I remember peeling the cellophane off that paper-bag-coloured CD—Tom Petty’s “Wildflowers.”
I was a f*cked up 20-year-old with a bottomless pit of reasons to not believe in myself. His title track brought me to the place of turning that all around.
I felt stifled as a little girl, honed to be “good,” “well-behaved,” and to “mind my manners.” And I never felt made for this world—like I was a stranger tip-toeing around everyone. I hid behind my quiet disposition and melded in with a pretty smile. I kept who I was concealed—and while holding my external composure, I was screaming inside to let it all go
I yearned to rip through the boundaries I felt subjected to. I hated living in a universe that recognized certain attributes over substance of character. Emotions were hidden and shamed. Not a lot of people were raised to reveal their true selves.
When Tom Petty’s album was released, I listened to it thousands of times. I wasn’t a huge fan of his previously, but the moment I heard “Wildflowers,” I was sold.
He backed me up with this ditty. I got his message; it rescued a part of me that felt lost.
His words reached the ache that existed in many of us. No one gets to the top of the charts without connecting to an audience. Although notably overlooked, “Wildflowers” was a certified triple-platinum album. Its emotional content was prominent and honest.
Wildflowers—they are as cleverly conceived as snowflakes. Each one is inherently individual. These small packages of pureness grow freely; they exist unaltered and untameable.
Humans are like wildflowers; unique in our own rights. The difference? Most of us long for the power of autonomy. We crave the flexibility to act, speak, and think without being hindered.
Society presses people to follow the hum of the engine. Click clack, tag along. Come aboard; forget independence. Look a certain way, behave a certain way—and, for God’s sake, don’t challenge the norms.
Scared to show up as myself, the “Wildflowers” number truly offered me a licence to my own liberation.
Petty hit it big time with this tune. His simple delivery begs us all to ask: where do I fit in, and what tethers me—what keeps us all restrained?
He called on his audience to remember that sovereignty mattered—that we all “belong somewhere” we feel free.
How many people long to live unabashedly in love, in recognition, and in deliverance? All of us. There is a communal struggle with acceptance—of self and of one another.
I wasn’t actually alone. My heart flourished in his verses. We are all wildflowers craving both belonging and freedom.
I will forever cherish this song. I love the guitar, the warm melody, and way it spoke to me decades ago—reminding me never to lose faith in who I was. Thank you, Tom Petty.
Rest in peace. May your own lyrics rise up to meet you now:
“You belong among the wildflowers, you belong somewhere you feel free.”
Author: Kristen Dobson
Image: Genessa Panainte/Unsplash
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Social Editor: Callie Rushton