By STEVI FOX

For the Paxton Record

This is a short story with a long history. It’s 2001, and a pretty big year in my life. I’m a freshman in high school, deciding who I am and why I’m not comfortable in 15-year-old skin. My grandmother, the "rock" of the family, had just died. I really turned to music for the first time in my life. John Mayer became my muse.

His simple lyrics coupled with amazing acoustic guitar talent would carry me through all the most difficult times in my life. No matter what, I’ve always been there for John because his music was always there for me. The media would tear him apart, and I would listen to his songs like "Neon," "Say" and "Vultures" and would just understand where he was and somehow I would happen to be there in my life, too.

I would never shy from honestly believing I would have my chance to thank him "some day." I would say my make-believe Grammy speech in front of my bedroom mirror and always end it with thanking John Mayer for inspiring me throughout my life, whether it was music, love, heart ache or never giving up.

Funny how certain things in your life actually don’t change. My love for John’s music hasn’t changed in 12 years, and I don’t think it ever will. 

My grandfather has been playing guitar since 1951. He sounds like Johnny Cash, but with pep in his voice due to being genuinely happy. When he performs, a light shines on him and everyone in the room. It’s a sight to witness, indeed. 

He is a man of God and has taught our family to love, forgive, and always be thankful. God has used his talents to serve in the best way! I mean, without music, then what? My cousins and I have been performing with him at church since we were kids. He would have us dress up fancy and repeat him with the simple country songs he would sing. 

We didn’t understand how much he taught us through music until we got older, a bit wiser, and honestly missed those simple songs and our grandpa leading the church in praise! I have continued to sing with him on occasion, and he will always be my favorite man to sing with. He has taught me what a good acoustic guitar sounds like! 

He plays a Martin Guitar D45 and says he loves a Martin because they have the best tone. He has played two other Martins, which include a D48 and D18. He keeps it as clean as his Ford truck and makes sure it’s in tune before he sings a note!

We sang together last July at a close family friend’s memorial service following his death.  To be honest with you, Popo, Bill Polson, my grandfather, carried me through the entire song because I could hardly keep singing through the tears.  In tough times, it’s always nice to know the person singing with you will have your back and make the song sound fantastic. We took a picture that day outside the funeral home, and we didn’t know it then but that photo would change my life forever. 

On Veterans Day 2013, I sit scrolling through my Instagram picture feed when I come across John Mayer’s Instagram picture that says: "I heart John Mayer. Submit and tag your photo with #whoyoulove and #BKLovesMayer here on Instagram, to be entered for a chance to meet #JohnMayer and see him LIVE in Brooklyn on 12/17 courtesy of #CitibankUS." 

So, not thinking much of it, I go to the only picture that would make sense to enter in this contest. I entered the photo of my grandpa and me at our friend’s funeral. You can see in the picture that we’re both proud to be there to sing for such a great man, and the guitar looks brand new even though he has had it for 15 years.

Since it was Veterans Day, and I had already given him a call to thank him for being a veteran, I thought it was fitting.   I wrote a caption under the picture I sent in to the contest that said, "My grandpa, a veteran, taught me to read my Bible every day, work hard and know what good acoustic guitars sound like."

In early December 2013, I was on the phone in a work meeting at Colorific Hair Salon in Bloomington, where I am the manager. I got a notification on my phone coming from Instagram, so I checked it. It happened to be about the "BKLovesMAYER" contest and simply said, "Congratulations @steviraeann you may be our "#BKLovesMAYER contest winner! Contact us before 1 p.m. today to get the full details."

I figured this was a scam, but I hung up on my boss, saying, "Brittany, I have to call you back! I think I won a John Mayer contest!"

I sounded like a weirdo, but I knew she would understand, because everyone that knows me well knows how much John Mayer has meant to me. She laughed lightly and said, "OK!" I emailed them at 11:58 a.m., not knowing I would be 2 minutes away from missing this opportunity since in New York it was 12:58 p.m. The company putting this contest on, called Mac Presents, congratulated me, gave me the details, got my and my husband’s info for flights, and before long we were off to NYC!

On Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013, Brian, my husband, and I are walking the streets of New York waiting to go to John Mayer’s final concert of his Born and Raised World Tour. I keep telling myself, "If the meet-and-greet doesn’t happen, I still won an amazing trip to New York with my husband at Christmas time, and it’s going to be a blast!"

We ended up eating New York-style pizza for dinner, and not too long after got on the subway to head to Brooklyn. Once we got there, I sent a worker from Mac Presents a text saying we had arrived, and he replied instantly with, "Great! The meet & greet is a go. See you soon."

My heart stopped. That text just told me that I would be meeting John Mayer, my muse, inspiration and favorite musician, who I have loved since I was 15 years old! I screamed the text aloud to my husband, and his smile said it all!

They lined us up to meet John Mayer. Brian and I are the second group in line, and at this point I can’t feel anything. I was completely numb and just slightly jumpy from all the nerves. As we entered the room, I could see him in the corner of the room talking with people. The next thing I knew, there were hands motioning me to move forward and in his direction. 

I was floating on cloud nine the entire conversation, but what I remember most is how welcoming and down to earth he was. His eyes were focused on my words, and he looked as though he was in no hurry at all. He hugged me, laughed with my husband and I, and he thanked us for being fans. 

After about 10 minutes, I finally walked away, and Brian looked at me with a smile and said: "You did it! You told him everything you wanted to!"

I just said: "I did? Are you sure?"

He just hugged me after that, and we walked out of that room completely in shock. 

The rest of the night was unbelievable, as well, and my husband almost had to carry me to Manhattan from Brooklyn because my feet hurt from dancing the night away! 

It’s now Jan. 25, 2014, and New York feels like it was yesterday.

This experience taught me that it is OK to dream big! I don’t believe in coincidences anymore. If you want something bad enough and you do all you can and it’s meant to be, then you will get your big dream just like me. The sky is the limit, and there is no such thing as luck. 

Follow your heart and never give up, because some day you might just be writing your story for me to read. 

I’m not sure if I’ll ever get off cloud nine, and to be honest with you, I’m OK with that.

Stevi Fox is a hair stylist in Bloomington. Her parents are Michael and Brenda Fox of Paxton. Her father owns Eagle Painting Inc. of Paxton, and her mother is co-owner of Salon 222 in Paxton. Stevi Fox grew up in Paxton and graduated from PBL High School in 2005. Her grandfather was a farmer and still lives on his farm outside of Paxton.