Patti Smith
Photo: Ruven Afanador
When I was young, everything seemed so simple. I felt the calling toward art and literature, so I decided I would be a writer and pen a magical book like Peter Pan or Alice in Wonderland. But no matter how fixed I was on my path, something always drew me away and I tramped unexpected roads with great twists and turns. And what I learned is that we are all Pinocchio: We begin our life, waving to our mother and father with our schoolbooks in hand, hoping to do well. But we are turned this way and that. We make mistakes, we move from our course, we falter, flounder, and may suffer remorse, rebellion, or a sense of defeat. We seem to lose our way. But no matter! If we keep our little flame alive, our first feeling of enthusiasm of who we are, without the influence or intervention of others, we will prevail. And like Pinocchio, despite all his transgressions, find the courage to reunite with our little flame and be rewarded. And the reward is this: We become ourselves.

In my life I have made many mistakes. Sometimes I was careless and inconsiderate of others. Fate drew me to singing and performing around the world, and yet this was not what I dreamed for myself—sometimes I felt it took me from my true path, that of the writer. But I found performing brought me closer to the people. It gave me an opportunity to travel, to explore, to communicate, and concern myself with my fellow man.

In 1979 I gave up my life in the arena of rock 'n' roll to marry and raise a family, another divergence from my pursuit as a solitary artist. But through my family I learned the final lesson of Pinocchio—what it is like to be human. And always through everything, through sacrifice and success, I have tried to stay close to my little flame, reminding me who I am.

The cricket tells Pinocchio, "Always let your conscience be your guide." These words, by a small, insignificant insect, give us all we need. The best person to tell you who you are, what you should be, is ultimately yourself.

Next: Patti Smith talks personal style

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