Sweat licks down your skin as the sun’s rays relentlessly beat down on you. You’re surrounded by thousands of your unknown friends and by the end of the day, you leave sore, sticky, sweaty, bloody, bruised and in a state of euphoria that I feel is only found in one place, one enivornment: Vans Warped Tour. For you ladies and gents left in the dark, VWT travels across America during the summer, braving and conquering the heat to provide bands both old and new, both known and still attached to their roots, a chance to live out their dreams and play music; a chance for fans to see bands only heard through their stereos and headphones live, with the possibility of meeting the geniuses behind the lyrics that so many are inspired by. A chance to buy the sickest merch in order to publically represent the musicians who live to inspire, to create, and to play. I proudly jump on this bandwagon, as I attended my 4th Warped Tour this year. But for me, Warped is so much more than just a chance to listen, meet and greet and spend the money from my ever-dwindling bank account. For me, Warped is an escape. Warped is relaxation. Warped is expression. Warped is freedom.
Upon first reading that claim, I’m sure a few of you scoffed and some may have become perplexed. I mean, it’s just a concert, right? How can a day spend outdoors in 100-degree weather for ten hours getting burnt, sore and possibly bruised/bloodied be an environment for a person to be free and escape? Doesn’t quite sound like a perfect R&R paradise, but lemme explain before you continue to express disbelief. Lemme define what I mean. When I say that Warped is an escape, I mean it is an escape from reality, an escape from expectations, an escape from judgement. Simply, it is an escape from life. I’m ’bout to be a sophomore in college, attending an University that is not exactly cheap but I worked hard to get into, yet because of financial stresses, I am struggling to stay in. I’m trying my best to pay for it on my own in order not to burden my parents, but it doesn’t always work out that way. Money — or lack thereof — has always been a huge stress for me. It’s constantly on my mind. Then, of course drama always lingers in everyone’s life. Whether it is pointless fights between friends, spats with your siblings or disagreements with your parents, I feel like everyone can relate to some form of drama popping up unwanted in their lives. But those are just some things I know occur in my life on a more personal level. Then, looking on a broader scale, stress throws itself at me in so many ways. Trying to get from Point A to Point B without a car of my own. Struggling with self-image, caused both from the society’s distorted image on what defines beauty and the desire to live a healthier lifestyle in America; a place where, somehow, fast food conquers while skinny jeans are the latest fad. Trying to find yourself and be that person without worrying about what everyone else thinks. That is a huge one that I struggle with, because despite not wanting to, I worry about what others think of me. Especially because I am not easily labeled in an environment where everything has a label and a place. I am a devout daughter of Christ who cringes when His name is used in vain yet I have a huge cussing problem. I have two tattoos (hopefully three soon) and four piercings. I adore and thrive to screamo music yet live the straight-edge lifestyle (no alcohol, no drugs, period). Let’s just suffice it to say that sometimes people see me as a walking contradiction. Some people look at the ink stained on my skin and wonder how I can be wearing a cross around my neck at the same time. Some people become baffled as I blare a song complete with screams, bass drops and guitar riffs yet all I do in my spare time is read fantasy novels and write. And I am judged for all these things. And I let that get to me, even though it shouldn’t. Every single day.
So, let’s look at the ingredients my reality is mixed with: Pile on the expectations of being a stand-up daughter, an admired sister, a loyal friend, a 4.0 student desperate for scholarships. Add in the fear of not living up to these expectations, fear of failure, fear of disappointment. Pound in the judging eyes of peers and the constant inner-battle between apathy and concern towards those opinions. Throw in the relentless focus on money, self-image, school, and relationships. Mix it all together thoroughly and put it in the oven 24/7 for 365 days a year until boiling point. If spills, then start over.
Now, just lemme clarify that I did not mean for this to be a soup-box post, a post meant to invoke pity. Because it is definitely NOT. I definitely realize and recognize that a LOT of people deal with a lot more than I do. And I seriously love my life and the people and opportunities within it. I am seriously blessed. I just wanted to paint a picture on what I personally deal with, so that maybe when I claim that a screamo concert is my venue to escape, it may become a bit more believable. Because once those doors open, every single ingredient I just listed disappears, drifting away from my consciousness for the next ten hours, leaving me in a state of ecstasy and bliss. I don’t worry about spending twenty bucks on an awesome tank, because I know I’m supporting a band that I care about and will prolly get to have them sign it later; creating a memorable momento to keep for the rest of my life. I don’t worry about what anyone thinks, because in all honestly, no one really cares. Everyone is there for one, united purpose — rock out to the music that connects us, that brought us all together in the first place. It is the one environment that I don’t have to strive for perfection, don’t have to worry about failure, don’t think about what I look like or what others think about me. I don’t let the stress of reality in, because I’m too busy letting everything out: screaming along to the lyrics I’ve had memorized for years, finally crossing off meeting that band off my bucket list, jumping up and down to the beat of the bass, moshing amongst the closest strangers I’ll ever meet. It is the best and ultimate place to escape life, simply by living.
I wrote this not just to let people know how amazing and how freeing Warped Tour is (seriuosly people, if you haven’t gone, you are missing out!) but to express the necessity of having that place or event that allows you to escape. Life is such a blessing, such an opportunity for every person who is given the chance to live it. But it comes with hardships and stress, which can sometimes be overwhelming. If you don’t find a healthy way to escape it — even if only for an hour or two — then you will go beyond the breaking point. You will let your emotions boil over, burn in that oven until you shatter. Not only does it hurt, but then you have to pick up all the pieces and start again in the same place you were when you cracked. Whether it is by reading a book, journaling, watching a movie, hanging out with friends, or listening to someone scream into a mircophone, find that outlet. I promise you, even if it happens only once every blue moon, you will feel better and you will find the strength to overcome any obstacle, any stress that weighs against your mind and heart. You will feel renewed and ready to take on the world. Because you are strong enough to take on the world. Sometimes you just need a break to remind yourself that you are. So find that escape, something that you enjoy and will look forward to. Escape to live. Live by escaping.
“What are you so scared of? Judgements not unfair, it’s what we’ve learned to see. And what are you afraid of? This is not unheard of, nothing’s how it wasn’t always meant to be. Always meant to be.” — Lyrics to “What are you so Scared of?” by Tonight Alive