Suzanne Vega thinks a lot.

She thinks about growing up in Spanish Harlem, where, until she was 9, she thought she was half Hispanic.

She thinks about her real father, whom she met only three years ago.

She thinks about how she almost became a dancer rather than a singer.

She broods.

"I like to think," says the meek-voiced girl with a guitar. "I remember a lot and have a tendency to think about the past."

Lately, she's been thinking about her father. He walked out of her life when she was 2. Her mother remarried and, for the first nine years of her life, Vega thought that her stepfather was her real father. That she was half Puerto Rican. And she had adjusted just fine to this heritage -- in fact, as she once said, "Of all the kids {two brothers and one sister}, I had -- and probably still have -- the most Puerto Rican identity."

Then her mother leveled with her. She wasn't Hispanic at all. She wasn't who she thought she was. It made her think.

About three years ago, she met her father in California. "He said, 'Hey, did you know there's a famous singer named Suzanne Vega too?' " she says. She laughed.

Meeting him "resolved the mystery," she continues. "It changes everything. You think, 'Now I've done the thing I've had to do.' But now there's a whole new chapter -- discovering who he is and his character."

It's evident in her music. Naturally, like Vega's day-to-day life, her writing is an exercise in meditation. "I'll be thinking and playing the guitar," she says, "and I'll get a title or a sentence or a mood. And if it is good it will keep coming back. You find an idea and things line up. It's like a spell."

Vega says that in discovering this mysterious side, she has found that her life is more settled. More at peace.

"I do think I'm maturing and having a different perspective," she says confidently. "I think it shows in my state of mind in the past few years."

And she thinks that's okay.

Suzanne Vega is performing at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall Monday night at 8. Tickets are $22.50 and available at Instant Charge by calling 467-4600.