After my sophomore year at Queens, I spent the summer doing an amazing internship in the sports department of the Observer. It was the first time in my life I'd ever really been alone--after all, I got a dog when I was two, a sister when I was three, and a brother three years after that. My best friends had all gone home for the summer and my family was 5 hours away, so I had a lot of time to figure out who I was. I had a few friends on campus for the summer, but when you work in sports journalism you're going to work while the rest of the world is getting home on days you have games to cover and when I was editing my typical shift was from 4 p.m.-12 a.m. (this is part of the reason I decided to just keep going to school instead of looking for journalism jobs) and I rarely saw those friends. So, I started going to movies by myself and getting coffee (and staying at Starbucks) alone, among other things, and I loved it.
Then I moved to New Mexico--27 hours away--from my parents and by the end of my first year there I had three of the best friends a girl could ever ask for and I really spent very little time alone. When my friends left and I stayed for another year, I kind of freaked out. I'd forgotten how to be on my own. So, I moved closer to my parents.
They've humored me and gone to things like the Wine and Walleye Festival, The Big Tap In, Beer on the Vine, Indians games, new restaurants, the list goes on. My siblings have also made trips to go to concerts and a Cavs game and to check out trails that might be good for Barley before I got Doggin' Cleveland. Then once I got Doggin' Cleveland, I adventured with Barley, but Barley can't go everywhere I want to go. With the exception of a few movies, I haven't had to do much on my own. But here's the thing--my parents are moving 11.5 hours away from me in a month. And I don't want to move again. I love where I live (with the exception of my actual apartment). Most of the year, the temperatures are perfect for my dog to get the exercise she needs (even if it does get a little colder than I'd like for it to get). There are so many incredible trails that are free within very short drives. I have a job that I love. So, that leaves me with the choice of leaving a place I love living in or learning to be on my own again.
I took the first big step last night.
A few months ago, I found out that John Mayer was coming to Cleveland on Aug. 6. I haven't missed a John Mayer concert near me since my first one in 2003. I was bummed to find out that the concert was the 6th because that's my daddy's birthday. I knew he wouldn't care if I went to the concert--he had to work all day and goes to bed like 2 hours after getting home, so I'd see him long enough to have a birthday beer--but I also knew I wouldn't have anyone to go with because there was no way my sister (who has been to see John with me 3 out of 5 times) would miss Dad's birthday for John. The dates in Pittsburgh and DC wouldn't work because they happened after school starts back.
I spent months being bummed that John was going to be in town and I wasn't going to be there. Then when Barley and I were going to switch to Tuesday night classes, I was less bummed because we'd be in class so at least I wouldn't be sitting at home wishing I was at the concert. When we got switched to Thursdays instead, I decided I was going to the concert even if I had to go solo. I realized it was incredibly stupid to skip doing something that I love doing just because I didn't have anyone to do it with. So, last week, I splurged and ordered myself a 12th row ticket.
It was one of the best, most liberating experiences of my life. The universe aligned and I think John is using this tour to do the same thing I was using the concert to do: grow up.
One of my favorite parts of John Mayer concerts is the fact that he goes on these random tangents between songs. At Red Rocks, it was one about the number of eggs you need for baking at high altitudes. At my last concert, it was about how he loves the smell of skunks (I do, too) because it reminds him of pot (for me, it reminds me of driving to my grandma's house as a kid). This time, his tangents were a little less random. They were about being honest and open to new experiences and growing up.
In the middle of the show, they were changing the background and rolling away the fake buttes that had been behind the band (Thanks for bringing a little bit of Red Rocks to me, John!). The rest of the band went away and John said he was going to play a song he hadn't played on tour yet because he made a promise to himself that he'd be open to whatever his heart was feeling and he wanted to play this song tonight. I'm not sure if he was telling the truth about not playing it yet, but I'll pretend that I do because it was "Comfortable"--my favorite song (I have three different versions in my iTunes library). In the past, "Comfortable" has been the encore song, but it was in the perfect spot last night.
After the set change, John dove into his first long story of the night. It was all about living in the moment and doing the things that mean something to you and about how he knew that when artists start going in the direction his last album (and his upcoming album) have gone in it tends to be career suicide, but he had to stop caring about what other people wanted and make the music he needed to make, that he needed to grow up. He went on about how there's not music for people in their 30s on the radio anymore and that's the kind of music he's going to be making now. And I know I'm only going to be 29 this year, but I spent half of the last year thinking I turned 29 on my last birthday, so I am close enough ;)
I'll be honest--Born and Raised is not my favorite John Mayer album. I adore Continuum and love Battle Studies. I liked several songs on Born and Raised, but I hadn't listened to any of them on repeat like I had with "Slow Dancing in a Burning Room" or "Edge of Desire" or "All We Ever Do Is Say Goodbye." This was the first concert where I didn't know every word to every song (although he did play 4 songs off of Continuum--thanks for that, too!), so I got to just kind of sit back and really listen to the songs since I couldn't just switch to something I liked better.
"The Age of Worry" is one of the songs I always really liked off of Born and Raised, but after last night I like it even more. John went on and on about being comfortable with yourself and then when he got to the song and sang, "Don't be scared to walk alone. Don't be scared to like it. There's no time you must be home, so sleep where darkness falls" it hit home. Even though I'd heard the song many times before, I'm not sure I'd ever really heard it before last night and I needed that.
The whole drive home I listened to John Mayer (Thank you Nissan for putting the awesome iPod connector in my car and making it possible to have every song in my library at my finger tips!) and I think I get Born and Raised now. It's still not my favorite album, but I think it's a necessary transition to Paradise Valley (I've already listened to "Wildfire" more than any song on Born and Raised and the whole album isn't even out yet, so I'm beyond excited for August 20!). John's music has grown up with me and I wasn't ready for Born and Raised, but I think I've caught up now. From the quarter life crisis in "Why Georgia" (or me adopting a cat because I was sad my friends were leaving) to the desire to stop time and not have to face growing up in "Stop This Train" to being "Perfectly Lonely," John's music has made sense to me and I am so very excited to embrace putting my feet up and watching the "water line get higher and higher."
After last night, I am certain that I'll be fine without my family close by--I mean, it's less than half the distance that was between us when I was in NM and I can always load up the pets on a long weekend and make a (really long) day's drive south if I need to.
So, friends and family, should you want to see John Mayer with me in the future you'll need to let me know as soon as the tour's announced because I'm going and I'm ordering the closest tickets I can get the day they go on sale :)