This post is dedicated to my new friend, Karen. Thank you for encouraging me without even realizing it.
I have to admit that I was less than excited for this concert.
I was excited for the invitation from my friend Shane to get out of the house, but that was in the moment; after my mind had a chance to process what was happening, fear and anxiety showed up to remind me that they were in control.
“So many people will be there.” anxiety whispered from the deepest part of my psyche.
“What if you have a panic attack and people make fun of you and judge you?” fear whispered into my heart.
“What if you let your friend down because you can’t control us any longer. We own you!” they both shouted the whole way to Pittsburgh for the
They both shouted the whole way to Pittsburgh for the Relient K and Switchfoot: Looking for America Tour.
Needless to say, with all of the incessant noise in my head, I was ready for some alcohol to calm my nerves. After two beers and some conversation about the Pittsburgh Steelers and politics, my friend Shane and I walked over to the venue that would host the night’s show.
I made small talk with one of my good friend’s brothers’ and focused one person at a time in the conversation because, little do people know, this trick keeps me from looking around at the massive amount of people around me which only heightens my anxiety.
When we got inside, I fake confidence as I gave my friend Shane a tour of the building. I acte interested in showing him the different areas and presented the place like it’s my second home, but the reality is I’ve only visited this place once and the tour was just to create more of a distraction for my heart and mind as my anxiety was heightening and simmering to a boiling point with anticipation of the show and crowds of people.
“We can stand down on the floor,” Shane said and I replied with a statement that I didn’t intend to make, “This is your night brother. Whatever makes you comfortable and happy, I’m here for you.”
Big mistake, I thought after I said it because I knew I had just sealed my fate of having to stand near the stage.
Off we went down the steps and made our way onto the floor.
After what seemed like hours, mostly because we waited for over an hour before any actual music was played and because people kept piling in, I could feel my anxiety rising and rising, faster and faster, so I did what I do best– I made jokes.
I told stories, engaged in conversation, made jokes, and even threw out some colorful language because, frankly, cussing sometimes help ease my inner tension. I’m working on that, mom.
Relient K came out and their energy was high, music loud, and the vibrations from their music pulsed through my body.
I started to focus on my breath and could feel the beads of sweat pouring down my neck. People were beside me, behind me, in front of me, and I was feeling claustrophobic and fearful as my anxiety took a backseat to what I thought could be a panic attack.
I leaned over and told Shane, “I have to go” and quickly (as quickly as a big guy can) bobbed and weaved through the crowd like a game of Frogger filled with pre-teen girls, flannel shirts, and more facial hair than an episode of Duck Dynasty.
I made my way back to the bar, ordered a beer, and stood against a pole. I could breathe again. I could feel my feet again, hear the music again, and see the people again.
I relaxed and found myself not wanting to my let anxiety have the final say. “This can’t be it,” I thought to myself. I took one last drink of my beer, one deep breath, and walked back up front during the intermission between Relient K and Switchfoot.
My friends were all conversing and my new friend, Karen, was standing quietly. Deciding I would not give into my anxiety, I leaned forward, extended my hand, and introduced myself, “Hi. I’m Dan.”
She smiled and introduced herself, “I’m Karen.” and a nice conversation about music, photography, and spirituality ensued.
After talking with her and sharing my heart for photography, I felt inspired. I still felt anxious, but not as much. I felt more energized than anything and decided to sneak away when Switchfoot came on stage. This time, the result of the energy and power in the music was much different. I felt inspired (thanks, Karen!) and took out my phone and shot probably over 100 photos over the next few hours.
I was all over the place getting the best shot I could. My anxiety had been transformed into creative energy and the result was motivation instead of retreat.
I felt part of the crowd, but separate from it. I had a camera in my hand and with it came a sense of power that enabled me to move beyond my fear and into something more meaningful and creative. If I look back on my life, some of my most fearless moments involved a camera in my hand. I think a calling will do that to a person. It replaces fear with purpose and all of a sudden a greater strength is realized.
Switchfoot played for a long time and it was wonderful to hear some of the lyrics that moved me many years ago such as “We were meant to live for so much more” and “When I look at the stars, I feel like myself.” It was a night that started in the throes of anxiety and fear but ended in arms of creativity and love. Sometimes when we tap into our creative sides, we pull the love we have for ourselves (and others) out and put it on display.
Now, I’m not saying redirecting your excess energy resulting from anxiety and fear will work for everyone. I still had my Neurontin in my system, used my mindful breathing, and even had a few beers earlier in the evening.What I am saying is that no longer focusing on my fear and throwing myself into the moment, even if behind a lens, brought me into the room and out of my head.
Find what grounds you. Creating things grounds me, whether it’s through writing or photography.
I leave you with some lyrics from Switchfoot’s Dare You to Move and encourage you if you are able and willing to not let the bad times ruin what potentially could be great memories in the making.
Be well my friends,
I appreciate my friend, Shane for inviting me; the Jones family for just being awesome, and my new friend, Karen, for reminding me that when we create something we are not just doing it for ourselves or to record a moment; we are realizing our deepest potential, healing our souls, and connecting with something greater than ourselves.