I Am Not A Sad Story

There is a running myth abut me that I am somehow confident and happy and even remotely well-adjusted. I’m not sure where people get that. It seems to take a lot for people to see deeper and see me as the fumbling, neurotic fuck-up I so aggressively believe that I am. This is one of the many disconnects I have with the world around me.

I don’t often open up about myself or the things going on in my  head. There are a handful of friends who have seen me at my miserable, self-loathingly lows. I’ve had often fragmented, frustrated conversations with my parents that end in a “chin up, kiddo” sort of mentality. But the truth is that I am plagued by vicious anxieties that pick at my bones and a growing depression that recently began flexing its ability to stop me in my tracks. Usually its something that I’ve been able to bury, put somewhere off to the corner, but as I try to make a place in the world for myself, its becoming frighteningly apparent how big a problem these things can be.

I can’t remember a day where all these issues started becoming issues. I think I was largely a happy kid. But I remember moments where that image is fractured a bit. I remember being picked on and bullied, but I also remember that I had done my fair share of bullying in return. I remember being angry that on my seventh birthday they made me swing at the piñata last because I was bigger than the other kids and someone broke it before I got a chance. I remember leaving my own party that day and just running away off into the fields behind my house. There are so many disjointed memories of being lost or scared, even in my own home. Whether it was someone I didn’t like came to watch me or my sister’s boyfriend being mean to me or being dropped off when I was six and finding no one at home. There are so many memories of being young and alone. To the point where it began to feel like alone was the way I was meant to be.

There are many dirty parts of my life that I choose to remain secret. Some I don’t disclose to therapists. Some only a few friends know of. I tend to think I grew up a bit faster than I should have. The fact that my parents were never home became a legitimate excuse to be used in class for why I didn’t do something. A point that many of my friends eagerly vouched for on my behalf.

But I never felt depression until high school, when waves of paralyzing apathy or anger or frustration would wash over me, leaving me feeling completely powerless and once again alone. It was in high school that I started seeing myself as something other. Alienated and off to the side. Something that didn’t quite belong. Someone not good enough. While the bouts of serious depression or panic were few and far between (except for dealing with homework) there was a growing sense of self-loathing that was always present.

This past year the bouts of depression and anxiety have become more and more frequent. Growing steadily until in the past few months where depression often feels like a daily battle and my anxiety and bouts of panic derail me at every turn. A few weeks ago I sat at my desk at my internship, knowing that there were pressing things and deadlines ahead of me, but still I sat there, motionless and paralyzed for hours. This little ball of pain sat on my chest and scratched at my insides. In the ensuing weeks deadlines have come and gone with a good deal of panic but no action. I now boast four or so job that offer little to know compensation and so I sit, defeated in a ball of panic and dread and watch as all those precious responsibilities slip past.

I frighten myself a lot of the time. I’ve cried more in the past four months than I think I have since I was a baby. Most days I feel so disconnected from the people in my life. So far from their love or their affection. I feel isolated and abandoned most days. This utter unsympathetic self-hatred burns at me, saying that I deserve to be alone. That this is how I am fated to be. There is this crippling belief that I am not in control of my own life. That its just spinning out of my grasp, kicked around for others amusement or placed on a high shelf and forgotten. It is felt so genuinely and with so much earnest that I often forget to do things for myself or that that is a possibility for me. This unconscious belief that my happiness leads to other people’s suffering on some level leaves me completely numb.

It’s hard to articulate exactly what I feel. It’s harder to believe that anything I am writing holds any weight or any purpose. That it is anything beyond my self-righteous pity party that no one cares about. Something that will sit as an ugly, self-indulgent scar on the internet.

I wish I felt as connected as I should be. There are a lot of people in this world that I love purely and wholly. But I don’t often feel it in return. I look out into the world and it yells back at me with this crippling apathy. This constant belief that everyone hates me as much as I hate myself. That my co-workers see me as cumbersome and in the way. That my intern advisers don’t like my very existence and see me as a bother or worse, a waste of space.  It’s this thing I’ve always seen of myself. I’m too much. Too much of everything. Too big, too loud, too phony, too quiet, too bombastic, too timid, too assertive, too passive, too fat, too selfless, too self-absorbed. Complete, vicious contradictions. Unsettled at all times no matter how I adapt.

And lately all these fears and paranoias and worries and hatreds have ground me to a complete halt. I have thoughts about what it would be like if I were to die in a car crash and I get these flashes of all the people who would miss me and all the things they would say and I feel their hurt so completely that I start bawling while sitting in traffic. And in those moments I know that I am not the garbage that I feel I am so explicitly. I am reminded of all the legions of family and friends that love me so completely. But then I’m left with a more haunting after image. A persistent question: Why do I have to go to such a dark place to finally feel everyone’s love?

I don’t know how I’ve become so disconnected from everything and everyone. More so, I don’t know how I’ve become so disconnected while appearing so engaged from the outside looking in. But I’ve reached out for help. I’ve begun to seek therapy once again. This time with these feelings a little more clearly articulated. A little more willing to eradicate that gnawing pain inside me. And that’s why I don’t want to keep it secret. I don’t know who all will read this. Probably no one. It is quite far off from the humor that usually populates this blog. But it felt important to share.

My mission through writing is to reach out to kids and young adults who feel all of these feelings. That feel so lost and alone and need something to hold onto. But I think I still need something to hold onto myself. A reminder that the story is still being written. And a happy ending will be on its way. We all have stories inside us and I don’t think mine is a sad one.


Trouble with the Gender Roles

I walked past an older lady while I was wearing my Wonder Woman t-shirt. She laughed and called after me saying, “Oh Wonder Woman, you look so different.” Pick another evening and I’m walking into a restaurant wearing the same shirt and an old woman looks at me in dismay and says, “That’s weird.” I’m not sure what that means. I do know what I look like and a large bearded man is typically not the prime candidate to be sporting any Wonder Woman memorabilia.

But seriously, Azzarello/Chiang's run of Wonder Woman is really good.

But seriously, Azzarello/Chiang’s run of Wonder Woman is really good.

A large part of my sense of humor for years has been my embrace of what would typically seen as feminine interests. It’s funny to say that I cry or that I’m rocking out to Beyonce or watching A Walk to Remember because I love Mandy Moore. It’s a bit of a schtick that I have become more and more aware of, purposefully creating these juxtapositions. Sure I like watching boxing, but I also have been dabbling with watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix.

The jokes are never meant to be rude or even that self-deprecating. I don’t look down on any of these things that are so commonly associate with women and I am very secure in the fact that I genuinely appreciate these things of their own merits. But it is beginning to dawn on me that the humor in these situations stems from a larger systematic problem. I shouldn’t have to be “secure in my masculinity” to like a story or show with a female lead. I shouldn’t have to be “secure in my masculinity” to enjoy pop music. Just because a woman creates an art, does not make it somehow lesser and novel for a man to enjoy these things.

But that’s where the humor is most of the time. Men who embrace female roles or feminine interests are sitcom fodder. I know this card and play it all the time. I joke about how I openly wept during “The Fault in Our Stars” along with the theater full of 15 year old girls. I laugh about knowing all the words to “Hips Don’t Lie.” But if I were to try to explain why that should be funny to anyone, the only answer is “because that sort of thing is for girls and I’m a man.” And quite frankly there’s nothing funny about that line of thinking.

There love was so pure. #uglycryface

There love was so pure. #uglycryface

When I was listening to N’SYNC and Backstreet Boys when I was younger, I was not thinking “this is for girls.” When I became obsessed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer when I was eight, I never thought “this is for girls.” But when I retell these sorts of things, there is always a hint of that. A little bit of “haha Chase likes a girl thing.” Even though I continue to embrace female artists and athletes and characters, I feel like there’s this weird undertone to it.

Whenever I talk about the WNBA it almost sounds like a brag. Like I’m trying to buy some sort of feminist bonus points. Like “Look at me, I respect female athletes, aren’t I progressive?” But that’s a large problem that I see with male feminists. We have no sense of subtlety. Its like we’re waving this big banner that says “I respect women, aren’t I cool?!” One of the biggest things that bothers me is the guy that’s like “I’m a feminist and I’ll beat you up, ’cause I’m still a man.” But I tend to do a very similar thing, but with humor: “I love Taylor Swift, but it’s funny because I’m a guy.”

There’s little contradictions all the time in my line of thinking. I talk about wanting to be a stay-at-home dad, marrying a powerful lawyer or athlete and doing the dishes at home while I work on my novel, and yet I still refuse to let a woman pick up the tab. That somehow that makes me a freeloader. It’s a weird way of thinking. To actively try to subvert the gender role in thought, but still my actions are engrained in the traditional.

Maybe Elena Delle Donne's type is fat 22 year old's with a receding hairline.

Maybe Elena Delle Donne’s type is fat 22 year old’s with a receding hairline.

It’s hard to undo this systematic wedge driven into our society. Even the best of intentions ultimately fail in the execution. I’m not saying that it’s bad to laugh, but when I examined why I thought some of the things I say or do are funny, it felt a little problematic. I’m going to continue to read Wonder Woman and watch the Minnesota Lynx. Buffy Summers will always be my hero and Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” will continue to get me through rough days. But there is a necessity to remain vigilant. To make sure that what I’m doing is really going towards helping the women I admire and giving girls a platform to stand on in the future.

I scolded a friend of mine because he was joking with his son that women are bad drivers. I said, “You can’t teach him that kind of shit.” There was no harm meant on any side, but jokes are a powerful tool even when we aren’t conscious of what we’re saying. It’s a process and I intend on revisiting mine as often as I can.

Anti-Social Butterfly

Every time I am at a party, I like to play a game called, “How Long Will You Politely Stand Next to Me Until You Figure Out I’m Not Going To Keep Talking To You?” It’s never a game I intend to play. I don’t get all hyped up on the car ride over saying to myself, “Aw yeah! I can’t wait to be a dick to some nice person I’ve never met!” I never want to be some morose buzz-kill. I’m just terrible at concealing how uncomfortable parties and gatherings of any kind make me.

I’m not good at socializing. I like to say that I have a three person max when it comes to social interactions. And that’s with my friends. With strangers it’s like a negative one person max. The simple thought of talking to someone I don’t know in a casual setting fills me with terror.

I stutter and stammer and sweat. My mind is constantly racing and bumbling over each new thought whenever I’m stuck in situations where I have to interact with others. At parties, I tend to latch onto the one person I know and follow them around with my head bowed like some kind of scared puppy. I avoid eye contact and speak in disjointed whispers. Too uncomfortable to relax even with my friend. Always making sure I’m not drawing attention to myself and our conversation.

But if something happens and the people I know are somehow occupied, well that becomes so much worse. I tend to stiffen up. I prefer to stand somewhere, my belly is less likely to do embarrassing bunching things when I’m standing. I keep my arms crossed in front of me or buried in my pockets. Something that shows how inconvenient it would be for me to shake hands or wave. I survey the room constantly with erratic unblinking eyes. A terrifying sentry keeping watch from some quiet corner.

My dad’s always telling me to smile. Growing up it was always, “Pretend like you’re having fun. Smile.” But I’ve never been able to take that advice. When I’m in these situations, I get very tight lipped, like I spent sometime in my car before exiting gluing my mouth shut. A long-time fan of heavy mouth breathing, when I’m at a party I tend to forget that you can receive oxygen from your mouth. Instead my nostrils flare desperately, trying to catch as much air as it can to fill my lungs with each quick, shallow breath.

I always look like I’m either itching to pick a fight or on the verge of tears. It really depends on the scenario. If I don’t want to be there out of some spite or dislike of the situation, I default to murder face. A stern, unblinking mask of displeasure. My jaw is probably clenched and I’m probably flexing as I hold my arms tight across my chest. I sit there and curse the insensitivity of whoever it was who dragged me to such an occasion. I mean, don’t they know that I don’t like social events. Don’t that know how uncomfortable it makes me. I sit there with this self-righteous mantra in my head. How people don’t understand what its like to feel like this. And I brood and scowl at anyone who dares glance at me until I can leave and breathe once again in my car as I drive home and cry a little.

But that’s the easy one to deal with. I mean, no one ever wants to be mad and uncomfortable, but that’s sort of me throwing in the towel early. Shutting down as a form of self preservation. What’s harder is when I get all cry-face. I get all jittery and restless, my jaw trembles and it always looks like I’m on the verge of tears. That usually happens when I’m actually trying. My breath quickens and I nervously hover somewhere, desperately trying to find the courage to say hi to someone. Some nice girl or a group of people that look like they’re having fun. My brain just gets stuck on this vicious loop of critical self-analysis and inability to form words. This constant back and forth of ambitious courage followed by crushing defeat when I eventually convince myself that whatever thought I had was stupid.

I wander around the outside of the party. Hoping to catch someone alone. To peak someone’s interest to engage with me. “Ooo who is this brooding hunk of handsome? That’s totally cool still, right? He’s probably some tortured artist and will totally be interesting to talk to.” That rarely happens. No one’s like “Hell yeah, party time! I’m gonna get totally wasted and talk to the sad man!”

But every once in a while someone does try and we enter the game. I’m not a small talk guy. I’m terrible at small talk with my own friends. I need to create some overblown narrative to every little thing or I feel like I can’t function properly. “Oh what band is that on your shirt?” “Oh its Iron and Wine. Let me tell you about my entire history with listening to this band starting with the first time I watched Garden State in eighth grade.” It’s a bit daunting to say the least. But I’m not that open with the casual party-goer and so I find myself in the awkward stand off of wanting their company but not knowing how to actually make us of it.

I’m very good at answering questions from strangers. You come over and say “So what do you do?” I can tell you about my job. I can tell you some peripheral stuff about my writing. Ask me where I’m from and I can tell you the abridged story of how I moved around a lot growing up. But I’m not good at asking questions. I may be interested in getting to know you, but if I can’t follow up my answer with a simple, “What about you?” forget about it. For some reason, I get stuck in that vicious loop of “This is a good question. No its a stupid question. You should ask this. No you shouldn’t. Wait for them to say something else. Oh they’re not saying anything. Look off into the distance until they walk away.”

It’s not pleasant at all. To sit there and struggle to just reach out in any basic human way. I mean, with creepy people, its fine. “Yes go, I did not want to talk to you.” But more times than not, I genuinely want to interact with you but I can’t break free from this cycle of constant self-critique to function. Always too scared of saying the wrong thing. Always too scared of coming on too strong or too soft. I tend to just remain neutral and noncommittal. More like a hat rack than a party guest.

I always say, “Give me three meetings and I’ll finally get comfortable enough to talk to you.” I may interact with you before that but I rarely show my true face (whatever the hell that is) before that. For most people, I don’t get three chances. I get maybe half of one.

But I like to think that for those who are patient, it’s a good payoff. That at some point I become engaging and funny and nice. I say that hopefully because I’m still skeptical that I do have those good qualities. Even with friends I’ve had for months now or even years, I constantly play that game in my head. That vicious self-critique that won’t shut up. “Oh you’re too loud, Chase. Reel it in.” “Oh that was rude. Apologize.” “That was weird. Apologize.” “They’re not laughing. Apologize.” I’m stuck in trying to always say the right thing. Never really relaxed enough to have a good time.

I’m trying. I’m going out more and trying to break free of my comfort zone. A lot of times though, I wonder if I had a comfort zone to begin with. There’s no happy ending to wrap into a bow here because the story continues to rage on. I feel like I’ll always fight this fight with myself. Maybe one day I’ll relax, but probably not. Just know that I do care. That I’m not unhappy, that I’m genuinely trying. It’s hard sometimes but I am grateful for those who stuck it out. Those who I call my friends. They make me fight that much harder.

Mustachioed Weak – An Experiment in Facial Hair Reconstruction

I’m a beard man. I don’t like to make a lot of show about it, but my beard has been as much a part  of my identity for the past five or so years as my eyes or my nose. It’s just a part that always seemed to have been there. But every once in a while, I yearn for a change. To do something radical to shake up the way people see me. I’ve played with a goatee, I’ve tried several variations from clean and trim to shaggy and long. On my darkest days I even go clean shaven and expose my baby face and nonexistent jawline to the world.

A little over a week ago, I shaved down to a mustache for the first time in my life. I have lived with this awkward lip garnish since then. This is my story.

For reference: This me in my natural habitat. Bearded, proud, sexy.

For reference: This me in my natural habitat. Bearded, proud, sexy.

This whole debacle started at the gym. While I was sitting on the bench pretending like I was talking myself up for another set, I stared at myself in the mirror wall for entirely too long. I like to make funny faces anytime I’m in front of the mirror and I was in the middle of some solid gems when I just became focused on my mustache.

I had always flirted with the idea of a mustache. When shaving I’d leave the mustache long enough for a few selfies before sending it down the drain with everything else. The mustache never left the bathroom. But on this fateful day, I decided to go for it. I mean, what did I have to lose? At best I’d have a solid Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation vibe, at worst it’d be pure Paul Blart.

I have been told many times that I look like Kevin James. I have yet to decide if I should be offended.

I have been told many times that I look like Kevin James. I have yet to decide if I should be offended.

I rushed home that night giddy for this ridiculous transformation. I told myself that I’d leave it for a week. An entire week. I anticipated ridicule and awkward stares, but I tried to push that from my mind by saying, “If people ask just say you’re doing it for your blog.”

I played fast and lose with the beard trimmer that night. I had already been rockin’ the goatee, so I was half way there already. I sheered the chin bush with reckless abandon, quickly leaving myself with the ultimate question: Stubble or clean cheeks? Stubble kind of makes you look dirty, but clean shaven has a very “I meant to do this” feel to it and that could be worse.

The decision was made for me when I accidentally shaved too close and finally decided that I was going bald cheeked. This soup strainer would be on full display. I shaved, dried my face, and threw on a beanie for a selfie.

I was going for more of an "Austin hipster" look than "creepy predator" vibe.

I was going for more of an “Austin hipster” look than “creepy predator” vibe.

I threw it out to the internet and let my friends decide my fate. Then I locked the razors away so that I could not go back on my word. This would stay for a full week. The mustache will know the light of day.

The next morning I woke with aspirations of having a nice relaxing Saturday out. I was going to go to my favorite area of Austin. Hit up the bookstore and see a movie. But first I needed to figure out what to do with my hair that did not make me look like a trendy soccer dad. I don’t think I was particularly successful in that regard, but I had a flannel so I at least looked earthy.

Every time I looked at myself in the mirror I just giggled like a dork. I couldn’t get over the way I looked, how would anyone else possibly take me seriously. The entire drive I was just in my head, trying to imagine what passersby and cashiers would do or say. Would I look like a creeper in the comic book section or would I finally look like I belonged?

I have this chronic desire to not stand out. I am very quiet and reserved. I apologize habitually and avoid eye contact. Anything I could possibly do to not cause a scene. But here I was walking around with a target for humiliation directly plastered on my face. Immersion therapy at its finest.

This week on Fear Factor, Chase must order a cup of coffee without stuttering and dropping things.

This week on Fear Factor, Chase must order a cup of coffee without stuttering and dropping things.

What I quickly realized was that no one really cared all that much. I mean, strangers did not stop and stare. Parents did not whisk their children away from me. No one said anything. I was just as faceless as I had been at any other time. I mean, that sounds like a terrible thing to think to yourself. But when you constantly feel like the entire world is constantly searching for some little screw up or silly embarrassment to hold over you forever, it’s kind of refreshing to realize that people don’t care one way or the other. I mean, as long as you’re a middle class white guy. Let’s not forget that I’ve already been dealt a pretty solid hand.

My friends have tended to have a little more fun with it. My gym buddies all yelled in excitement, cycling through different mustachioed characters I looked like. “Oh you look like Anchorman!” “Oh no, that mall cop. Paul Blart!” I went to dinner with my friends Colin, Steph and Mark as well as Colin and Steph’s kids and I realized that my mustache is the furthest thing from the weirdest part about me.

If you have a cute hat, I will wear it. I don't care if its for a three year old. I don't care if its several hats stacked on top of each other.

If you have a cute hat, I will wear it. I don’t care if its for a three year old or if its several hats.

The mustache even had to face the frightening world of dating. I’d been trying to settle on a date to get dinner with this nice young lady and of course we finally landed on a day during the mustachioed week. But I sent a fair warning, “Just to let you know, I kind of have a mustache right now. If that changes things, I totally understand.” It didn’t. It was a fine evening. She assured me that the fullness of it kept it free from creepy territory. She said it looked very Ron Swanson. #Swansoning.

#living the dream

#living the dream

Now I want to say that the entire week was full of fun and games and celebrity impressions. But ultimately halfway through the week my father and I had to steal away on an emergency trip to Louisiana. My great grandmother’s health had been in a slow decline for months. We visited her in January when she was in the hospital, but this trip seemed to have more finality to it. This wasn’t a happy ending kind of visit.

I was really quiet on the drive to New Orleans. I just kept beating myself up. This was probably going to be the last time she got to see me and I had this stupid thing on my face. I was a walking joke. She wouldn’t see me the way I was meant to be seen and for some reason that bothered me to no end.

She would pass while were there. She was non-responsive once we got there and never came back to us. She never saw the mustache. But at the end of the day, that didn’t really matter much, did it?

I finished the mustachioed week in Louisiana, hunkered in a nursing home room with my dad’s family. There were the jokes. I explained that the whole mustache thing was “a joke that seems very inopportune right about now.” But I did get to see a few old photos of my uncles rockin’ some classic ‘stache work. A moment of solidarity in a somber weekend.

The mustache is still kicking even now. While the cheek fuzz is coming back in, I hold out to show a few friends who missed it while I was away. At the end of the day, this was a silly experiment that wasn’t much of an experiment. I mean, it was refreshing to find that I could do something unusual and survive the consequences, even if it were minor. It was nice to know that I could stand out or at the least attempt to without the world shattering. That its ok to just be yourself, because at the end of the day the world isn’t watching you hoping you’d fall.

It was fun to be a dork for a week, because sadly I think I’m stuck being one for the rest of my life.

Understated selfie with the awkward lighting. #killin'it #mustaches will never die

Understated selfie with the awkward lighting. #killin’it #mustaches will never die

Let Me Love You

I have this need to say “I love you” at least once a day. It’s like a tic. Like I might go crazy if I don’t say it at least once to someone. Anyone. Well not anyone. I don’t tell the barasitas at Starbucks that I love them. That would be chaos.


Dude, it’s just coffee.

But I do tell my parents, my sister, some of my friends, my stuffed dog Bosco, certain television characters….

Sometimes I’ll just text people randomly in the middle of the night things like “Hey, I love you. I just thought you should know.” Which is always met with the response, “What’s wrong? Are you dying?”

My favorite thing about being back at home is just being able to tell my mom I love her as many times as I want. At school, I have to jump through hoops to get my fix. But at home, I just let the “I love you”s fly.

So much so that I think she’s grown annoyed by my constant affection. I don’t even have conversations anymore. Just a steady string of “I love you”s to break up the silence. Most of the time she smiles, but after about the seventeenth “I love you” of the hour she just kinda tunes them out. So I have to throw her off speed pitches, hiding the “I love you” with elaborate set-ups.

“Hey mom, I read this really cool article today. It said that scientists at MIT have finally determined that I love you.”

I have fun with it.

I don’t really know why I feel so compelled to constantly say “I love you.” I think somewhere in there I am scared that if I don’t constantly say it, I might never hear it back.  So I just say it all the time.


Playing a Concert for One

I always like to think that I am a lot older than I’m but then some nights it’s fun to think like I’m six years old again. When I was younger and bored at home, I would always lock myself in my bedroom, turn out the lights, and dance to N*SYNC (or some other boy band my sister had turned me on to) as if I were performing at a concert. I’d just slip away in my head and there I’d be dancing before thousands of adoring fans. Imaging flocks of girls falling in love with my sweet voice even though publicly I was still declaring girls icky. Then someone, my mom or sister, would walk in and I’d scream and stop what I was doing as if they had just caught me watching porn or something equally inappropriate. But then they’d leave and I’d turn the music back on and get back to dancing to the great “Bye Bye Bye” while the embarrassment faded away.

Now at twenty years old I find myself doing the same thing. N*SYNC has since been replaced with the cool, folk-rocky tunes of Mumford & Sons, The Oh Hello’s, and Milo Greene. On a Friday night, when others my age are off partying and hanging out with friends I am in my room alone. Why is not important. But where I could be sad and frustrated, instead I turn out the lights, put in my headphones and let the world fall away.

There is nothing graceful about a twenty year old man flailing around in the dark playing air guitar and lip syncing. But there is something freeing. I always play out the same fantasy no matter the song. It’s me, my best friend George, and some vague miscellaneous band members thoroughly rocking the faces off the student body at the SCAD Talent Show. I don’t know why the talent show seems to be the height of my stardom. Maybe it’s just me knowing my limitations. Every time I begin to start rocking out with my “band” I always have to check myself. “You know you really don’t know how to play guitar, right? Play something you’re good at, like clapping or something.” “Why are you the lead singer again? George is a much better singer than you are.” But it’s my fantasy and I refuse to be a backup singer in my own fantasy.

There’s always a girl in the audience. Whatever crush is currently renting space in my imagination. She’s never in the front row. She gets lost in the heat of the music, so it’s important for me to find her in the crowd. The songs always something heavy and cathartic with plenty of moments where I can pretend to scream along with the music. Hammering away at invisible guitar strings.

I always imagine it like it’s in this perfect music-video-type slow motion. As I silently belt “I Will Wait”, I thrash about with passion for the music. I see me, the anguish of singing these personal songs all over my face, then I see her (whoever “her” happens to be at the time) in awe. I throw the guitar across the stage; I kick at the mic stand. I’m a destructive tour-de-force.

If someone were to walk into my room at these moments they’d think I was a lunatic. Everything is silent outside of my little bubble. But inside, it’s truly an escape. For a moment all eyes are on me. For a moment I’m not alone in a dark room.

Tonight I heard myself actually screaming the words to a song out loud. Over and over I kept belting the words, “Don’t you give up on me”. For the first time I don’t think I was singing those words for the magical “her” at the concert. But I do think the right person heard them.