Tuesday, September 3, 2013

On brooding and feeling

This week I read an article on the Huffington Post by Andrea Vale, who, after a little research, I discovered is actually a High Schooler who writes for HuffPostTeen’s Blog. She discussed the stress high school junior’s go through in order to get the grades, extracurricular, and “interests” that they think Ivy League schools will appreciate – and how in the end it’s all just memorization and formulas.

She says: “I believe in the brooders and the feelers. In the end it is they who will have the insight to see wrongs in the world, and the passion to pursue a seemingly aimless conviction which ultimately will turn into the newspaper article, the play, the election which will inspire change and push us one step further into the future.

This piqued my curiosity and led me into a self-reflection that focused on something I had been thinking about a lot since I’ve been back at college. If you know me personally, then you understand the terms “Brooder” and “Feeler” describe me absolutely perfectly. I’m prone to texting my friends in the middle of the night with something along the lines of: “I’M JUST FEELING ALL THE FEELS RIGHT NOW” in regards to anything from a new song I’ve just discovered that dislodges some emotional memory, a new story idea or character that I can’t wait to write, or a simple reaction to a less-than-perfect day.

I’m emotional. I get excited about things. I obsess. I’m angsty. I brood and I feel. In high school, I discovered something to do with the tsunami of feels raging inside me. I turned to writing. When I was 16 I participated in NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, and wrote a 50,000 word novel. I wrote more, making it an 80,000 word novel. I wrote short stories and random scenes, and, yes, even the occasional fan fiction. I’m currently in the midst of rewriting my first novel completely, readying it to send out – just to see what happens with it.

When I was in High School – I had a set of great friends who supported and loved the odd, uncommon, black sheep that I was. They loved my quirks, and I loved theirs.

My first semester in college, things changed. For a period of time, I was around a group of people who perceived my quirks as flaws, and acted as if they’re constant jibes and harassments would fix these flaws, would normalize me, would make me more like them. Spoiler alert: it didn’t. I eventually got out of that situation, but not without some collateral damage to the odd, uncommon, quirky, black sheep that I was.

I began caring what people thought about me. A lot. I began analyzing every move I made. Every article of clothing I wore. Every word that escaped my mouth. I was on brooder and feeler overdrive, and I ceased to be a functional Matt. Was brooding and feeling wrong? 

So talk about something interesting? Here’s what I have to say: Don’t give a damn what people think about you. Let down your walls. Brood. Feel. Let your freak flags fly and be unapologetically and inexcusably you. Wear what you want. Say what you want. Write what you want. Geek out. Dye your hair. Try something new. Seek adventure. The only love you should be searching for is your own love for yourself – the rest will come when it’s meant to be. And remember: Lions do not lose sleep over the opinions of sheep. Yes, brooders and feelers, we are human. We are flawed. We have a cocktail of neuroses. But flaws don’t define us, and we’re not allowed to let our issues control us. Let the brooding and feeling flow through us and help us. It makes us who we are. So fall in love with yourself.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Religion of Good Company: Ed Sheeran at the Pageant

          The thrill of downtown city streets, the laughs of close friends, the crowd of people, the anticipation of amazing music, I am in the Religion of Good Company.
          Experiences in which you can physically feel the beauty of the world, where a voice illuminates pure majesty and a touch bathes the room in eternal light, are so rare that they should be cherished and whole-heartedly sought after. While each of us bear our own incomparable suffering in this world, there are, in fact, experiences that make life worth living. Such opportunities are vast in range and unique to each soul, but yet each and every moment of this kind will make hours feel like seconds; they will stay preserved in our mind as a memory stranded in time. These moments don't diminish the cruel tragedy of reality in any way, as far as I have seen, but they do fill us with hope - often times just enough hope to push us the exact amount that we need to be pushed. I'm hoping that I have been allotted enough hope to keep moving.
         You may call it pretentious, silly, or romantic, but I believe that music, particularly live music performed in concerts, can have a truly spiritual effect on us. In fact, I believe some things should be romanticized. Our world is filled with darkness and turmoil, hatred and murder, bullying, violence, and an undeniable eternal suffering - we are, after all, humans. And if you are at all like me, sometimes we can focus on the bad things and dwell on them until we are completely fed up with our existence. I would like to take this space to deny my cynicism and resignation to the end and focus on the beauty I have experienced, whether it is romanticized or not.
When someone whose music you have listened to in both dark and bright times, who has comforted you, uplifted you, scared you, motivated you, and inspired you, appears perhaps only fifty feet away from you, a bizarre excitement of the soul takes place. And this is what occurred when Ed Sheeran stepped onto the St. Louis Pageant's stage, strumming "Give Me Love".
Throughout the concert, I was simply overcome with Love. I felt Love for the music, for the artist, for the story, for the roaring crowd and eery silence, and for two of my best friends standing next to me. I was in the Religion of Good Company. If God is Love, then He was there, and I was praising Him in a Church of his own making - the experience.
A typical review of the concert would not be true to how I felt on the night of Saturday, February 2nd (if you're looking for one, visit the stltoday.com article here). However, I can say this: it was undeniably the best concert I have ever been to and was spiritual in a way I did not quite expect. Ed Sheeran directed his devout audience, squeezed into a small venue, as if they were his personal gospel choir. He harmonized us, united us, and instructed us to scream at the top of our lungs (my throat is still sore, two days after the concert). And then, for certain songs such as "The Parting Glass", "Wake Me Up", and "Wayfaring Stranger" he would silence us. He instructed us to not scream, not applaud, not sing, but simply listen - he forced us into the present. And then he would sing into the silence, creating an overpowering intimacy throughout the room. It was in these moments that I felt at home on this planet. That is where the undeniable power of Love triumphed for me.
When the concert ended, and we all reluctantly left, overcome by the experience, we stepped outside into a steady snowfall - it covered the city streets, and quickly covered us. We walked, catching snowflakes on our tongues, fascinated by the sheer truth of the evening. It brought hope. It brought Love. We took part in the Religion of Good Company.