I’m thinking about reaching. The word and the act. English is a funny language, like so many people with better senses of humor and vocabularies have already established. With reaching, have we arrived, or are we someplace looking at where we want to be, leaning into it, stretching, with that goal, that ideal, just past our fingertips?
Both, I guess. Thanks, English.
I've stretched a lot in the past year. Physically not so much, but self-knowingly. A year ago this week I went to a Mike Doughty show at The Fillmore. Have you been to the Fillmore? God, it’s a great venue. One of my favorites. Moon Hooch was opening, they were great. I love feeling good music, you know? And I was just left of center stage, about six people-bodies back from the edge of the stage. It can be fun going to shows alone. Sometimes I wonder, “Why don’t I take myself out more often?”
Here's why - because when I’m out by myself, I have no one to keep me from feeling self-conscious. I was having a great time, getting really excited for Mike to blow the dust off the old Soul Coughing stuff, and suddenly I got super self-conscious. I got self-conscious because I started watching myself wanting something. I wanted something very specific, but for some reason, I was simultaneously afraid of it.
I wanted to stand in the front.
Now I don’t know if you know me or not, but if you do know me, you might think of me as The Girl Who Stands Wherever The Hell She Wants To Stand, Goddamn It. And that’s good, that’s consistent with the message I try to relay to most folks about myself. Nothing like a clipboard and an inflated outwardly facing ego to make people stand down and move out of your way. But me, that night, alone at the Fillmore, with no companion to check in with and get a co-dependent pep-talk from, I wanted to be the Girl Who Stands In The Front - but I wasn’t sure if I really could be her.
It was strange. It was like I was physically editing myself and the space I was willing to take up. And it also felt like being at the edge of something. At the edge of something in a loud beautiful auditorium surrounded by humans who don’t know me. These people don’t know me. Who am I to them? Am I the Girl Who Keeps Standing Just Left Of Center Not Fully Enjoying Herself? Or could I be someone different?
Then, something incredible happened. Moon Hooch finished their set and everyone roared the way happy, drunk humans do on a Wednesday night in San Francisco. And I realized that I had very little time to act, because the guy I came to see, Mike Doughty, the guy whose Haughty Melodic album had verily and ironically kept me alive in 2010, that guy was going to be on stage in a few minutes and then the crowd was going to condense and become a solid that no one except for The Girl Who Is A Total Douchebag can cut through and not be aware of getting silently judged by a room of complete strangers.
So, right, something incredible happened. A space - a gap? A hole? An opening. Let’s call it an opening. It appeared. Right in the front. Right in front of me. An opening between people. A jostling, roiling mass of people all over this joint, and me standing there wanting to be in the front, and an opening, my opening, appeared about six people-body lengths in front of me.
And then I had to reach.
I had to reach in, and see what I was afraid of. Was I actually afraid of standing in the front? Was I afraid to be in the front and then decide I didn’t want to be there, was I afraid of being trapped in the front? I checked in on that. Nope, not afraid of that. Well, was it that I was afraid that someone was going to say to me, “Hey, you’re not supposed to be here, up here right up against the stage in the front”? I mean, I guess it was good to ask myself that, and then smile at that silly thought, of anyone saying anything like that on a happy music night like this. So what was it I was afraid of?
Was I afraid of the act of moving my legs and propelling my body towards that opening? Yipes. Kind of. Ok. So, let’s just do this together then. Feet, you guys have done something similar to this before, just stay inside your shoes and hold us up. Legs, you two have always been good at remaining intact while taking turns bending in the middle, let’s see if you can do that again right now. Torso, I’m going to need you to remain calm and contain all the important squishy innards. Neck and shoulders, be loose, but not too loose. Face, you just stay pretty. Deep breath everyone, we’re moving in. We are moving forward. We are reaching.
I reached inwards and felt the fear and decided it was silly, even though I absolutely felt it and it was real. I promised myself I wouldn’t abandon myself while feeling that silly-real fear. And then I reached outwards. I did something that billions of people do all the time, something that I do in other settings constantly every day: I took a few wobbly steps forward. And then, I reached my destination. And that's the story of how, about a year ago, I became The Girl Who Stands In The Front.
Plus, it was a great show.
Sarah Elovich is a writer and performer based in Oakland, CA.