Most people, especially younger folks, are familiar with the idea of going out on Friday and Saturday nights. There are the types who meticulously plan an itinerary of events and locales, there’s the ones who do whatever their friends are doing, and there are the people who impulsively jump at interesting experiences as they unfold. Consider me a militant proponent of the latter.
Especially when you’re living in a new city, it’s important to branch out and find a social network. That was one of my goals once I started living on my own. Being away at college and living with roommates previously, I always fell into bad habits.
Alone, I would spend the majority of my time isolated and surfing the internet. I’d smoke weed and play video games. I’d come up with well-worded Craigslist personal ads and pray that some insightful soul would find my letters to no one and respond with overflowing affection. I would wallow in my loneliness, my delusions, and my lack of gumption.
With roommates, I spent so much of my time emulating their personalities. If they were lazy, I’d be lazy. If they wanted to gorge on delicious-but-horribly-unhealthy foods, I was right there stuffing my face next to them. I depended on them for most of my free time plans and we didn’t expand very much beyond our tight little circle. We spent too much time reinforcing each others opinions. We never learned anything. We never tried anything.
In my early 20s, I had glimpses of the kind of happiness that I was looking for. Sometimes I’d be in a drunken stupor at a packed house party and the room would start to spin around me. Not in an “I’m about to vomit” way, but in a beautifully wistful river of social energy. I hate to use this example, but there’s a camera trick in films like “Donnie Darko” and “Garden State” that illustrates the feeling of watching the world unfold around you at a party. There’s some sort of unspeakable beauty in the chaos. There’s communion with your fellow humans, bonding over alcohol and sexual energy.
I also found this kind of elation in crowded bars, dancing to top 40 hip hop tracks and stepping on each other’s toes. The ground always felt sticky. The smell of sweat and sugary mixed drinks paired with cigarette smoke, weed smoke and cheap beer mingled into an otherworldly sensory experience. You know how the Japanese use the term “umami” to describe this extra, supernatural level of flavor? I wish there were a word like that to describe the transcendent feeling of an overly stuffed dance floor. Calling it “indescribable” doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface.
Back to the idea of living in a new city, I first attempted to grow my social network via my job. I found like-minded individuals who also enjoyed adult beverages and unpredictable evenings that resulted in late night adventures. I found people who weren’t offended and liked joking around about touchy subjects. I found people sort of like me, at least in some passing way. Even though I was a geographical outsider, there’s a certain level of communal experience for intelligent, cynical people and I found a kinship in that regard. I felt lucky.
Over time, while we still spent a lot of time together, I decided that I needed to uncoil my tendrils and touch on sections of the population I had neglected. I needed a new kind of night life. Every time I found an interesting, unique event or live show I was deciding whether or not to go based on the amount of interest from my work friends. That’s not a good way to live. That’s not how you grow.
One night, I decided that I would say “fuck it” to convention and self-preservation and travel way outside of my comfort zone to experience something new. I took a ride sharing service to an unfamiliar part of Los Angeles to see a Swedish synthpop duo called Kate Boy, of whom I was already a fan.
Since alcohol is the social lubricant of the masses, I downed a significant amount of bourbon prior to the trek. After walking around the corner to conspicuously piss in a random alley, I found myself in line between 2 blonde Danish women. I must have looked like a deer in headlights, standing in a queue and looking around nervously like I was waiting for someone. Suddenly, my ears perked up. “Have you heard Kate Boy? Do you like them?” I heard one of them ask me.
Of course I like them. Why would I purchase tickets to their concert if I wasn’t a fan, especially showing up unaccompanied. They explained that they were living in L.A. for 7 months on a graphic design internship and that they hadn’t heard of Kate Boy, but were offered the tickets for free. Joining them for drinks and cigarettes and dancing alongside them in front of the stage, I realized that I had made the right decision. I was making friends.
After the show, they asked me if I wanted to go to Hollywood. They had befriended an influential patron of a club there and were able to secure us access to the VIP lounge. With nothing to lose, I tagged along. Suddenly, my night went from being completely boring to sharing bottle service with 2 beautiful Danish women in a Hollywood club. That doesn’t happen behind a computer screen or out with your work friends at the bar down the street that you’ve been to 1,000 times before. It happens when you grow a spine and take matters into your own hands.
I wound up Irish exiting after last call and catching a ride home by myself. I had made 2 new friends who I have come to really love and had a genuinely visceral experience instead of a generic night with friends.
As time went on, I felt more and more comfortable going out by myself. On Halloween, I left a coworker’s Halloween party to go alone to a semi-monthly, feminist fetish event called the Catnip Club. I danced with a girl dressed like Boba Fett, drank 5 whiskey sours and watched topless girls covered in fake blood fire dance.
A month later, I was going to secret underground warehouse parties where the GPS location was provided the day of the event and you needed a password to get in. There was live graffiti art, movie screens, food, house music, light shows and enough illicit drugs to satisfy the most jaded of escapists.
After 29+ years on planet earth, I had found my fountain of youth. My Type A personality was finally able to shine after nearly 3 decades of shoving it down inside at the expense of my own happiness. I realized that being social and independent satisfies me and builds my confidence level like no other activity in my mortal existence.
That’s why I implore you apathetic, bored, lonely people out there to crawl out from under your comfortable precipices and embrace the unknown. Fear does nothing but dull your essence and prevent you from finding release.
It doesn’t have to be in the form of partying. Maybe you’re not into that. Maybe you should go to a book fair, concert, BBQ competition, volunteer activity or wilderness trip by yourself.
Find what makes you happiest and make an honest effort to do it by yourself a few times, unencumbered by preconception. Let life’s ever-unpredictable convolution lead you down a path to self-discovery. Meet some new faces. Have some real discussions outside of talking about the weather or your jobs.
I beg you to try for your sake, for your children’s sake, and for the sake of your untapped human potential. Who knows what kind of imagination, ambition, or genuine joy could be hiding within you, just out of sight?
I’ll leave you with a quote from one of my favorite books of all time, Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut:
“Ladies and Gentlemen, I stand before you now because I never stopped dawdling like an eight-year-old on a spring morning on his way to school. Anything can make me stop and look and wonder, and sometimes learn. I am a very happy man. Thank you.”