Sunday, May 15, 2016

"Do you feel alive?" he asked me.

Last night I went to a Rocket Summer concert. This post is not about that concert, but about a realization of mine that concert brought about.

You see, The Rocket Summer has been one of my all-time favorite artists for almost 13 years now--literally half of my life. So when I found out he (The Rocket Summer is basically just one dude, so "he" not "they") was performing just down the street from my apartment, on a Saturday when I would be all alone with nothing to do ... the obvious course of action would be to go, right? Buy tickets in advance, invite all your friends, and go rock all night at the front of the stage?

So why did I almost stay home? Why did I have to force myself to go?

When I first fell in love with this band's music, I was what you would call an introvert with extrovert tendencies. You know those terms? Basically "introvert" = shy, antisocial; "extrovert" = outgoing, expressive. So in high school I was an introvert--maybe due to my insatiable love for books and my struggle with bullying--but when put in a social setting I became the life of the party. Like some weird shy-guy-turned-class-clown version of the Hulk.

But certain life experiences exorcised my inner extrovert. Now, at 25, I find myself experiencing social anxiety for the first time. Even my closest friends know seeing me in public is like that blurry photo of Sasquatch. If it weren't for my wife, I'd probably grow an unruly beard, fear sunlight, and forget who's currently President.

I've always contented myself with my current life choices by thinking that this is just what I prefer. I love books, I love writing, I love solitude, and if there's something crazy like traveling the world I've always wanted to do? Meh, I can do that later. Those are just "daydreams."

But then I forced myself to put on shoes and walk down the street to a seedy concert venue. I ordered a Jack and Coke, sat at the bar, and watched one of my musical heroes pour his heart out on the keyboard. I talked to a few drunk people and one geriatric gentleman that was there with his daughter. I helped one drunk lady keep her balance. I joined the crowd in a circle around Bryce Avery (aka The Rocket Summer) on the concert floor in one of the most intimate concert experiences I've been a part of.

And I realized. I had stepped out of my current comfort zone ... and I felt alive.

Not everything that night went as expected. Not all of it was great. But that was OK. I had put myself out there and was obtaining one of those "life experiences" I'd heard tell about.

Picture it: I'm at the bar, sipping my drink, watching this amazing performer--a guy who used the same producer, the same Santa Monica studio, as I did once; a guy performing on the same stage that I did once; a realization that spiked a This-could-be-me thought of brief arrogance. Suddenly, this guy dismisses his band from the stage and begins recording loops--drum kit, guitar, bass, keyboard, beatbox, gang vox--until an intricate accompaniment loop is washing over the crowd. Then, over the swell of music, he speaks to the crowd, but he's really speaking to me:

"My new album is called Zoetic, which means 'of or relating to life: living, vital.' And that's what we're doing here, together. We're living alive. We're coming alive."

Then he walks down from the stage and invites the crowd to surround him, and we all sing a simple chorus over and over, screaming at the top of our lungs:

"Come alive, come alive, come alive!"

And later on, during the encore, he asks the crowd, "Do you feel alive?"

And I do. I decide I need this more. I promise the ice melting at the bottom of my drink that I'll come alive. I'm going to go back to that Kung Fu class I loved so much. I'll play music more. Go out with friends. See more concerts.

Travel the world. First up: Scotland? India?

I realize I've spent the last 3 years stuck in the first act of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

Now, don't misinterpret my words and think that I'm saying it's bad to be an introvert, or that I'm going to try to become an extrovert. No. What I'm saying is, forget the terminology. There's so much out there. Even if you think you prefer curling up to a good book at home, or you like your small town ... Do you feel alive? Do you want to feel alive?

So do it. Come alive. Try something new. Something you secretly have always wondered about. Go eat squid, skydive, learn Japanese, something. Challenge yourself.

Or don't. This post isn't meant to be preachy. It's meant to explain my small bit of existentialist freak-out from last night. To explain for myself, and if you get anything out of it, then that's beautiful.

Find your definition of "zoetic." And live it.

"Do you feel alive?" he asked me.

I do. Or I did. Or ... Let's just say that I've learned to look for the zoetic. And I fully intend to keep finding it and to come alive.