His Story: Paul David Stanko

Can you take us back to the beginning? What are your earliest memories, and how do you think they’ve shaped who you are today?

I am from Bloomington, Minnesota, USA, originally. That city is most famous for The Mall of America. …but that wasn’t around when I was a kid. It’s a modest suburb of Minneapolis. I grew up in a 3-bedroom rambler with my father, mother, and sister.

I had a pretty amazing childhood. My parents were very middle class. We might not have had the trendiest things, but we didn’t go without. My Aunt and Uncle owned land in a township near Stillwater, Minnesota, where they raised racehorses (among other things). My sister and I spent endless hours with our cousins exploring the land and building forts. We also got to explore the creative side of life by writing and self-publishing books (ok, to be fair, one copy bound in cardboard covered by wallpaper) and hosting cooking shows (we would “make things” and make our sisters eat them and then clean up after us) well before either were a trend.

We traveled by car quite a bit as a family for summer vacations—mostly to the east coast. My parents loved the historical sites of the United States. However, my favorite vacation we took as a family was to Florida back around 1977. Disney World captured my imagination. I have been back a few times since.

My parents had very—specific—tastes in music. In fact, The New Christy Minstrels was my first-ever concert! It is VERY …Caucasian… music. VERY Caucasian music. I am sure it is one of the influences that set choral music and my love of harmony into my DNA. I do love singing in a swing choir!

I also remember my grandmother (dad’s mom) playing electric organ at their house—an old Wurlitzer electric organ. She could play almost anything by ear (to my recollection). Grandpa and Grandma would drag us to their “Organ Club” meetings when they were babysitting my sister and me. I am not really sure where that influence plays out in my style now, but it was definitely a big part of my growing up. But I know I LOVED to play with the cheesy percussion beats on organ. In fact, in Superhuman, the breakdown is supposed to emulate that cheesy sound. Maybe THAT’S how it influenced me!

As you reflect on your life, are there any key moments or turning points that stand out to you? What made them significant?

It was the fall of 1984 and I was a freshman at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Ia. I was sitting on the far side of the room in the “Nature of Science” course, required for all freshmen, when “He” walked in the room. I know this sounds like I am making it up, but I swear it happened like this: it was like something out of a movie: The lights in the room dimmed and a spotlight illuminated him; a choir of angels (or background singers) appeared and went, “AHHHH” …it’s one of the few times in my life I remember a voice, other-than-my-own, rush through my head. “I know you”.

We didn’t end up meet for three more months.

Friends of mine were telling me about this friend of theirs, David, who wasn’t resonating with his roommate. I was not resonating with mine, so after a brief negotiation, he moved in and we became roommates—soon after that, best friends. Soon after that, …boyfriends.

But it was the ‘80’s and neither one of us could be gay.

Thus began the emotional rollercoaster ride from the incredible highs of young love to devastating lows and back again as we both tried to figure out who …and how we loved.

After graduation, I moved back to the Twin Cities and David moved to New York City to pursue his dreams of being a daytime TV star. After a brief stay in New York, David moved to the Twin Cities—his dreams of stardom crushed like sands through the hourglass, so are the “Days of Our Lives”.

I will always cherish that one spring day in 1991 when we walked around Lake Bde Maka Ska:

He was engaged to be married and I was in a destructive relationship: we talked of running away together to the west coast: leaving the struggles of our life here and starting fresh—together. It was one of those soul-level conversations.

The fall of 1991 found me at local department store, Dayton’s Southdale Marketplace Foods, honing my skills as a food service manager. It was Black Friday, as we prepared to meet the onslaught of holiday shoppers searching for that perfect give at the perfect price, the phone rang: it was for me—and it was my mom.

It turns out David had been killed in a car accident the previous night—Thanksgiving night—while heading back to the Twin Cities after visiting his family in Iowa.

And my head exploded.

I remember, shortly after David’s funeral, standing back in the kitchen at Dayton’s Southdale making egg salad and thinking “You are off exploring the universe and I am standing here making egg salad. What is wrong with this picture?”

That moment changed the course of my life forever. I can pinpoint David’s reemergence into non-physical as the catalyst—spurring me on to dig deeper into this thing called life. I began to question—everything. What is the meaning of Life? What is the meaning of Death? What is God and why would a 25-year-old young man whom I loved to my core be taken from me?

I immersed myself into the study of religion trying to understand how humans saw God and answered those questions. I plowed through sacred text after sacred text, studying the world’s religions and philosophies with a passion—looking for the answers to life, the Universe…everything—only to remember it from “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” (one of my favorite books as a kid: “42”.

Here’s the thing about “42”: there is a computer programming language known as ASCII, which stands for American Standard Code for Information Interchange. It is a standard data encoding format for electronic communications between computers. Developed in the 60’s, ASCII allowed different types of computers to communicate with each other. ASCII uses 7-digit binary numbers to assign numeric values to letters, numerals, punctuation, and other characters used in computers.

In programming, often user identified data is needed-data that is allowed to vary amongst different users—not always needing to be the same value. To make something user identified work amongst various users, a symbol needs to be used to indicate this random field. Computer programmers decided on the “*” symbol to indicate “Whatever you want it to be”.

In ASCII code the “*” symbol is designated by the number 42.

And that is it right there: Life is whatever you want it to be.

That simple and profound realization (which took a LOT LONGER to come to than the time it took you to read this paragraph) changed my life. Suddenly I was responsible for the outcome of my life. Well, crap!

Who were the most influential people in your life, and how have they impacted your journey and development?

My family and my friends.

My dad taught me my work ethic. My mom taught me to take time out to read a book or do an activity you like. My sister taught me loyalty and protection. My aunt Barbara taught me what running away from your marriage to a cult does to a family. My cousin Anna inspired my creativity. Frank opened me up to my sexuality. David taught me what a soul mate was and was the catalyst for my spiritual journey. Kendra taught me how not to be a virgin and to love the written word. Rafael showed me my anger and taught me passion. Juan taught me sisterhood and friendship. Scott taught what happens when you abuse your gifts and ultimately pushed me to take back my own power. Rick taught me to see people for who they are and not who I want them to be. Dr. Paul Smoker taught me musicality. Jennifer taught me sometimes you have to lose to win. Modesto taught me I am worth more than others think. Thomas John taught me there is truly no such thing as death. Tom taught me what real love is.

And there are so many more. Every person I have met has impacted me in large and small ways. And how did they influence me? They informed who I am today.

That may seem like a cheap answer, but it’s the truth. They have all influenced me and helped inspire who I am. Both good and bad. But ultimately all good as even those experiences I didn’t prefer helped clarify what I did prefer and where I wanted to go.

What challenges have you faced along the way, and how did you overcome them?

This article isn’t long enough to list them all. And the challenges themselves don’t matter, just the answer to your question, “How did I overcome them?”

I dug deep. I put on my big-boy pants and faced my fears, my challenges…the obstacles in my life head on. But let’s be real, I may have done so kicking and screaming the whole way!

Life has its ups and downs. Embrace it. Understand it. Resign yourself to it. It can be no other way.

If you go to a hospital and look at a heart monitor, what do you see? You would see a graphic depiction of peaks and valleys…ups and downs, if you will.

If you look at that same monitor and see a flat line—no peaks and valleys, what does that mean? It means you’re dead!

So quite literally, the ups and downs of life are the definition of life itself.

You’re going to need to face your fears sooner or later, so why not just dig deep and do it? You will grow from the experience.

Buckle up, Buttercup! It may be a bumpy ride, but it will definitely not be boring!

If you were to pick a theme or a lesson that runs through your life story, what would it be?

On August 321, 1986, I wrote in a journal I started in college, “I love to make people feel. Let that be my goal: to make as many people moved through contact with me as possible.” I actually went and dug that journal out to make sure I had it right.

I have never forgot that statement. Through my music and through my spiritual business I endeavor to help people—either by entertaining them or by showing them pathways froward from where they are.

Musically, I made the decision long ago to only add to the positive music oeuvre. There are plenty silly, self-indulgent, co-dependent love songs out there—why add one more? I want to try to inspire people. I want to teach them accountability (meaning don’t blame someone else for your life, figure it out. Seek help if you need it, but understand if it isn’t going how you think it should, modify your behaviors to achieve a different outcome.

Spiritually, through my spiritual mentoring, speaking and tarot card reading, I hope to do a similar thing. I know I move energy (always have… just meet me, you’ll understand that statement). When I work with someone, even if it is a tough situation, I hope to show them there is ALWAYS a way… and it’s always a simple way, but seldom an easy way.

Are there specific accomplishments or milestones that you’re particularly proud of, and why do they hold such significance for you?

I was born! I chose to come back to this wild rollercoaster ride called earth. It holds significance because knowing full well what adventures awaited me, I chose to come play in this sandbox again.

The rest, the recordings, the writings, the TikToks, the videos, the awards, the relationships, the jobs… all of that would not be possible had I not chosen to dance this dance.

Looking ahead, what are your hopes and aspirations for the next chapter of your life story? What legacy do you want to leave behind?

Where’s the fun in that? I don’t want to skip to the end of the book, I want to enjoy the journey as it unfolds. But I understand the intent of your question.

I want to leave the world a better place than when I got here. I want to leave more love, more positive energy, more art, more creations, more friendships, more understanding. I know I am a pebble in a pond. My desired legacy would be the ripples from my being here continue to radiate out from this moment and continue to touch lives in a way that transforms what is now into the paradise we all truly desire deep down.

If in 40 years someone is still listening to one of my songs, I will be happy. If in 90 years, the great, great, great granddaughter of one of my clients has been enjoying the benefits of healed ancestral trauma, I will be happy.

Where can our readers find additional information about you and your work?

The best place to connect with me and keep track of new music coming out is on my website, https://PaulDavidMusic.net

I am on all socials (linked in my website) and streaming on all platforms. Thank you so much for the opportunity to sit and chat! I look forward to connecting with your readers.

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