I used to have a list a mile long of things that I swore I would never do. It included things like eating Brussels sprouts, riding rollercoasters, talking to cute people, and skydiving. I don’t know if I ever stated so explicitly, but going to a concert by myself would definitely have been on that list. Context: I used to be so shy that I could barely manage to place my own order in a McDonald’s, and I have never done well in situations involving large groups. So going to a concert by myself? Yeah, that pretty much sounds like a recipe for actual disaster. The issue was this: when you’re new to a city and your favorite band is touring through, what do you do?
You get a ticket.
Then, if you’re anything like me, you panic.
The thought of forcing myself to go to this show filled me with a wild surge of adrenaline every time I spotted the ticket in my desk drawer, and I couldn’t tell if it was the good kind of adrenaline or just my anxiety in disguise. My indecision didn’t stop the date from quickly drawing closer and closer. Before I knew it, the day had come, and I was dressed in my current favorite outfit, and I was walking through downtown Portland by myself. It was already dark out, and I didn’t want anyone sketchy talking to me, so I was blaring music through my headphones that made me feel like much more of a badass than I actually am (Halsey’s Badlands, if you’re curious) while I walked to the venue. I kept them on for the first few minutes that I stood in line too, but then something occurred to me.
If I keep these on the whole time, then nothing interesting is going to happen.
Leaving those headphones on was a signal to everyone around me. I was closing myself off to any potential things that the night had to offer, and I would likely miss out on a really good story. So I took them off. Not five minutes after I zipped them back up in my bag, did my good story actually start.
A boy—we’ll call him A, for privacy—came up and asked if I was in line for the show. I said yes, though a few minutes later we found out that I was actually in the wrong line and quickly relocated to the correct one. We talked a little bit about the bands we were there to see, along with other shows we were interested in going to, and it turned out that we had a really similar taste in music. After we had talked for a while longer, he told me that he’d just moved to Portland from Puerto Rico about four months ago. The more he told me about that, the more I realized that we each left home for similar reasons. Our conversation turned toward faded friendships, static hometowns, and family dynamics. Even though it was cold out, I was almost disappointed when the line finally started shuffling inside. I thought that would surely be the end of it, but we actually ended up hanging out for the rest of the show.
I’ve met up with him twice more since that night, and I’m pretty confident that we’ll stay friends, and that’s still surprising to me. Before that night, I had never made a friend in that context before, it had always been through school or through other friends. It felt distinctly different, but it also felt really good. It’s possible that I might have missed out on that entirely by not doing something as simple as taking my headphones off.