Here I am, driving back up 35, around Duluth, through Superior...Highway 2 East, into beautiful Ashland, WI. As the wind tosses my little Prius all over the road, I am consumed with the strongest deja vu. This is my third trip up to Northland College, to connect with ALLIANCE, the LGBTQ+ support & awareness group on campus. I am going to attend their weekly meeting & then play a concert for them the next night. So Exciting! But as I pull into town & onto campus, I can't help but worry about the visit. It seems like they are looking forward to having me, but will my story resonate with these young adults? Will always a river be "cool enough" for these groovy kids? Do I have enough bells & whistles?
I settle into my room in the dorms (right next door to the one I had last time) & then head back out to meet up with Heather, the Campus Life Programming Coordinator at Northland. She has become a really good friend thanks to these visits & I appreciate her so much. We head over to the Alliance meeting (led by the always sweet Stuart) & the room quickly fills with around 20 students, all there to connect & discuss. We talk about queer icons in the music industry, their roles & responsibilities...we discuss whether things have gotten better or worse regarding gay/lesbian/trans artists & how are they being represented in modern entertainment. These students are so smart, so engaged & so open with their opinions. I found myself being extremely inspired by their boldness, their optimism & desire to broach such deep, often difficult topics. I certainly never had any group like this to attend when I was in college. At the end of the meeting, I talk a bit about my experience as an indie artist, my path from the closet to coming out, & the ongoing task of trying to remain fully authentic with my writing, my mission, my life as an artist. I am so glad I went up a day early & got to experience this hour with them. Such a nurturing environment. So important & meaningful.
The next day, I got to have lunch & dinner with some of the students again, before my concert that evening. I really appreciated this time, just being able to casually connect around the cafeteria table & hear about their lives. As I prepped for the show, I did have a little bit of nervous energy to deal with, again, just wondering if my story will resonate & if the format will work in such a casual setting. Last time performing always a river I was in a theater with a stage, lighting, sound...This time it is just a small room, no stage, just me & my little amp. Here goes nuthin!
Thankfully, the show was a hit! It only took a song or two for me to settle in & it seemed like the students were engaged the entire time. Afterward, I got to sit with them & talk a bit about my travels to Honduras with Tod, more about my work as a singer/songwriter & I got some good feedback about always a river, which I greatly appreciate. It was nice to feel that the themes in my show--love, loss, confusion, self-doubt, creativity...these are universal & relatable, no matter the age. It inspires me to keep finding LGBTQ+ groups on campuses, where I can visit, share my story, learn from & engage with.
I left the next morning & as I drove back to Minneapolis, I thought about my trepidation & fear upon arrival, just 2 days earlier. I was reminded of this fact: ACTION CAN ALWAYS DRIVE AWAY DOUBT. At least, in my experience this seems to ring true. Whenever I am feeling less than or find myself thinking that things aren't working out perfectly, these are the days when I just need to TAKE ACTION. Luckily, I had the action of this trip, full of connection, stimulating conversation & bright, engaging people to drive away those unwanted, invalid icky thoughts & feelings.
THANK YOU SO MUCH ALLIANCE at NORTHLAND COLLEGE...CAN'T WAIT TO VISIT AGAIN!!!