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“What I Know Now” by Madonna : People

Madonna - People / April 12 2004

We asked some of America’s biggest celebrities to tell us about the moments that defined who they are today. Their memories kick off our anniversary issue:

“The pivotal moment for me over the past 30 years was realizing I had a bigger responsibility than I was originally aware of and that I’d been thinking small picture. It was a gradual process of awakening that began seven years ago. My life couldn’t have been more perfect—in the way it is in that 1 percent way when everything is surface. I was pregnant. I’d finished making a film [Evita]. I’d won a Golden Globe. And I was recording Ray of Light.

But despite all the success and fame, I still felt like something was missing. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t know if I wanted to get married. I didn’t know where I wanted to live. I thought I knew a lot, but in reality I didn’t know anything. I was used to being self-indulgent. But when you’re about to have a kid, you realize you have to think beyond that.

Suddenly I was concerned about the bigger picture. Why am I me? Why am I here? Why did my soul choose this body? Why am I a role model? Is this fame the be-all and end-all? What’s the point of all this? Is it downhill from here? It can’t all be a happy accident. I wanted to know why it was happening to me.

Then I went to a dinner party at my friend’s house and sat next to a lady who talked to me about this class that she’d started going to. The teacher was a rabbi, she said, and he told amazing stories. I asked, ‘What do you mean? What class are you going to? Is it at a temple? Is it at a school?’

Though the teacher was a rabbi, she said it didn’t matter that I wasn’t Jewish because the teachings were just culturally interesting stories that made a lot of sense. She invited me to go to class with her the next week, and I said sure, why not? It’s an hour and an half out of my life, and if I don’t like it I’ll never go back.

A couple days later, I went for the first time to the Kabbalah Centre in Beverly Hills. I brought my little notebook to take notes in, and I loved it. I loved what I heard. First of all, I love going to class. I loved school as a kid, and I still love learning. I loved the idea of sitting in a classroom as an anonymous student. Whether it’s dance class, English lit or studying a foreign language, I get a big charge out of learning.

And I loved the idea that I was in the back of this class and nobody was making a big deal out of me being there. In a way, everyone ignored me, which suited me fine. I could sit back, relax and listen to a very spiritual person who spoke about the point of life.