In 2009, I watched the Tonys, which became a new obsession at the time. I had not really listened to the cast album for Next to Normal but the performance told me that I needed to. I ordered it from Barnes and Noble. Of course, I listened to it almost non-stop. And I made the decision to head to New York by myself to see it.
The show spoke to me as I had recently had issues with medication and felt quite lost. Although I recently got my first job, I understood the songs deeply and cried more times than I could mention based on the emotions that Alice Ripley put into the words and music. I went to New York that September and was able to see the original cast perform from the second row of the Mezzanine. However, the trip became a keystone to the rest of my rest – so far.
Trip to New York
I did not know what to do and did not have a SmartPhone yet. I got a hotel room in the middle of Manhattan but I’m too shy to just meet random people. Instead of walking into a restaurant that I could only experience in New York City, I went to TGIFriday’s because I was alone. I did not know how to walk into a restaurant by myself and not become overly self-conscious. Even at TGIFriday’s, they put me at a table right next to the exit. I had my notebook out and pretended to write. And I ate silently. But the show was perfect.
After the show, I met up with a friend for a few days at his home. And I thought it was a great few days. He took me to all of these places he loved after several years since we met. We talked about deep issues and our futures since we both recently graduated from law school. We vowed to meet back up every couple of years. And we planned it, but he cancelled it last minute. And that basically was the last time I heard from him seven years ago.
Dear Evan Hansen
This weekend, I watched the Tonys again and had a similar feeling when I watched Next to Normal. And a lot of that was because the song that Ben Platt performed reminded me of my entire life. I still don’t know a lot about the show and have read only parts of reviews. I still hope to see the show and don’t want to know all of the details.
But this song and this emotion may be the closest I have ever seen my own thoughts put into words – and a lot of that is because I wrote many short stories about window metaphors.
I would sit on a school bus and cry looking out the windows when I would head home after cross country practice in middle school and from high school. The window gave me the ability to look out and feel free but to also express my emotion into an abyss. I would watch people all day as they would walk around with friends and wonder. The window gave me that ability to re-imagine without staring. The song has a slightly different metaphor built in as he wants to be instead what he is watching, but the core remains – looking and feeling alone.
I did have friends in high school. I believe people liked me well enough. But when I would describe myself later in life, I used the phrase “a friendly ghost” to describe my persona. I was not a nerd or a jock. I did not fall into a clique because cliques had outside-of-school ramifications. However, I ran cross country and track; I participated in plays in junior high; I joined the Academic Bowl team. But all of that ended at the end of practice.
In Dear Evan Hansen, he wanted more. He wanted to fit into it all. I wanted a Saturday night that did not involve me watching TV in the basement. I just wanted any full connection.
I knew I did not have that. Much like the friend from Connecticut, I lost touch with almost everyone I have been close with. The amount of times that I have heard the line, “I don’t know when I will see you again” could add up to more Tonys than Dear Evan Hansen won. And it hurts.
Most people go and leave college to find that. Everyone has trouble in high school – right? Or at least that’s what people say. But in college, it truly seemed to get worse. For most of my time, I continued to have that bell at the end of practice. Parties would occur – and I stayed home. Maybe at some point I turned down an invitation and so I was shut out. But I remember my weekends well. I watched VCR tapes while sitting in front of my computer hoping to hear the AOL Instant Messenger ping. When the ping never came, I would fall asleep around 10:30 with the loud noises rushing around me. And then I would wake up at 7:00 Sunday morning, where I would go for a walk to clear my head. Or at least try.
At first, I got some pings from people I had known in high school, but I know the pings got smaller – and part of that, again, most likely on me. However, that desire for a ping continues. And I think that’s where I need to grow up.
How I Tried to Change
As I said, I have not read the end of Dear Evan Hansen yet. I have listened to the album, but the best parts of only listening to a soundtrack becomes how you envision the resolutions before you truly see the show. I don’t know how the kid who suffers from social anxiety disorder moves on, but I can tell my story.
Now, I try to ignore the pings and gratefully accept my reality. Instead of dreaming of what I am missing, I love what I have. It took many years for me to accept that – and to accept myself. And you can read all about that in my review of Jon Rauch’s book, Denial. However, all of that can be incredibly hard.
But in addition, I moved far away from most of my support systems. And I work from my home, where I look out of my windows on a daily basis. I’m still trying to learn to make friends. I want to work towards a full connection system here, but it definitely does not come easy. Which means that I notice that I fall back into some bad habits and back into depressive states. However, none of it truly exists. I feel happy with what I have – generally.
And one of the main reasons I fall back into a slump and into window gazing is Facebook.
Facebook and Twitter and Instagram all play a part in Dear Evan Hansen. And it plays an inordinate role in my life as well. I would stare at Facebook and Twitter on my phone – just waiting for a sign of assurance and satisfaction. It adds nothing positive to my life. I do not reconnect with people or stay in touch any better than before. Instead, I continue to watch through a window, hoping and wishing for satisfaction and to stop the tears. No one waves back at me there – and I should not be waiting.
I have people who are there for me now. I do make a sound when I crash. But it has nothing to do with the echo chamber of hollowness built into our phones and our computers. I feel no full connections there. Instead, I feel like I’m trying to appeal to about 250 people who may care about me but generally seem to like watching through their own windows.
And so I have decided to quit Facebook and most likely eventually Twitter (however, I get most of my news there). I understand all of the emotions put forward in Dear Evan Hansen. I understand the want to be accepted and to try to find anyway to do it. Like a good exit, I will wean myself off of it. My goal will be that by my birthday, I will have deleted the profile.
Where To Find Me
Here. I love to write and want to continue to write about my country and my life. But I want to fully examine it. I do not want to waste time looking at pictures and liking things. I don’t want to have to think about why no one commented on a picture or a post. No more grading myself by those standards that seem to completely infiltrate our world. No more looking at someone else’s life and wishing parts of it was mine.
I lost many great friends in high school. I felt abandoned in college until I met a select few people. Law school started and ended with much of the same. I walk through this world with vague visions of friendship based on a notion that I fundamentally disregard. Instead, I want to spend more time talking to the people who want more than a window view of me and my life. I don’t think I can only thank Dear Evan Hansen for this realization, but it has pushed me over the line.
And hopefully, I will get the chance to see Dear Evan Hansen sooner than later.
Let me know when you want to come see Dear Evan Hansen. We’ll have our new place in Connecticut in about a month. I can even promise Spider Man Eggo waffles, if that sweetens the deal.
You’ll be the first to know. It most likely won’t be until 2018, but here is hoping.
Dan, looking forward to seeing your blog. BTW Evan Hansen did really well at this year’s Tonys.
Thanks, Wally! It really did. Hopefully, we’ll all get to see it sometime!