007. The Radiohead High
I am an anxious perfectionist. This quality helps me excel at my job, in managing my time, in being an overly efficient member of society, in being able to strategically secure tickets to six sold out headlining Radiohead shows in one week.
With that said, the entire time I followed Radiohead on tour, I found myself craving perfection even more anxiously than before. I wanted to attain and retain that spiritual connection I'd achieved at past shows, and faced disappointment in myself when I didn't. Making excuses. Planning to be better for next time. Maybe eat more or less; drink more or less; try for one more or less bathroom break; sit down through one more or less band.
What I learned in the end was that it's about openness. Why was it so easy for me to connect as a teenager? In 2008? In 2012? Why could I feel the connection so immediately then, and now— after three, four shows— I was still not reaching that peak despite hearing some of my most beloved songs?
I've grown up.
I've learned to move on, to build walls, to be strong, to work hard and continue to pursue a path upwards without looking back. But with that, I've grown to live more on the surface and to be more suppressed. To selectively let people in. To not be so trusting so quickly. To be cynical.
One of the most disarming things about the experience I had following Radiohead on tour was doing so with someone who started out as a complete stranger (my cinematographer), who was really in the thick of it all with me. I always tell friends that seeing Radiohead with me is like experiencing me in my ultimate form: euphoric, blissful, and free. The vast majority of my closest friends haven't experienced this with me, and for a total stranger to do so, it added an entirely new layer to the journey that I hadn't anticipated. I felt myself becoming more open, vulnerable, trusting, in a very rare way. Truthfully, it was scary and added another level of intensity to the trip for me.
With each show and each flight, I felt myself opening up, though not quite reaching that height. Then we got to San Francisco: Outside Lands.
This was our fifth city in two weeks. I was exhausted, and while I had gotten the perfect spot— front and center in front of Thom Yorke— I found myself overcome with a crippling fear that I'd have to go to the bathroom. I didn't feel like myself. I wasn't being social. I wasn't drinking water. I was suffering to keep that spot in a masochistic way. I felt my abdomen torturing me. I felt my immune system catching up with the pain I'd put it through. I felt all this weight on my brain. Above all else, I was extremely disappointed that I felt so imperfect.
Radiohead came on the stage just before sunset. The sun was still out. Up until then, they'd always only come on after nightfall. I'd never seen them in broad daylight before. After watching bands all day, for once it felt like they were really there. As usual, they opened with "Burn the Witch."
Then, also as usual, they played "Daydreaming." But this time it was different. I looked at Thom, he looked at me, and I really felt the song. I took all the thoughts jumbled in my brain— doubts, loathing, negativity, worry— and I pushed them away onto the stage mentally... and they left. All the weight of my brain and my body was pushed off of me. I started crying. For that moment, that song, I felt complete freedom. I felt infinite.
We spend so much time as people in this world thinking about every single minute detail: our mistakes, our achievements, how we can improve. For a singular moment there, all thoughts left me. For that time, I was floating. I really felt like just one piece of this infinite universe. Nothing mattered. I felt at peace. I felt complete.
That's when I realized that I had been cracked open. I describe it to others as "emotional nudity." A lifetime of focusing on growing stronger— of moving on and leaving negativity behind, of following my determination and my lust for excellence— was gone. It's still gone. I feel exposed. I feel like I'm now still coming to terms with this underbelly of insecurity and truth that I didn't realize existed. Now, weeks later, I'm still reeling from that moment of unleashing. I still don't feel like myself, or perhaps I feel more like myself than I have in a long time. Regardless, I feel so open and free.
My wish to each of you is that you can find something like this, something that can sweep you away and capture your emotions this deeply. Allow yourself the openness and honesty. You won't regret it.