Tuesday, July 23, 2013

"Things were different then. All is different now. I tried to explain...somehow" (PJ)

“Things were different then. All is different now. I tried to explain…somehow” (Lyrics from "Hard to Imagine" by Pearl Jam)

This was me…20 years ago.

Back then, I was what you would categorize a “dead head”. However, I’m not sure how much truth there is in that label. I went on tour when the money allowed. I liked the music. However, there were things I loved more than the music. I loved the feeling of community. I loved the traveling. I loved the scene. I thought I loved the substance-related “extracurriculars”. I loved the scene. I loved the guy I was dating, so much so that I married him 7 years later. So yes, a dead head I suppose…but, at heart, I was way more.

The night I met that guy, I was wearing a Pearl Jam T-shirt ---the one with the girl on the front and the crayons on the back.  I really had gotten into the Dead’s music, but more than that I had gotten into substances and specifically (unfortunately) the ones that surrounded that scene. Prior to that time though, it was that cassette tape that got worn out on my stereo at home and in the cassette deck in my car.  I couldn’t get enough. I did an acting class assignment focused on the song “Jeremy”. I created a piece of art involving PJ song lyrics. I loved music and had found a band that sang what my soul seemed to feel, and that alone was enough to alter my mood. The first time I heard “Once”…the first time I heard Ed sing “Once upon a time I could love myself”, it was like my emotions were cracked open. Every song on “Ten” was my language. I had never heard anything like it and I was hooked.

I was a girl who LOVED music. LOVED. I can’t remember a time when music did not speak directly to me or for me. I always had songs that represented moments in my life…but this, this new stuff ---“Ten”, Pearl Jam, THIS was a soundtrack.

I wore out that cassette, then bought Vs., Vitalogy, No Code, a bootleg…but as things in life change, my life became more focused on those “extracurriculars” and the scene at Dead shows. That guy…he had seen Pearl Jam live, just before we met. I had never seen them and had always wished for the day when I did get a chance to hear them live. It probably would have been more easy than I made it to see a Pearl Jam show. However, when you don’t know yourself, when you’ve lost yourself in those “extracurriculars”, you’re more likely to go along with what seems good in relationship with others...and, to you at the time. My guy, the friends I had…well, PJ just wasn’t the focus and other music interests just kind of wedged out not only my listening to Pearl Jam, but also to that part of me that I could connect to when listening to their music.

Was this all about Pearl Jam, seriously? No, of course not, but, as I said, I tend to think of my life in more of a soundtrack form sometimes. That time of rocking out to Pearl Jam was meaningful. I have memories of just playing one of their albums and feeling better, just knowing someone else possibly had thoughts and feelings like I did.  This, for me, was more about identity…it was about knowing (or not knowing as the case was) who I am.  I just didn’t then…I couldn’t. Addiction blocks you from knowing who you are and Whose you are.

I never stopped loving Pearl Jam’s music…

Life had just taken a lot of detours for me, not all bad, and the soundtracks changed.

I was given the gift of sobriety. Divorce happened. A bad relationship. I reconnected with God and connected with a church. Soundtracks were different for everything.

The journey of learning who I was and Who I belonged to was now well underway.

This is me now…at 40, on my birthday, at my first Pearl Jam show.

Sometimes on the journey, a person gets weary.  We go through seasons and some aren’t always great. I knew God loved me and I knew I loved Him. Loving myself…this was a work in progress. More recent detours, including relocating to Chicago and losing both my parents shortly after led to some rough times within the space of many positive, fun, happy times.

Pearl Jam was peripherally on my grid…”Backspacer” had me checking them out again but their music was intermixed with an eclectic collection of music on a beat up Ipod. Then, one day in March this year, I was in a low place and, bored at home, decided to check out Netflix. I stumbled upon PJ20, which I was aware existed, but again…peripherally.  I watched it and it instantly took me back 20 years. I cried as I watched a movie about a group of guys who made amazing music and loved people.

Not to be all “dramatic”, but I remembered myself at an age when I thought I was kind of cool. I remembered some things about myself that I liked then and those things I let go of for the sake of believing I was “pleasing others and/or myself” along the way. I remembered my dream of wanting to play guitar and being told I probably couldn’t because my fingers didn’t quite reach across the fret board. I remembered my love of traveling to see concerts and the times I would talk to God about missing having people in my life who shared the same interests. I wanted all of it back. So while dealing with a pretty gnarly back injury, I started exploring some of those things I about myself I had put aside.

I found out about Pearl Jam coming to Chicago, too late to get tickets through public sale but they were playing on my 40th and I knew this was special. I had to go. At the time, I didn’t realize there was a network of people who loved some of the same things I did and would have helped me get a ticket. So after debating for a couple of weeks, I got my tickets through a broker so there would be a guarantee of a birthday show.

I also bought a guitar, started learning to play, and am currently in the process of trying to learn “Inside Job”.

On accident one day, I found the “Pearl Jam at Wrigley” FB group and things really took off from there. I met, well virtually met, so many amazing people who just really cared about others having a great experience at PJ shows and connecting with each other. They talked of music. They talked of touring. They talked of love and of community. It was like I had been given a chance to do this touring thing over, SOBER, knowing God, and being with people who loved music and each other. God had known the desire of my heart and, though I had stopped actually praying about it or talking to Him about it, He gave it to me.

I was asked the other day whether I had posted my thoughts about the show on 7/19/13 at Wrigley by someone who was interested in them. I said I was "still processing" and these things have all been part of that processing.

To say the show was completely freaking amazing would be a vast understatement. To see a band care so much about their fans that they:

1.     Tell them personally that they wanted to work with them as a team to ensure safety for all.
2.     Evacuate people who were in harm’s way.
3.     Tell the crowd to “trust” them, that there would be a show….and follow through on their word.
4.     To sacrifice their own profit to break curfew and play their hearts out until 2:00am exactly.

….was overwhelming.

I met some of the loveliest people at this show. People I had met virtually and was now meeting in person. I was able to really connect to many people who shared this common interest with me and it was awesome.

The show itself…spectacular. From what I understand from other Jammers, among the best. New songs debuted, old songs blown out, one of my favorites…”Life Wasted”…played just 5 days after I had tattoo’d lyrics from the song on my wrist to celebrate 12 years sober.  I cried, and laughed, and sung until I lost my voice, and sat in awe as I thanked God.

To many reading this, if people read it, they will not understand and may even misunderstand or believe that I am overstating it…or they just may think I’m weird.  They won’t get it and I’m okay with that because I get it…for the first time in years. Is Pearl Jam the cause of my change in being ok with me?…No, that honor belongs to God. However, I do believe that God redeemed this part of my life. I get to tour again with a band I never stopped loving!!! With people who like the same music I do and won’t feel dragged to a show!!! 

Through reconnecting with Pearl Jam’s music, I have been reconnected with a part of me I had thought long gone. I reconnected with my identity as the rocker I once was. I reconnected with dreams I put on a shelf thinking I would never pull them down again.  I’m coming into much more of me, who I am.

I like me…haha!!

Pearl Jam: thank you for continuing to be the most amazing band on the planet! Thank you for writing music with some of the most intelligent lyrics that have ever touched my soul! Thank you for loving your fans! Thank you that you still connect with us!

Jammers: Thank you for welcoming me into the party with you! Thank you for being awesome and fun and loving!  You are, quite simply, fantastic. See you in Hartford and Seattle!!!

God: Most of all, I thank You, that 20 years later, I find myself listening to this soundtrack and “Released” from what has previously held me back. Thank You for giving me a community of people who share the same interests! Thank You that you care about even this type of detail. Thank You that I am Yours and that I can know who I am! You are everything!

So that's it, these are my thoughts. I thought those lyrics from the Pearl Jam song "Hard to Imagine" were the most fitting...

Peace, Love, and Rock and Roll


  1. What a lovely post Emily, because you know you better we get to know you better. May your journey be filled with Joy!

  2. I'm glad I asked ;) Thank you Emily

  3. Wow... really really good... SO good and THANKS FOR SHARING your journey with us -- heart, guts, praise, transformation and all! you're amazing, i am continually inspired by you :)