October 2011, the leaves were just beginning to change colors and the sun was high in the sky. I was driving down highway I-35 with twenty-two years of my life in my rear view mirror and a new beginning on the horizon. I had gotten a new job offer in Dallas, and it seemed like the perfect career endeavor. The leaves weren’t the only things beginning to change that day.
Adjusting to a new city is never easy, but after living in Dallas for over a year I had a serious case of wanderlust. I was disappointed with the way my new job had turned out. I knew I needed to make a change in my personal life since my work life was not fulfilling me in the way I’d hoped. It was time to take ownership and do something to inject some adventure and excitement into my life.
When I moved to Texas, I started going to a lot of different concerts. Feeling nostalgic, I reflected on the first real concert I ever attended with my best childhood friend. I grew up listening to Dave Matthews on the radio, and seeing the man himself perform right in front of me left me speechless. When some friends suggested going to a music festival, it seemed like the perfect way to break out of the funk I was feeling. In just a few short weeks, I would arrive in Chicago for Lollapalooza.
The week leading up to the festival took an unexpected turn and my date backed out. I decided to go to the festival alone, and since I tend to make friends anywhere I go, I wasn’t worried about being by myself. In fact, I was excited. The lineup for the three-day festival was the perfect blend of up-and-coming bands to discover and artists I grew up listening to on the radio. It’s hard to see every artist that you want to, but I sure did try. Seeing all of those musicians living out their dreams onstage right before my very eyes was so inspiring. That never gets old, no matter how many shows or festivals I go to.
Day 2 of the festival, and I had my heart set on seeing the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I tromped through the mud and uprooted grass to the other end of the park, hand in hand with the guy I met the previous day. Standing among the crowd, I was nearly knee deep in mud, but I didn’t care. With all the dancing and jumping, somehow my shoes were swallowed by the muddy mess. I was so entranced by the set that before my heart rate could even slow down, it was 10:30 at night. The cold pavement of downtown Chicago was underneath my bare feet as I made my way back to the hotel, dropping off my new friend at the train. Covered from head to toe in mud walking into the hotel, I didn’t care how I looked.
As I sat on the side of the bath tub washing the day off of my feet, I knew I was heading home with a fresh perspective. For the first time in my life I had done something totally for myself and out of my comfort zone. Living my life in neutral wasn’t enough any more; I started opening up to new experiences that would defy the limitations I had put on myself.
When you are young, you are free to think, feel, and explore without inhibition. But as you grow up, you develop that little voice inside your head that tells you “no, you can’t do that – what if you make a mistake, look silly, get hurt…” – the list goes on. In my twenty-something adulthood it has been hard to silence that inner critic. Maybe it was meeting new friends, dancing in the mud, or just experiencing new music, but at the festival I finally challenged myself and felt brave enough to pursue my passions and live my life just for me.