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Decisions to engage…

by | Jan 25, 2021 | Cat Stevens, Decisions, engage

Having missed Texas History, normally taught in 7th grade while I was in Florida, I found myself engaged in an advanced World History class taught by a relatively young woman teacher.  She really knew how to keep us challenged, and again it was an interdisciplinary experience.  She handed us blank maps of countries, and we would have to letter the names of the large cities and capital – by hand – drawing lines to letter in pencil first for a grade, before we would letter them in Fountain Pen.  We were also required to detail the maps with colored pencils, adding information about the terrain, industries, rivers, etc.  It was fascinating to have to dig out that information and Decisions leaders had made for their countries…

… from the Encyclopedia.  Remember those?  Big volumes that your parents had to hock a small fortune so you had them at home to do your homework without going to the library.  We of course had The World Book, not Britannica, because they were more affordable.  We also had subscriptions to National Geographic along with other magazines like Life that we would read cover to cover when they arrived.  We also spent particularly summers with College Kids from other countries in my youth who were there having Decided to be engineers and intern at Texas Instruments. My Dad — I know — worked hard… and was home most weekends and evenings if he wasn’t volunteering at Church or working on airplanes or cars, which of course was my frame of reference for Decisions on what we now call “Work/Life Balance”

Steven Georgiou was born in 1948 to a Greek father and Swedish mother in the music district of London.  They ran a restaurant together, with the family living above it, and all the kids were expected to help out, which he did begrudgingly.  His parents divorced when he was 8, and while his father was Greek Orthodox, he attended Catholic school as it was closer when he stayed with him.  Steven’s interest in music engaged first on the piano, and then he convinced his father to buy him a guitar for the equivalent of $300 when he was15… when like everyone, he wanted to be a Beatle 😉 

Like other kids of the era, he found his way into art school, actually considering a career as a cartoonist, and was constantly beat up… but, he added ‘I was noticed” 😉  He pivoted back into music, and engaged in playing coffee shops of the era under the name Steven Adams.  He was listening to Nina Simone, Lead Belly, but also Ira and George Gershwin, often hearing the musicals around the corner from the rooftop of his home.  He was signed to a publishing deal in 1965, including his first song, “The First Cut is the Deepest”.  It increased his bookings, and he realized he enjoyed being a solo artist, compared to other peers that were forming with bands.

He knew to make it big, he needed to have a more engaging name than Georgiou, and his girlfriend said he had eyes like a cat.  Connecting also that American’s love pets, he Decided Cat as his first name would be memorable.  He quickly was discovered by an agent who arranged studio time to record both his first composition and 2 other songs that immediately went straight up the charts.  The track for today came to him from his wanting to emulate the storytelling of the Gershwins and noticing on the bus everyday people Decide to race into work, but not having time to engage their family or life for their efforts. 

Throughout the 8th Grade, we would have increasing conversations with the Guidance Counselor, to make Decisions on where our life would go.  I knew kids who knew exactly what they wanted to do/be/go… like Steven, or Cat now.  I was more of a generalist who enjoyed just about anything.  I was blessed both with a mind for science and math, and parents that helped that develop even more.  For now, this particular World History class was “required”…and inspired me to really learn about the world around me in a creative way.  I still remember those maps, and also the study of the people that were in each of these other places.

This teacher also had us study World Religions – not a topic that sat lightly with the people in the mostly Baptist/Christian East Texas community.  But having to write papers on Islam, Buddism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism … I loved that one – sounded cool right??  The mark of Z… 😉   Her Decision to deepen our knowledge of “other perspectives” was timeless and has fueled my natural curiosity of other faiths, including teaching it to kids in 5th and 6th grade Sunday School for years many years later…

The song was a monster hit for Cat Stevens, rocketing up to Number 2 in the UK – the most popular of all his songs – which if you know his catalog says a lot.  And for many, including me, it just doesn’t sound like him.  What Decisions did he make – he was already at the top of the charts at barely 18 – and yet, what caused him to rethink his approach?  Through the week, we will explore different Decision approaches, but as we engage today, think about your own career path… and what Decisions have gotten you here?  And are they getting you what you want in all areas of your life – while you listen and watch a very young, “pop star” version of the tale of Matthew and Son.