About a month ago, your mother had to bail on on a Switchfoot concert that her sister had bought us tickets to go see. Since your mom totally flaked out to spend the day singing at church, or feed the homeless, or some other angelic endeavor that makes me feel like gutter trash in comparison, I brought you along instead.
Four years old is young for a concert. I think my parents brought me along to a Kenny Loggins show when I was too young to grasp the importance of my first live music experience. That being said, you probably won’t remember this show either, despite the fact that your mind was visibly blown by the sights and sounds you experienced that night.
Interestingly, Switchfoot was the first concert I ever chose to go to. My reason for going was simple. It was summer in Sheridan, Wyoming, I was 14, and I had heard of them before. It was a small show, and I loved it. It was as close to a life-changing moment as I’ve had, I suppose. Or at least a “fangirl” moment. I bought all their albums and merchandise, went to every possible show I could, and even got to know the lead singer Jon Foreman a little bit. He was (is) a cool guy. He was good to me, and lent me a word of advice whenever he came through town. I imagined he did that for people everywhere, and I admired him for that. I made it a goal to not be someone who was attention-seeking or needy when he was around. I didn’t want to be baggage… I wanted to be known as a cool guy too. Like him.
Turns out I’m not very cool though, and I was (am) a tad needy. I think he sensed this when I saw him at a show back in 2001 (I AM OLD). He asked if I wanted to go for a walk. I said yes. Here’s a synopsis how our conversation went:
Jon: “What’s wrong?”
17 year-old me: “I’m not the person I think I’m supposed to be yet. When will that happen?”
Jon: “It probably won’t. And you probably don’t have a clear picture of that person yet anyway.”
17 year-old me: “Yeah.”
I said “Yeah,” but what I meant was “This conversation is probably the turning point and everything will be perfect from here on out, right?” I wasn’t really listening. When I think back on it though, I think I’m finally starting to understand what I couldn’t at the time- The epiphany is a myth.
As much as I want one of these letters to awake something in you and instantly change your life for the better, they won’t. Most people realize that a “moment of epiphany” more closely resembles steering a cruise ship than an instant transformation, but we still buy into the sexiness of the “light bulb.” Just a couple of years ago, I went to work for a company based on the story the founder told about having a moment of epiphany while watching the movie “The Social Network.” At some point, I realized that the story about how the company started was completely fabricated, but it sure did sound good, so I continued to use that story to repeatedly sell the idea to other people. It was a disingenuous process, and I regret it.
We all want to think that the fruits of our labor manifest like dollar signs on a scratchers ticket. They don’t. We have to err repeatedly, stay prepared, and sense opportunity. Some people seem to experience instant success or transformation, whether in personality, business or any other endeavor, but the truth is the effort behind the scenes created the illusion of the instant success.
I’m writing this letter to you in particular because you are my middle child, and I’m told there’s some type of stigma that comes along with that. Smart people told me it was true, so it must be. If your age and position in this family causes you to wonder who you are supposed to be, and when the proverbial light bulb will lead you to your personal purpose, I hope you’ll understand better than I did that waiting for an epiphany simply distracts you from putting one foot in front of the other, and letting your role work itself out.
I love you, and I hope you had fun at the show.