Searching For A Heart Of Gold

January 18th, 2006

In twenty-four hours, I’ll be at 33,000 feet.

I’m flying to Salt Lake City, then driving to Park City, to attend the Sundance Film Festival. And I’m kinda nervous.

It’s not so much that I’m nervous about flying. I am. But that’s the price of entry. If the plane goes down, my brother knows what to do (release every song I ever recorded as a massive box set, and use my life insurance money for publicity).

And it’s not so much that I’m nervous about interviewing Neil Young, or Jonathan Demme, or Stewart Copeland. I am. But that’s part of my job. And it’s a controlled situation. They know they’re doing press. They know it’s kind of a drag. Any intelligence I bring to the conversation will be a bonus.

I’m nervous about all the strange people. I’m nervous about being the doofus in the corner.

Last night, a friend of mine told me, “Inclusion and participation are not the same thing.” In other words, one cannot claim that they are being left out, or worse, ostracized, if one is not putting one’s self forth.

I immediately thought of high school. I always felt left out. But maybe I wasn’t participating, maybe I wasn’t engaging because, of course, I was nervous. So it was a dreadful loop. ‘Maybe they won’t like me,’ I thought. ‘So I just won’t bother.’ And eventually, they don’t bother either (or at least it felt that way).

It occurs to me now that being a performer somehow creates a buffer against those feeling of exclusion. By standing on stage, or walking a red carpet, one is automatically excluding one’s self. There is a safe distance between the performer and the audience, the song and the ear, the star and the lens. I’ve used that distance to protect myself, somehow, from uncomfortable situations.

Last year’s Sundance felt a little like high school, and I wasn’t the homecoming king. Heck, I wasn’t even in the homecoming court. At best, I was just another guy at the dance. And — to extend the metaphor too far — my tux didn’t quite fit.

So, here I go again. What’s the difference? What do I know now that I didn’t know then?

I am meant to shine. And, for the first time in my life, I think I’m beginning to see how.