The month of October held a few firsts for me. The ones I’m going to talk about today all revolve around my favorite band, Hanson. Yes, that Hanson. They’re still around, have been making music for the past 25 years, and no, they’re not still little kids. Okay, now that that’s out of the way! 😉
As I said, it’s been 25 years since three brothers decided to start singing together, and 20 years since they released their first album, Middle of Nowhere. For a girl who didn’t have many friends, and always felt a little bit “Weird,” this album spoke to me. It gave me hope, comfort, and happiness during a time in my life where I desperately needed it. Fast forward 20 years, and I still count them as my favorite band. I like almost all genres of music, but this one band has always stood above the rest. I could tell you so many reasons why, but that isn’t the point of this post.
Today, I’m going to tell you about how I jumped way out of my comfort zone and went to not one, but two, of their concerts by myself. When your favorite band releases a greatest hits album and the corresponding tour comes to your state twice, you go. You buy the member presale tickets, and you buy two for each show thinking you’ll be able to find someone to go with in the next few months. In the past, I’ve brought along a non-fan friend to avoid going alone. I’ve never had friends that liked Hanson. Most everyone I know can appreciate that they’re good musicians, but just not their thing. I get it, but it makes for a challenge every time a tour is announced. What’s a girl with social anxiety supposed to do?
To commemorate their anniversary, Hanson felt it only right to release one new song to go with their greatest hits. The song “I Was Born” is an anthem that gets played at every stop on the tour along with a message of encouragement from the band. Some form of the words, “We believe every person is born to do something, no matter what. Only you know what it is” are spoken each time as the introduction. I was born to do, to go, to be.
To prove that they aren’t just men of many words, they have been trying new challenges this year. So far, they have been mostly physical feats: jumping off a building, skydiving, completing an obstacle course race, and the mental challenge of swimming with sharks. Their example has started the I Was Born Challenge, and fans have been finding their own ways to jump on board.
The point isn’t to do the craziest, most death-defying stunt. It’s to do something that personally challenges you and forces you outside of your comfort zone. To Hanson, that’s swimming with sharks and jumping out of planes. To me, that’s driving two and a half hours, standing in line all day, and going to a Hanson concert by myself. If you don’t know Hanson fans, this won’t make much sense to you, but there’s a core group of fans that still camp out to get front row at Hanson concerts (most shows are general admission seating). I do mean camp because there are tents and/or sleeping bags involved and then during the day, a line of camp chairs.
Because of my anxiety and never having anyone to go with, I have avoided these lines and just showed up right before doors every other concert, content wherever I was in the venue if I could still see and hear the show. The only time I showed up earlier than that was back in 2009 when the band was hosting one mile long barefoot walks around the venues for charity. Being there early for the walk but not for the line ended up causing a run-in with these passionate camper fans that almost put me off Hanson and their concerts altogether. The girls in the front of the line were so horribly rude and mean that I told myself that if this was what Hanson fans and concerts were like now, I was out. To be fair, I know that these girls have had issues with people cutting in front of them and that really sucks since they’ve been there all day (and night), but the whole experience really soured me towards the girls and the thought of showing up to a Hanson concert early.
Fast forward to this year, and the band’s personal message of getting out there, and I made the decision. I was going to go alone, and I was going to get their early. When you bring a non-fan friend to every other show, it’s just not the same. I never felt completely free to lose myself in the experience. And the person standing next to me didn’t know the words, or when to jump. This time I told myself I would be surrounded by people every bit as passionate as myself.
And I was. I got to the concert in Detroit just before noon. The rain had scared some people away and I was the 23rd person in line. Though the first dozen or so girls were obviously together and therefore kept to themselves, the rest of the line was more than happy to add a solo gal to their mix. We chatted, shared chairs, went on bathroom trips together, and built the foundation for the energy of the show. Even though I had never been a line participant before, I had always understood it. The bond between these girls, the adventures on the streets and sidewalks of a new city, it’s all a part of the show experience. People often don’t understand why someone would give up an entire day for a band, and the answer is that they aren’t. They’re taking a day off to spend with their friends, old and new. They’re traveling with a group that shares their passions and really, what more could you want? I don’t know that I would ever personally camp overnight, but I get it.
That night, I was third row from the stage, surrounded by new friends and others who knew every word to every song. Who danced and clapped and jumped at all the right places. I was close enough to see the band and their facial expressions, to feel their energy and watch them feed off ours. It was the best concert experience I have ever had. All because I listened to them and took a step out of my comfort zone to show up there, alone.
This has already gotten long, so I’ll just say that I did the whole thing again two days later in Grand Rapids, only this time I was front row for the first time in my life. In some ways, it was better, in some ways I preferred being a row or two back from the barricade, but in all ways, the energy and the fun remained. I was hooked, and to think that I had worked myself into a stomach ache of fear the night before the Detroit concert thinking I would be alone and miserable. That’s how anxiety works. It can take something as wonderful as your favorite band and the thought of an amazing concert and turn it into something to fear.
I may not be out there performing death-defying stunts, or even anything that others would consider that challenging, but that’s the point. What I’m doing is getting out of my own way and doing things that have seemed impossible to me. I’m learning that I’m stronger and braver than I ever gave myself credit for, and that’s what “I Was Born” is all about.