Aka Pin the Tail on the Now-Extinct Hobby
Once upon a time, I loved concerts. Growing up as a socially inept adolescent in a drowsy suburb, I felt like I was truly “myself” and “where I belonged” when I rode Metro North in to NYC for any of several life-affirming, all-ages musical experiences.
When it was time to apply to college (where I’m from, this was not a question of “if” but rather a competition of “which, and Ivy League or *scoff* not?”), I applied only to NYU (early decision) because I was convinced that I would (finally) blossom in this cradle of culture. I intended to wiggle my way in to the Music Business major, considering myself highly qualified after a summer internship at Le Poisson Rouge, push-pinning flyers to bulletin boards. Sadly, one has to prove musical ability through an audition, and since I promptly quit every instrument lesson I ever started (I only stuck with guitar for as long as I did — a whopping 4 months — because I was in love with my teacher, Isaac [hmu]), that was a non-option. So, I enlisted in the Media, Culture, and Communications major, trusting that I would nevertheless find a way to pursue my One True Love, live music.
Instead, I isolated in my dorm room between classes, made exactly one friend, got in to a manipulative and codependent open relationship, and slowly but surely became a drug addict.
Before I got in to my routine of snorting lines of a dissociative anesthetic in the bathroom at metal shows where everyone else was drunk — which did not exactly get me on the same wavelength as them — I was a completely sober concertgoer. I usually hung on the periphery of any mosh pit that formed from the surrounding dark matter on account of my utter lack of arm strength, but I considered myself “a part of” rather than “apart from.” Typically, I went alone, which, at the time, I thought was a declaration of my awesome female independence, as well as a means of facilitating my tangential meeting-a-boy goal. I now realize that this flying-solo act was largely just a means of avoiding a prolonged episode of socialization.
During my sophomore year of university, once my freshman “Friends Forever!!!” group had imploded, I began to feel more and more uncomfortable at concerts — as well as everywhere else. From this point through graduation, I unobtrusively glided through school, hiding both in my teeny-tiny room and under one of a conga line of hats (junior year: a beanie with all my hair tucked under it; senior year: a newsboy cap too big for my tiny head) I wore from as soon as I got out of the shower until bedtime. Shows no longer served as sites of connection or enjoyment or freedom. Rather, they became reminders of how ill-equipped I felt to, quite simply, exist alongside other human beings.
Although that belief in my own ineptitude did not entirely disappear after college, it was made a good deal more bearable by discovering two other One True Loves: ketamine and my sociopath male model ex. Armed by instantaneous escape via the former and deluded by obsession with the latter, I became a regular concertgoer once again, seeking recklessness, connection, and dudes to fuck to get back at said ex for flaunting his sextracurricular conquests. Yet, shockingly, I was unable to regularly get the results I was after, and the crushing feeling of being “apart from” was akin to being pressed to death by hellephants.
There were no concerts in rehab, unless you count rhythmic sobbing.
I am now nearly two years sober.
A couple of months ago, my mom and I went to see the Pixies, who have long been the band bridging my family’s parents-to-children generational crevasse. I’ve been to a few concerts since getting sober, and enjoyed only one (clipping., because, I mean, Daveed Diggs, c’mon [hmu]), during which I had to consciously force myself to get in to a mindset porous enough to allow “fun” to enter, even slightly. And eventually, it did. But at no point did it feel effortless, and the prospect of needing to metaphorically gird my loins before any ostensibly, supposed-to-be enjoyable event or activity so that I could — maybe — get out of my too-clear brain was discouraging, to say the least.
The Pixies show ended up setting a worrying precedent for my [non-]capacity to enjoy any cultural or entertainment event. In a twisted incarnation of my “personalization” cognitive distortion, I seem entirely unable to simply appreciate someone else’s creative work and prowess. Instead, their talent immediately becomes a reflection of my own [perceived] lack thereof, and I develop strangulating resentments against absolute strangers due to their [perceived] expertise and success. In other words, it becomes all about me and “how am I ever going to catch up?” and “how am I ever going to be happy if I don’t reach this person’s level?” When entangled in the web of such completely unhelpful thoughts, shimmying to the music and having a good time — whatever that means — become very distant targets indeed.
My identity post-rehab, post-relapse, post-flushing-drugs-down-the-toilet did (and still often does) seem extremely fraught and fragile because I felt like I was — in many ways — a newborn, but without the intrinsic, obvious excuses of not knowing how to do anything whatsoever. The confusion about having no idea what to do with my life next became more dire as my clean time added up; at the outset, I often felt as though I didn’t even know what my passions were or how my priorities ranked anymore.
Warning: I’m about to write a really bad metaphor, and I intend to edit this and replace it with a better one as soon as I think of it. However, what seemed like a black hole slowly transformed in to a garden: fallow at first, but eventually more and more fertile. I started collaging and reading and writing and longboarding and rapping (or at least trying to). In the very early days of these pursuits, I was rather easily able to infuse meaning in to them, with the knowledge that — insignificant as they may be in the grand scheme of things — they were dutifully, necessarily distracting me from cravings and regrets.
But once the absence of failure no longer felt like success, my enjoyment of these activities started to become eclipsed by my desire to excel at — and ideally make money off of — them. My awareness and envy of “the competition” (also known as other practitioners of similar hobbies) frequently kept and still keeps me from continuing to forge ahead on my own path.
I have to remember that the simple fact that I am even here today to discard old interests and acquire new ones is — though it somewhat pains me to put it this way — a “blessing.” And for the sake of my sanity and sobriety, I can not afford to have this all-important truth be shrouded by my enduring, counterproductive suspicions that: life is a race, everyone else is as happy and/or successful as they portray themselves on social media, and there is a finite amount of fulfillment to go around.