How Tom Petty Helped Me Understand What I Really Wanted To Do With My Life.

Tom Petty

“You belong among the wildflowers.” — Tom Petty

One man is responsible, probably more than any other, for much of what’s happened to me the past two years.

That man is Tom Petty.

I can’t tell you the date, but I can tell you how it felt when I first heard “Wildflowers,” an acoustic number off of the Petty album of the same name. “You belong somewhere you feel free,” he sang, and I knew he was right. I felt, at that moment, like he had written that song solely for me.

A song had never felt like that to me before.

It was the spring of 2010, and a lot of things were hitting me all at once. There was frustration over my job and my place in the journalism world. There was anxiety over my future — was I destined to hop from $35k journalism gig to $35k gig? What the hell was I doing with myself? With my life?

Something about that song just struck me. I had this sense that Tom knew something I didn’t. I had this sense that I was supposed to listen.

I’m not sure why, but I knew Tom was right: I belonged somewhere I could feel free.

Here’s the thing: Freedom is a place, I think, not just a state of mind. It’s a place where you can do great work. It’s a place where you can surround yourself with people who want what you want. For me, it’s a place where I can tell stories that nudge our world a little bit forward.

Freedom’s within all of us, but for me, it took a physical place to find it within myself. It took Biloxi, a place that scared me and excited me all at once. Biloxi’s where I found the fear, and also where I found the freedom.

I can’t tell you what freedom should mean for you. But I can promise you this: It is a wonderful feeling to find that place where you can be free.

Freedom doesn’t give you all the answers, but it helps define the path ahead. It helps you see, clearly, what kind of life you really want for yourself.

Today, start the search for the place where you feel free. It’s an awfully good place to start the work you’re meant to do.

That photo of Tom Petty at top comes via John VanderHaagen.