Giving Me The Gift – Andrew Richie

While I have been prone to the occasional bout of hyperbole, I can say with all sincerity that Annie Lennox changed my life – specifically, her album Diva, which set my soul on a new course of self-discovery. I can still recall listening to that tape (yes, I said tape) in my bedroom with my headphones on, sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of my ghetto-blaster, watching the reels go round and round through the tiny window of the cassette player.


I was 15 and alone and on the cusp of becoming me in one of the most difficult phases of my youth. (Adolesence is hard enough without adding homosexuality to the mix.)


In the obscurity of this confusion, I needed help to illuminate the very rocky path I was about to embark upon: the revealing of a truth that would come to define me, for better or for worse, in a society that I believed would find its definition repugnant. How do I embrace


something inside me that people might find vile? How do I reveal myself with candor tempered by grace? How do I become myself without alienating myself?


Big questions for a 15 year-old with a chip on his shoulder and a big secret inside.


That Diva was released just as I was preparing to come out to friends and family seems almost altruistic. I am not delusional and realize that Annie has (and has never had) any idea about me or my life. But in those special, sparkling moments listening to Diva on my headphones in private, feeling msyelf becoming more and more in tune with my soul, I could not help but feel a deep sense of gratitude and love for the artist who helped me put it all together somehow.


It was impossible for me to resist the urge to listen to Diva in repetitious cycles because its story mirrored the life I was living. It was ostensibly about journeys: beginnings, endings, reflections on the past and hopes for the future. It was about clearing out the cobwebs of uncertainty to make way for something sharply focused. The journey Annie was making into a new phase of independence and self discovery felt immediately familiar to me, and her methods of conveying these inner roadways to personal growth – through sound and words and images – formed such a brilliantly complete picture that I could scarcely contain my excitement over the totality of its vision. Diva is a whole truth. It is an entire world of truth, with layers that I am continuing to discover 20 years later.


Diva was, indeed, a true gift. Below are the lyrics to the song that really did it for me, that made me break down into tears so I could break out of myself. The words are committed to memory…

The Gift

Darling, don’t you understand I feel so ill at ease
The room is full of silence
And it’s getting hard to breathe
Take this gilded cage of pain
And set me free
Take this overcoat of shame
It never did belong to me

It never did belong to me

I need to go outside
I need to leave the smoke
Cause I can’t go on living
In this same sick joke
It seems our lives have taken on
A different kind of twist
Now that you have given me
The perfect gift

You have given me the gift

For we have fallen from our shelves
To face the truth about ourselves
And we have tumbled from our trees
Tumbled from our trees…

And I can almost…
I can almost hear the rain falling
Don’t you know, it feels so good
Feels so good
So let’s go out into the rain again
Just like we said we always would