‘I guess you never know what you got ’til it’s gone, I guess that’s why I’m here and I can’t come back home’

Sam Johnson

More stories from Sam Johnson

The Tator
December 13, 2022

Photo by Marisa Valdez

Once upon a time, there was an artist. He was one of the best of all time. This artist made amazing music and brought joy to countless people.

This artist was named Kanye West.

Obviously, things have changed a bit. Because of this, I want to take a look back at the comfort West used to bring me.

Over time, I’ve realized West was there for me for a lot of big moments in my life.

It was 2011, I just finished the fifth grade. That night, it was time to celebrate. My class gathered in my school’s gym for a rager.

I was surrounded by all my friends, a chocolate fountain and a DJ. The best night of my life. Everything about that night is in the past, except for one. “E.T.” by Katy Perry and West. 

That song played no less than five times that night. To this day, every time I hear it, fond fifth-grade memories come rushing back to me. I think of the friends I once had and the person I once was, and I appreciate West for reminding me.

It was 2013, my first girlfriend had just broken up with me after a passionate three-week romance. I was devastated, unsure if I could remember how to live life without her. 

I could’ve gone to my friends or family for solace, but I didn’t.

The night she broke up with me, I decided “Runaway” was the greatest song of all time. Its pained lyrics spoke to me in a way nobody else could.

It was 2016, I was in my first year at a new school. It had been a mostly positive year, but I had yet to find “my” friends. There were people I got along with, people I’d hang out with, but I still felt alone. 

Thankfully, I wasn’t.

That spring, West dropped “The Life of Pablo.” It was his first album release I was really excited about. In my gym class, I spent weeks talking to people in my class about it. 

When it was released, my new friends and I talked about our favorite tracks we snuck listens to in between classes that morning. West brought us together.

That summer, while going through a tumultuous, dramatic weekend, West dropped “Saint Pablo,” a surprise bonus track for the album. During a near-sleepless night, West was with me.

It was 2018. One of my best friends and I were driving through Hudson, Wisconsin, heading home from college for the first time. As we crossed into Minnesota, our native state, “Homecoming” came on, welcoming us.

It was 2021. Aidan, my younger brother, Hannah, my sister-in-law and I were visiting Terry, my older brother in Houston, Texas, where he just moved. It felt like none of us were apart for more than a week of our entire lives, and now one of us was across the country.

We had just watched our hometown Minnesota Twins get an upset victory against the Houston Astros and were sitting in the living room.

“Kanye dropped part of the album,” Aidan said.

We spent half the night listening to everything available from “Donda,” West’s most recent album. I thought of the days — over a decade before — blasting West’s “Graduation” through our parent’s TV.

I thought of the countless hours together playing “Skate 3” on the Playstation 3 in front of that same TV until we knew every word to “Put On” by heart. 

West was always ridiculous, but he was also always there for me. Now, things have turned dark, and I’m not sure what to do with that. It’s kind of like the Marvel movies being trash now. After all this time, why?

“I miss the old Kanye,” West once said. Me too.


Johnson can be reached at [email protected].