The Best Upper Division Essay

Lauren Schwetje's MysTori: The Prophet Amos

She's been everybody else's girl, maybe one day she'll be her own (Amos, Little). Now I am my own. I have taken full possession of my thoughts, fears, and experiences and am clutching to them with all I have. I owe my revelation to one musician whose life, outlook, and philosophies parallel my own. She opened my eyes to myself; she opened the window to my life and allows me to peer in whenever I wish to be swallowed by the view. Though we have never spoken with one another, she took my life by the throat and shook out things that I could never come to terms with or explain. She breathed passion and relevance into my experiences and each song takes me on a journey through my past and makes me reach for my future. She is the diviner who seems to have predicted my gains and sufferings. Now I can savor my biography, as sung by Tori Amos, and drown in its rich metaphors that expose my flavorful past, present, and future. She has made my life, which is dissonant at times, into a harmonious open book to those who will listen.

Everyday I crucify myself; nothing I do is good enough for you (Amos, Little). Although I would never admit it, I was plagued by what everyone else thought of me during all the years of my adolescence. A shy, naïve girl, I was forever trying to please those with a higher popularity status than I had. As Tori once stated about herself, "I [was] the queen of the nerds" (Whitehead). I would "crucify" myself in front of others while they laughed and scoffed at my efforts, still neglecting to see me as a human being. The more they disregarded me, the harder I drove the nails in.

Never was a cornflake girl. Thought it was a good solution, hangin' with the raisin girls (Amos, Pink). I have always been a raisin girl, one who is "more open minded" than cornflake girls, who are "totally self-centered" and "don't care about anything or anybody" (Whitehead). Cornflake girls seemed to have dominated the female population throughout high school; it was hard to avoid the petty attitudes and arguments between the two kinds of girls. Tori has stated that "what girls do to each other is beyond description. No Chinese torture comes close" (Whitehead). I fervently agree.

Lonely and weary of searching for those scarce "raisin girls," I turned to what "remained [my] first and best friend," the piano (Rogers13). As Tori had, I began playing piano at age two. I had taken piano lessons for five years but realized that rather than restrict myself to the classics, I wanted what the child prodigy, Tori, wanted when she left the Peabody Institute where she had been placed for her talents; I "wanted to compose and expand" (Dunn16). So I threw my Mozart and Beethoven pieces into a dusty pile of other neglected masterpieces, and I instantly emerged as a singer and a songwriter. It was in my songs that I could effectively express myself, even just for myself, when mundane, spoken words couldn't describe what I was feeling. I observe the same purpose in Tori's eclectic music; each song has a personality of its own which originated from her unique "eccentricity and genius" used to convey her experiences, both physical and spiritual.

I tell you that I'll always want you near; you say that things change my dear (Amos, Little). Being an only child, I was always "daddy's little girl." Tori's song "Winter" describes her close childhood relationship with her father and the way the bond between them evolved over the years. I used to argue with my father about how our relationship would never change as I grew older. Although I will always remain his sunshine who used to hold desperately onto his hands when learning to ice skate and clamber up on his lap to take our Sunday afternoon naps, things have changed as he once promised they would.

Leave the light on. Just in case I like the dancing, I can remember where I come from (Amos, Little). I often listen to those people who repeat over and over how much they adore freedom and being away from their homes, but I always have had a close bond with my parents, one that could not be severed by distance. My mother promised that our home would forever be there waiting for me, even when I was out experiencing and enjoying life, or "the dancing." I am confident that the light of my parent's love will always be lit as a beacon to lead me home.

Can't stop what's coming; can't stop what's on its way (Amos, Pink). It was inevitable that I was going to encounter trouble once I was set off on my own, after having been the sinless girl my entire life. Yes, my trouble came, but not in the form of common alcohol and drug problems encountered at college, but in the form of men. To them, "sometimes [I was] nothing but meat" (Amos, Boys). Meat that they could ravage and satisfy their hunger with, purely for selfish reasons, and then leave me emotionally torn and obliterated.

Yes I wore a slinky red thing. Does that mean I should spread for you, your friend, your father, Mr. Ed? (Amos, Little) After numerous failed relationships with juvenile boys my age I turned, naively, to the older generation of men who knew how to treat me, sweet-talk me, and deceive me. "Me and a Gun" reveals Tori's experience of being raped by one of her fans, and my connection to her words is in the metaphorical sense of rape. An older man took advantage of my purity, and I found myself trapped in the chaos that one would see on a talk show entitled "May/December Affairs." After falling further into trouble than I ever imagined I would be, I "guess[ed] that what I [was] seeking [wasn't there]" (Amos, ChoirGirl). I sought love, appreciation, honesty, compassion, and understanding. There were times during my affair I thought I had found everything. But I was nothing but meat.

It will all find its way in time (Amos, Venus). This line of the song "Riot Poof" came to me like a godsend when I had almost completely given up hope of finding love or companionship with anyone ever again. I realized I had no control over my destiny and what was going to happen, would happen. I trusted in Tori's words that my life would find its way and that I would eventually be directed toward the straightened path I once knew. I frequently found myself sobbing alone in my room, hopelessly singing that line repeatedly until Tori made me believe it with my entire being. It would find its way, I just had to be patient with fate.

And right there for a minute, I knew you so well (Amos, Boys). It always seemed that when one problem was alleviated, another arose. In this back-stabbing world we dwell in, faithful friends are hard to come by. Just when I felt I truly knew a "friend," I would experience his or her betrayal first hand and wonder how I could have been so foolish as to trust him or her with my life. One minute I thought I knew a person and the next minute he or she seemed to change. Tori has never altered; she has remained the loyal friend I can always count on to console me with a song after another friend is lost to me or if I ever feel lost to myself.

My fear is greater than my faith but I walk (Amos, Venus). There are numerous days when I find myself feeling pessimistic and anticipating Armageddon. My greatest fears are loss and loneliness. I have witnessed both at many times throughout my life. Tori taught me to "crawl into [my] wounds to discover what my fears are" (Whitehead). Now that I have made my wounds bleed and analyzed those things which I dread, "the cleansing can begin" (Whitehead). The most inspirational philosophy that I have ever discovered is embedded in Tori's song "Upside Down." The "secret to life" is that "I am O.K. when everything is not O.K." (Whitehead) I repeat this doctrine zealously in my head on days when I feel as if the world is crumbling around me. I feel that "I can keep myself together with a little more faith" (Amos, Kant).

I can be cruel, I don't know why (Amos, Choirgirl). I have heard Tori mention in various places that she has "fifty different personalities" (Amos, Conversation). I have always felt that way; I wake up every day, walk to my closet and pick out not only my clothes but also my personality for the day. I can choose to be placid, fearless, passionate, romantic, humorous, maternal, helpless, creative, outspoken, lazy, cruel, innocent, or devious. My personality reflects my mood, the weather, my environment, and other people around me. I have always embodied these conflicting personalities, but only those who truly know me to my core can experience all of them, for good or ill. Like Tori, " I don't know what a shrink would call me. I don't want to know" (Whitehead).

I swear, you're the fiercest calm I've been in (Amos, Venus). After a person figuratively experiences hell and comes back to earth to finally find everything one had ever hoped for, the experience feels as if the tangible hand of God in heaven has reached down and alleviated all pain. When one finds absolute love, all conception of past turmoil dissipates into the "fierce calm" that only those who have found bliss can relate to. Heaven greeted me on earth in the form of an exceptional man, and I will never falter again. My life has finally found its way.

I hear my voice and its been here, silent all these years (Amos, Little). The voice that I had been suppressing my whole life is alive and continues to expand as I journey religiously through Tori's music. I recognize that I am not alone in feeling certain kinds of fear, resentment, peace, confusion, and depression in life. I can listen to her music and continuously find other aspects that coincide with my own soul. Tori is the medium that speaks my life to the world. I am no longer silent; Tori inspired me to be "all I am" (Amos, Little).

Every person is a unique being who has the power to delve into his or her own mind and understand who he or she really is. A spark may go off to lead to this discovery or one may have the ability to draw the self out him- or herself. I was a lost soul who merely thought that I had my whole life figured out and knew who I was and what I wanted out of life. Tori was and still is my spark. So sure we were on something. Your feet are finally on the ground (Amos, Pink).

 

Prizes:

George S. Diamond Prizes
Beck Shakespeare Prize

English Prize
The Erskine Prize
Zinzendorf Prize
Beck Oratorial Prizes