first time. I know that sounds like a weird way to start talking about music you like, and it’s certainly not something that I bring up a lot in the course of normal conversation, but I think sometimes in order for something to make a big impact on you, it has to come at exactly the right time in your life, and for me, the right time for Ed’s music was after my brother went away.
You have to understand that my family is very close, and nothing like this had ever happened to us before. We’re not perfect people by any means, but we love each other, and we try to live good lives and make good decisions, and my brother is a great guy by anyone’s standards. When he had to leave, it was humiliating and heartbreaking for all of us. I want to say that there was a hole in the place where my brother had been and we had to consciously tiptoe around it while going on with our lives as though nothing had changed, just pretending this massive hole hadn’t invaded our home, but to be honest it was only a little bit like that, because mostly our lives didn’t go on – at least, not in the way they had before. We hated for him to miss anything, so we didn’t do anything new or enjoyable. Couldn’t celebrate holidays because he wasn’t there. Couldn’t go on family vacations without him. My sister even avoided getting pregnant because she and her husband didn’t want to have a child while my brother was gone. The world went on around our family, but everything for us just froze, and we lived the same day over and over, waiting for him to come home.
I wish I could explain what it’s like to miss someone so deeply, the emptiness in your bones, the guilt you feel about any small happiness you experience that they cannot experience with you, all the moments that you have to tell yourself to just get through it, just bear it for one more day, then one more. Having to watch your mother tell herself the same thing. I know that I must be lucky that I haven’t ever had to live through something worse than two years of missing someone, but the fact is I cannot remember a sadder time in my life.
That’s where I was when I discovered Ed’s music. When I think about it now, I can only believe that it was all part of some big important plan, the universe somehow lining up just right for me to encounter these songs at the exact moment in my life when I was desperate for something beautiful. It sounds ridiculous to say that my brother went to prison so I could fall in love with something I found on Youtube one night, but I honestly didn’t even know I was capable of loving something so much until I found myself stuck in the longest moment of sadness, losing days that I can’t even recall now, except to say that they were days when my brother didn’t come home. Ed’s music was a revelation to me because it gave me something else to feel, because something in his voice made its way through my skin and convinced me that life can still move you even when your own life has stopped moving.
There is a difference, I think, between loving something and being happy. I can’t tell you that Ed’s music made me happy while my brother was gone, the same way I can’t say that it made me taller or changed the color of my eyes. But what I have learned about art is that it doesn’t exist to make you happy. It exists to make you feel. It exists to connect you to the world, to other people, to prove that we are all human and that human beings need these connections in order to be whole. On the days when I felt nothing but the monotony of my own grief, my world was so small, and I was incomplete. But when I listened to Ed Sheeran sing so passionately about loneliness and heartbreak and love and what it is like to lose someone, I understood exactly what he was feeling – what so many people feel all over the earth all the time – and that understanding broadened my world and held me together. It’s not the same thing as feeling happy, but it was the most valuable thing I could have asked for at the time. His music is what made me complete.
It’s funny how you can live your life not realizing that a piece of yourself is missing until someone else comes along and sings it perfectly into place. How can you thank a person for that kind of gift? Is there a way?
Now that my brother is home, I don’t have to think about these things anymore, but there is something that keeps bringing me back to the place where I was when he was gone, something about the music that reminds me over and over how I have been changed by it. In my letters, I told my brother that I’d found something amazing that seemed to make the world bigger, and I wanted to share it with him but didn’t know how. He didn’t have the paper to write me back, but when I went to visit him, he sang a bit of one of Ed’s songs for me which he had heard on the radio. The image of my big brother sitting there across from me in his prison uniform with his hair buzzed short, softly singing The A Team, is something that will never leave me. He said he thought it was sad, and I told him yes, that it was very sad. But what I didn’t say to my brother, what I have never managed to put into words before now, is that I’m sure our mutual sadness brought us closer together, that this shared moment is something I know my heart will keep coming back to for the rest of my life, and that without these things to connect us, all anyone would ever be is alone on opposite sides of the glass, incomplete people occupying their own very small, very far apart worlds.
Sorry to get a bit deep there, but it was something I was thinking about at the time. If you were looking for a short, more literal answer, what happened was that I was on youtube looking at sign language videos, and I found the music video for YNMIDNY. I was captivated by it. From there, I listened to a bunch of Ed’s songs and sort of fell in love with them. Never looked back. 🙂