I’ve studied all of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and can read them fluently . I can quote Robert Herrick and Andrew Marvell. I have a working template for my Statement of Purpose. I also know what the word enjambment means.
I think…that means…I can take a break.
I still haven’t figured out the whole PhD application process yet, but the best advice I can give is that whatever you need to do to stay level, keep doing that. It’s a strenuous process- we all need to continue doing whatever it is to keep us healthy, sane, and grounded. Some people go to the gym, watch movies, cook, or go to the beach. Me, personally- I go to concerts 🙂 I love watching live music. The shows are great, the vibe is encouraging, and whether I’m with a group, a friend, or even by myself, it always does a great job centering me.
For most of the people I know who have applied, or are applying, or anyone else working on something that requires a lot of dedication and need something to relax, the act or process they practice usually has no connection to what they’re working on. For me, it’s the opposite; going to shows is partly responsible for me choosing this career path, becoming the fuel that keeps me going. It’s a fairly long and complicated past, but it has done a lot of good for my academic career.
For me, going to concerts isn’t about the drinking or the partying or any other kind of behavior concerts are known for; quite the contrary. Watching some of my favorite artists perform their hearts out for the love of music helped inspire me to pursue my own passion. Years ago, before I was even an English major, I was working as a mechanic at a small dealership near K-town in Los Angeles. It was what I did- I woke up, went to work, did my job, clocked out, and went home. That was my routine once I graduated high school and with good job security, that would have been my life for the next twenty-five years. One day, I was working on a car and (please don’t report me to the Consumer Protection Agency) found a copy of SPIN magazine, with an article that talked about the music scene in Silver Lake, a small city not far from where I worked. I have never read a copy of SPIN magazine, did not know any local bands, and have never even heard of this city. But what drew me to this was really one aspect of the whole article- something different. Music wasn’t a part of my life at the time. Growing up, my family, friends, and most of my coworkers listened to Spanish music: Mariachi, Banda, Corridos, Roq en Español. It never registered with me. There were times where I actually thought there was something wrong with me. I wasn’t into music- that couldn’t be normal. That was until I read that article. Music took on a completely different connotation since.
I test drove a car, and as I was driving I actually saw the venue they wrote about: Spaceland (currently known as The Satellite). I was so compelled by its mysticism, that I went to see a show that weekend. I saw a band called Tough and Lovely (no longer in existence except for on YouTube). That’s all it took- this experience that I was deprived of my entire life completely unfolded. Since then, I not only frequented shows, but sought out new music, listened to local music on the radio (anyone remember 103.1?), and was always going to record stores and buying CD’s like crazy.
What’s just as fun as checking out new music is exploring new venues. The Satellite is an amazing place to see shows, but thanks to living in LA, there are so many great ones around. There’s The Troubadour, Viper Room, Hotel Café, The Echo and Echoplex, Telegram Ballroom, The Resident, The Roxy, The Palladium, The Wiltern, and The Bardot. (check out their It’s a School Night page)- I’ve been to all of these, and they are all amazing.
Seeing artists play on stage is so inspiring. At one point, they were doing this for no money, solely because they get to produce something they love. To have that kind of liberty- that’s what I wish for. And now, some of those bands I’ve seen play here locally have full fledged careers where they get to immerse themselves with what they love. They are not only devoted to it, but now have the access they need to focus only on that. That’s exactly what I want- to do what I love, to the point where it’s the center of my being. Watching them is so surreal. It’s like I’m floating the whole time. No, actually…it’s more like…
Going to a show feels like you can be you. We all walk around with our metaphorical suits of armor, trying to shield ourselves from the rest of the world, trying to stay safe, protected, from all of the voices that wish to dismantle our well-being. When you go see a show, the armor just falls off, like you don’t need it anymore. Being exposed to something different is what we all need periodically. It’s okay to feel vulnerable, or shy, or uncomfortable- this is how we grow.
The music is in my veins. I can feel it all over, energizing my core. This band is playing their hearts out. This is the transcendence I’m trying to achieve. They have their craft perfected, tuned to the point where structure and notes are actually beautiful and electric. Words, sounds, lights, pouring over the crowd. These guys aren’t just musicians- they’re masters of what they do.
That’s why I want this.
I’m lying in bed now, reflecting while basking in concert afterglow. (have I been drinking? Profusely. Am I thinking about this while essentially in a drunk stupor? Very much so. Can you make the argument that the real reason why I go is to escape responsibility and look for an excuse to drink? I can see how someone can logically arrive at that conclusion) As I lie down, I think about the things I want and whether or not any of this makes sense. What do I want? Why this? This lucrative thing that no one understands. Am I sure I’m not delusional and just wish to be a part of something that does not exist? I lie there, and the same soliloquy always comes.
I want to create something that will make people think. I wish to encourage people to think for themselves. I want to do something that will better humanity in some sort of way. I want to explore something that will only increase the ever-expanding of my intellectual acumen. And I want to do something good with it.
I want to do good.