Who Will Save Your Soul?

There are people who only read on 3-hour flights and there are people who can’t go 3 hours without reading a book. I am in the latter category. I can’t remember the last piece of fiction I’ve read. It always seems like a waste of time to me. My books of choice are often memoirs, the two most recent being “jewel-never broken” and Leah Remini’s “Troublemaker”. Both were particularly good and in them, I found passages that gave me strength.

Jewel had a much harder life than I expected. I already knew she lived in her car at one point. That “one point” expanded to several years and only ended when she created her own success by propositioning a struggling coffee shop owner. Jewel asked to play at her shop on Thursdays in exchange for the cover charge collected. Every other coffee shop owner was taking 100% of the cover charge proceeds. Jewel reasoned that since she’d be bringing in new business, the owner should be satisfied with the increased revenue. This particular coffee shop owner was and from there, Jewel was discovered.

Jewel was abandoned by her mother at a young age. Her father raised Jewel and her 2 younger brothers, living in rural Alaska. Her father’s increasing temper and alcoholism led to beatings, and Jewels attempts to escape the situation. Jewel first went to live with an aunt in Hawaii, where her uncle berated her and the kids at school called her a “whore”. Eventually, Jewel gained acceptance through her yodeling, but her Uncle’s rage was too much to bare and she returned to rural Alaska. While Jewel’s mom came in/out of her life, neither parent thought anything of Jewel moving out on her own at 15. The cabin she lived in had few amenities and Jewel lived off the land until she received a partial scholarship from Interlochen Center for the Arts in Traverse City, MI. It took a fundraiser and the entire community to send Jewel off, after which time she discovered she didn’t have the money to pay for books and tuition. It never occurred to Jewel that these things wouldn’t be included in the already $20,000 price tag. Fortunately, the school assisted Jewel with finding jobs to pay for these items, including modeling in a tan leotard for art students. Jewel was always sensitive about her body, feeling she was overweight and this particular assignment was agonizing. Jewel eventually managed to partner with another musician, earning money playing gigs at a local bar. Not surprisingly, the following year, Interlochen provided Jewel with a full scholarship. Assuming she wouldn’t have the money for a second year, Jewel had already completed the academic work necessary to graduate. By receiving the gift of another year, Jewel was able to focus on the arts and made the most out of her experience.

After graduation, Jewel was lost. No one talked to her about applying to college. It never occurred to Jewel she could have received a scholarship elsewhere. It was after this time Jewel found herself living in her car, supporting herself on tips until she found the coffee shop that would change her life. Her father would later say that Jewel living out of her car was one of his biggest regrets.

Jewel’s mother came back into her life, once Jewel received a record contract. For the next few years, Jewel was thrilled to have her mother by her side. They held hands everywhere they went; her mother eventually convincing Jewel to fire her manager, insisting instead she could do the job. After selling 17 million records, Jewel found herself bankrupt, despite spending almost nothing on herself. This betrayal has followed Jewel throughout her adult life. She has not talked to her mother since 2013, although her father has become a presence in her life. He’s been sober for years and has made amends for the way he treated Jewel.

Jewel is a beautiful writer, which should be no surprise considering she writers her own songs.  One of the passages in her book resonated with me more than anything else.

“My advice to anyone struggling with betrayal is don’t let yourself be abused twice. First by the act committed against you, and second by believing it has ruined your ability to experience happiness, trust, or love….Remember that betrayal doesn’t happen to you so much as it happens by someone else.

If you’ve ever doubted that anything is possible, read Jewel’s book. She is truly and amazing woman. One that helped me see that betrayal doesn’t have to change who I am as a person.


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