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  • James Aichinger

Meeting Your Heroes

They say you should never meet your heroes, that they’ll never live up to your expectations. This is the story of how I met mine and how she changed my life.

The Upside - Lindsey Stirling (Photo Credit: Amelie Aichinger)

The story of my love for Lindsey’s music goes way back and to a dark time in my life. I was friendless, uncertain and believed I was worthless as a person. Although I had left school with a set of grades I could be proud of, I felt that I had achieved nothing of worth to call my own. My one creation, my first abysmal attempt at a book, had been torn to shreds by the people who called themselves my friends (seriously, find a copy if you can; it was bad).

In my gloomy, secluded bedroom in the back-end of Wales I sat wondering if I should ever bother writing again. There were plenty of reasons against it: first and foremost I was clearly not a gifted wordsmith, secondly my previous attempt had earned me nothing but pain and lastly I had no new ideas and nothing that hadn’t been said by someone else a hundred times better.

I was aimlessly hopping through YouTube, listening to songs that were the same as my writing; trite, repetitive phrases that had been heard a thousand times before. Then I found Elements.

It was like someone had lit a match in my head then idly tossed it into a box of fireworks.

The beat, the melody, the changing dynamic of the piece were etched into my mind so hard that for minutes afterwards I sat staring at the screen in awe. The music had shown me the story inside that I was struggling to find.

I immediately began searching for more, like a starving man who had found his first morsel in almost a month. Crystalize, Spontaneous Me and many, many more flashed before my eyes before I could stop to draw breath. They were all the same, yet all so different from each other: stories given audio form with a message so pure that it was like liquid gold.

Now before I get too much flak for banging on about one particular artist, let me make this plain: I have found other pieces by other artists with the same magical quality many times, but they tend to be one-offs. What inspired me so much on that day to open my book and try again was that her music and her ‘Lindsey Time’ documentaries spoke to me in a way that made me believe in myself again.

Lindsey makes no secret of the struggles she has suffered and the work she has had to put in to get where she is now. If anything she embraces it and shares the stories to let others know that they are not alone. It made me realise that the problems I faced were not the end, any more than a heavy weight is the end of exercise. What I faced was a moment that defined who I was and what kind of person I wanted to be. It was my time to choose: give up or push through with a message and story to show the world.

I knew right there and then what the heart of my story was about.

That story has gone through multiple iterations since, invariably to the sound of Lindsey’s music, but the core has remained the same.

Every time a new track comes out I race to hear it, because it brings another chance to look at a facet of life through the magic of untamed imagination. Her music always captures for me the balance and competing forces of a situation, and glides effortlessly between energy and philosophy in a way I strive to emulate in my writing.

Every time her tour visited the UK I tried to get tickets, but I was always disappointed. Not because they sold out too quickly (I was always prepared to stay glued to the computer to get one) but because my life kept getting in the way. University exams, weddings and fencing competitions all conspired to keep me from seeing her live.

I did get to see her once, at her secret performance in London. It was an honour I was not expecting to receive but I was delighted to attend. Seeing her on stage I realised that the music videos, although works of art in their own right, were nothing to the energy and passion she brought to the stage. I spent the evening mesmerised and being slowly deafened by the nearby subwoofer, but more inspired than ever before.

With the approach of my book’s release, my wife and I decided to not let anything stop us from getting to another concert and this time to make it special. We booked tickets to the concert in Munich and decided to attend the ‘Meet and Greet’ event beforehand.

In the line to meet Lindsey it suddenly struck me what was about to happen. I was about to meet the person who had unknowingly started my journey. What should I say? What should I do? What if she didn’t live up to the hype? What if I went away disillusioned and disheartened?

As I was called forwards around the screen that divided the line from the woman herself, I could feel my head spinning (that might have been the beer I had just had but I refuse to ruin a good story).

There she stood.

Colourful, expectant and curious were all descriptions that could have fit. But the very first thing I noticed was the smile. Most people waiting for a line of people to arrive so they can take a photo and move on end up with a rather glassy expression. You’re only one in a hundred people they’ve got to meet and know for less than forty seconds (I had a timer running on my phone). But Lindsey shifted right from wondering who the next person was to interest in who they were in a fraction of a second. She laughed when I told her that I had been chasing after her for years (yes it sounded that creepy, my mind had been blown by the prospect of meeting my idol, give me a break). But most of all I got to give her a copy of the book I had written because of her.

My wife and I were front and centre of the concert that night, partly because we didn’t go back to the bar after the meet and greet, but mostly because we ran there straight afterwards. All through the performance we were hypnotised by the music and the grace of her dance troupe. I was privately gleeful when the second song turned out to be my favourite from her first album, although not as joyous as my wife was when her favourite was played next.

There was such connection, such passion and energy in every piece that we left the concert dancing on the air.

I have often heard it said that you should never meet your heroes because they cannot live up to your expectations. I think that this is wrong. I think that we build up our heroes too much in our everyday lives. That with the advent of social media and the belief that we have to show a perfect side to the world and the pressure that puts on those we idolise make it impossible to live up to. What makes Lindsey Stirling my hero is that she has never hidden who she really is and what struggles she faces. She embraces them as a part of her life and lets herself be defined by those hardships. She doesn’t post picture-perfect selfies but videos from the reflection of her bathroom mirror.

I would say it is always worth meeting your heroes; it reminds you of who they really are.

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