[Photos by: John Floreani]
The same way we sat as children staring at the playground from inside the classroom while Mrs. Maxwell droned on about trigonometry or something else mathy, we now look for any available reason to ignore what’s in front of us in hopes it will bring us a little closer to where we’d rather be. Some people call it FOMO (fear of missing out). Or as Jeremy Bolm of Touché Amoré describes it, “I have this problem where I want to be everywhere I’m not.” We may all be guilty of wondering if the grass is greener on the other side, but what happens when it isn’t? And what are we missing out on while we fantasize about being somewhere else?
My day began in the cubicle of a portable toilet, hidden in the VIP section of the Australian Open. For those of you who aren't tennis fanatics (however few of you there may be) the Australian Open is a tennis tournament held in the city of Melbourne on the South Coast of Australia. It was a typical Melbourne summer day outside: overcast and humid with sparse showers of rain and a harsh glare. The rest of Trophy Eyes and I had just driven overnight in a rented van to perform at the Australian Open with Jimmy Eat World. I was busy avoiding contact with any of the surfaces surrounding me when a tiny dilemma caught my eye from the floor: a beetle fighting for its life as it laid upside-down in a puddle of unmentionable liquid. Any other day I might have ignored the screaming metaphor for my life, but at this particular time I couldn't help but empathize with the beetle and its uphill battle against gravity and the elements. After some time staring at this unlucky bug, I decided to help.
Reluctant as anyone might be to touch an insect writhing in a puddle on a toilet floor, I edged closer. My face squinched and my arm outstretched until finally, with thumb and forefinger, I plucked the beetle from the wet. His hairy little legs latched onto my finger and, in pure and unhinged terror, I screamed, flinging the beetle from my hand and sending it sailing through the air, directly into the toilet bowl. Peering over the rim, I spied the beetle again, still floating on his back and still struggling. At this point, I couldn't help but compare my life.
Cue chimes and wavy flashback effect…
Amsterdam 2015: A game of pool ensued between As It Is, Trash Boat and Trophy Eyes in a poorly lit bar at the back of the venue. A jolly, rosy-cheeked Dutchman, choking on the words “drink as much as you like,” sat in disbelief as 15 disorderly foreign companions ravaged his bar. Even though there was a wealth of joy and happiness fulminating around me, I couldn't help but think of a wedding I was missing back at home, at which I was supposed to be the best man. The whole point of a wedding is that there won’t be two, but somehow it slipped my mind that there might also be an important moment happening right there in front of me. Celebrating the last night of our first European tour, the bands enjoyed each other’s company one last time before we went our separate ways. Everyone, that is, except me. Not until the flight home did it hit me: While desperately wanting to be somewhere else, I’d missed something very special in its own sense. When would I be in Europe again? When would I meet another group of people like the lifelong friends I’d just made? Only a few months prior, leaving the state I was born in seemed like a daydream. I’d be hard-pressed today to find a more defining moment in my musical career, and such a stepping stone in the hopes and aspirations of 15-year-old me; yet here I was on the other side of the globe, fulfilling my dreams of being a touring musician and desperately trying to squeeze my body through the speaker of my phone in hopes I might magically appear at a wedding that would have happened with or without me.
Such a large part of being a touring musician is watching your life carry on without you. It’s not unusual to see someone you’re on the road with clinging to their phone, pacing circles into the pavement of a Wal-Mart parking lot and wishing they might catch a glimpse of what’s happening at home. The thoughts of a clean bed and a real night’s sleep are the dangerous kind to have when you’re the furthest you’ve ever been from something familiar. The smell of mum’s cooking, the way the washing machine clunks or even that stupid bird that chose your windowsill for it’s excruciatingly loud morning caw—things you wouldn’t believe possible to miss become the very things you can’t wait to get back to. And yet it never crosses our minds that we might be living someone else’s dream. Those on the opposite side of our home styled fantasy are probably clawing at their 9-to-5 office desk to the idea of gloomy backstage rooms and the late-night roadside pancakes you dread so much. We are escape artists in a true sense—overlooking our own personal achievements and well-being for the chance of the grass actually being greener on the other side—forgetting in the process that it’s all just grass. Frantically packing Moose Blood’s bus amid a blizzard in New York or being home to see your girlfriend graduate college sound like they might place on opposite ends of the “Places I’d Like to Be’’ spectrum, but when I look back at both of those moments, I can honestly say I wouldn’t trade them for all of the clunking washing machines in the world. Seeing Bianca rewarded for her years of hard work and dedication and sitting in a bus with frozen toes, warm smiles and the overwhelming feeling of friendship feel quite the same when remembered. The moment you’re in has its very own qualities that are unique to that situation, and that is something you cannot experience when you’re busy wishing you were somewhere you’re not.
Back to the very same hot and gloomy Melbourne day, Trophy Eyes take the stage at the Australian Open. The clouds disappear and we perform in the sunshine with a perfect view of Melbourne city. I couldn't help but let my mind travel there while I played, imagining the city sounds, the smell of Melbourne coffee, and the buskers in Melbourne’s many hidden alleys. Not long after our set we were informed that, at the foot of Melbourne city, a man drove his car through Bourke Street Mall and took the lives of four innocent people. I felt ashamed for wanting more when I was so terribly lucky to be where I was. I've been told how many people would love to be in my shoes, but only then could I fully grasp that notion.
Peculiarly enough, my day ended late at night in another public bathroom. This time I was in a McDonald's restroom on our way home, somewhere between Melbourne and Sydney. The wallpaper in the cubicle was that of a wooded landscape designed, I imagine, to transport the patron out of the aesthetic of a public toilet and to somewhere much more tranquil and comfortable. Before today, I'd have taken full advantage of that clever wallpaper, but things were a little different now. Today I realized that, maybe, I'd rather be right here.
As for the beetle, I rescued it from the toilet bowl (much to my despair) and set it free on the roll of toilet paper in the very same cubicle, on which I believe he still resides.