Song: I Believe I can Fly

Released: 1998 

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how children see the future…how I once saw it: with possibility, hope, and excitement. It seems like somewhere we lose that.

Somewhere we get bogged down in the struggle of surviving each day. This seems especially true for sufferers of depression. The drudgery of life seems impossible to escape sometimes, and hope vanishes.

But in the last few weeks, for me, hope has resurfaced. My heart has found child-like curiosity again. It sees excitement in the future. It sees possibilities. And a song that once drove my ambition has resurfaced. And I wanted to share that with you today.

The song is “I Believe I Can Fly,” released in 1998. Yolanda Adams sings my favorite version as posted on YouTube in 2010. You can find her live performance on YouTube. It’s incredible.

The song begins with a piano introduction of percussive chords as Yolanda Adams hums off stage and then she walks out from backstage to a roaring audience. A full orchestra accompanies her as a video of children jumping rope play behind her. Later, a full choir joins her and sings backup.

The original artist, R. Kelly, and the song won a slew of Grammy Awards in 1998, including best R&B song. It also earned the Grammy Award for Best Song Written for Visual Media as the main theme song for the Space Jam soundtrack. Space Jam features Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny. I can’t tell you much about the movie. I never saw it. Now, R. Kelly is not much of a role model these days, but I see no reason why we can’t enjoy his music–particularly this song.

It held meaning for me in 1998, and it holds meaning for me today.

The lyrics are about making our dreams come true…one line says, “If I can see it, I can do it.” This reminds me of a quote by Thoreau: “if one advances into the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

A poster that hung on the wall of my junior high guidance counselor (now my step-dad) misquoted Thoreau by saying “if one advances into the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success not found in common dreams.” Either way, the quote influenced my life, and I started imagining what my life would look like when I had met success. The song “I Believe I Can Fly” does the same.

In 1998, I moved from Lincoln, Nebraska to Laramie, Wyoming. I intended to earn a teaching certificate so I could teach high school while earning my MA in English. I found out that the school required me to earn another BA. It seemed a waste. I already had a BA in English. I didn’t want to retake all my gen. Eds. especially English! I had a degree in it! It was ridiculous.

I had wanted my MA, but I was scared. I thought a teaching certificate would be the path of least resistance. It wasn’t. In the meantime, while trying to figure it out, I needed a job and a place to live. Sleeping on my friend’s couch grew tiring. I applied for and got a job at the University library AV department.

As an employee, I could take a free course each semester. Among other classes, I enrolled in an Early Childhood Development course while also applying for graduate school. I feared failure, but I did it anyway.

“I Believe I Can Fly” repeated again and again on my radio as I drove to and from work. It reminded me that my dreams could come true. It reminded me that if I believed in myself, I could do anything. It reminded me to jump. After all, that’s what I did to earn my Bachelor’s. That’s what I did when I moved to Tucson in the ‘80s, not exactly with my family’s blessings. But that’s another story. So, I went for it. I applied as a graduate assistant despite my fear. And I made it. I was accepted to the program and accepted as a graduate assistant.

When classes began fall of 2000, I had quit my job at Coe Library and started graduate school full time while teaching one class of Freshman Composition. Hope and possibility drove my daily life and kept me on track toward my degree.

Now, I find myself at another crossroads, and I wonder if I should maintain the status quo or take a leap of faith on a path that’s a little scary. “I Believe I Can Fly” plays, and I’m reminded of the last time I jumped despite my fear. I flew. Perhaps I can fly now.

What inspires you?