Reflections on the 20th Anniversary of 1997

It's the first day of 2018 and, because of whatever that thing is with human nature, I'm excited for a fresh start. I have every reason to believe this year will be great. I'm sitting in the Portland airport on my way home from an incredible NYE celebration and fitting close to MY 2017. It's late--my connection is the last flight out of this terminal. I managed to enjoy a beer and get a quick food order in four minutes before the kitchen closed in one of the only restaurants still open in PDX. The gate agent for my flight is hilariously misusing the PA system. He has sort of just left it on while he talks to coworkers, greeting one who passes by, "Hi, Marla, I like your new hairstyle. Hey everyone, Marla has new hair, doesn't it look nice?" He then introduces our capable ticketing agent, Clay, a young man who, he tells us, has been on the job for thirty years and has just reached level 300 of Pokemon Go. 

I board the plane early because I've paid just a $19 fee for the premium section between first class and coach. This will get me four extra inches of legroom and unlimited wine. I can't believe my good luck that there is no one seated next to me, but I struggle to get comfortable because I'm unsure if I should be capitalizing on the found space beside me or the four inches I purchased in front of me. I compromise by positioning the bottom of my left foot against the inside of my right thigh so my left knee protrudes into the vacant seat next to me and I stretch my right leg all the way out to bask in all my premium class glory. Even fully extended, my right leg barely touches the floor beneath the first class seat in front of me. I think the airline arranged the first row of the premium section to still be far enough back as to not disturb the first class elite. This is confirmed when I need to retrieve something from my backpack under the seat in front of me and I have to fully fold myself in half and strain to reach it. OK, sorry, now I'm just gloating. 

As we take off, I look down to the lights below. Oh, did I mention it's a window seat? Yeah. The ground beneath me twinkles and, even though I know this is the result of reflections because of some dream-crushing science I encountered at a young age, I still imagine that I am watching  the result hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of people turning on and off their lights and that I'm only privy to this phenomenon because of my perspective from the sky above. 

Unofficial statistics show that many of these people turning on and off their lights are happy 2017 is over. On a global scale, 2017 was a nightmare. If you examine the right things, humanity was struck with a major blow. We got a new president who is just icky. And I am staying far away from politics with this statement. This is not a statement against Republicans or for Democrats. I am strictly talking about the human (well, maybe) who is leading this country and was elected to do so because I guess some people were impressed with the fact that "he tells it like it is." I don't know when this became a winning attribute of a world leader. The news tells it like it is (with some inevitable slant). People on social media tell it like it is (from their perspective or limited worldview). A Nazi during WWII who said "we're trying to wipe out an entire race of people" was telling it like it is. Do we need a leader to "tell it like it is" or do we need a leader with a vision of how to improve humanity and a plan to get there?

I know there will still be people who want to make this about policy and party, but this a comment about a person. A person who says and believes dangerous things about women and other marginalized people. 

In 2017, we learned about the harmful effects of “locker room talk” and all the men who do not treat women as fellow humans who deserve dignity, respect, and control of their own bodies. Then we heard all these women must be lying. Then we heard that only certain acts were worthy of being called a sexual assault or harassment (and surely locker room talk doesn't qualify) and that anyone who felt victimized by anything less was too weak or too delicate. Men who have never or would never commit a vile act like the many that have been reported find themselves unable to believe the rampant nature of these crimes, and in effect, some of these good men perpetuate the problem! 

Here is what I know: I can't talk to a group of other women without finding a majority who have experienced some form of sexual violation. This is a problem. Just because it didn't happen to you, doesn't mean it doesn't happen to anyone. Empathy, please. 

Twenty years ago, I survived three acts of sexual assault (acts that are on the law books in every state in the nation, in case you were concerned that I was "overreacting") by five different men (yes, that means what you think it means) who were all capable of committing these acts. And for the record, I don't think they were all terrible people. I can't say with any certainty because they are all far in my past, but I don't believe they are all going around violently raping women or whipping their dicks out at work. I think they were young men living in a time when we weren't actively talking about consent and when women did come forward and report rape or stand up for their right to say no to sexual advances they were harassed and bullied and told they were "asking for it." Which is still all too familiar. I think #MeToo and #TimesUp are moving us in the right direction. When we talk about the encounters that have violated our dignity, damaged our psyche, or made us feel unsafe, we remove the stigma and take away the undeserved confidence of men who may think they can get away with something because we'll be too embarrassed or ashamed to hold them accountable. 

Other things that sucked about 2017:

  • Devastating fires, hurricanes and other natural disasters
  • Mass Shootings
  • Terror attacks, ethnic cleansing, and war
  • Political Scandal at home and abroad
  • Talented performers died

Unfortunately, 2017 didn't own any of those tragedies exclusively. 

And while I would never suggest these events should be ignored, I highly recommend that we seek the positive wherever and whenever we can. Stand up for something you believe or that you are passionate about, do some small part, or make some change to better the world. 

Be good, do good, and then live your damn life. 

I lived so fucking hard in 2017. And I cherished every minute of it. 

For me, 2017 was a chance to recollect, revisit and, in some ways, redo 1997.

I was 13-14 in 1997 and it was just a really insane year, not the least of which was due to the accounts referenced above. I was rebelling and making my parents' life hell and only very briefly pausing to be a normal adolescent who discovered her favorite band.

In 2017, that band, Third Eye Blind, went on tour to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their self-titled debut album. I soaked up the nostalgia as my social media feeds were overrun with the lyrics from the songs on that record. I learned they would play, in its entirety, the album that has been the soundtrack to the last 20 years of my life. I had to go. I checked the dates, but they weren't coming to Boise. Since I managed to turn out alright, despite 1997, I had the means to travel to see them, so I booked the last show of the tour which was at UC Berkeley's Greek Theatre. I knew how special it would be to see them that last night, at home in the Bay Area, at lead singer Stephan Jenkins's alma mater. 

 

Before the time even came to head down to California to visit family and see the Berkeley show, Third Eye Blind announced another show--not on the tour, but a paycheck show--at the Oregon State Fair the same weekend I would be traveling to Oregon for a wedding, so I bought tickets for that too. (I also paid double for my tickets because ticket resellers are pieces of shit, but that is a topic for another day)

And the weekend before I saw them in Oregon, they announced another leg of the 20th-anniversary tour! They wouldn't be doing the whole album this time, but they would be coming to Boise. I bought tickets within an hour of the pre-sale opening. Still, it didn't seem like enough, so I went to a show in Salt Lake City the weekend before they would be coming to Boise. I drove down there alone in my car, and for five hours, I sang the entire 3EB catalog at the top of my lungs.

At the beginning of 2017, I didn't imagine I would inadvertently find myself following this band around. But find myself I did. I also found the courage to tell my story, through the lens of their self-titled debut album over at Memoir Mixtapes and actually publish my writing for human consumption for their first time in nearly four years. 

Aaaaaand then Third Eye Blind announced the New Year's shows. Traveling to Los Angeles for a New Year's Eve concert was now the most obvious way to close out 2017--the 20th anniversary of a band, an album, and songs that carried me through the ups and downs of 1997 and every year since. I purchased a single ticket, knowing that as much as I love my husband, friends, and family, this was an experience I needed to share with other fans.

I'd walk with my people if I could find them. So I went looking. 

Right after I landed at LAX, I was invited to the home of a fan who runs an online fan community and project. I worried that I had gone a little overboard in reassuring her I wasn't a creep or murderer (because, you know, that's what creepy murderers say), but apparently I hadn't skeeved her out too badly because from the moment I climbed out of my rental car in her driveway and she introduced me to another traveling fan, I had two new soul mates. We went to a pizza joint around the corner and told our Third Eye Blind stories over huge slices of greasy pizza. 

Third Eye Blind New Year's Eve Santa Ana

On New Year's Eve, for five hours before doors, we hung out in the venue parking lot. We sat in the sunshine and listened to soundcheck from outside the doors. I opened up all the doors and the trunk of my rental and played Dopamine at full volume which was appreciated by everyone. I let go of all my inhibitions and sang at the top of my lungs to everyone there, "THERE'S SOMETHING IN YOU I BELIEVE IN!!!"
  
In the past 48 hours, I have met a dozen people who think of the same lyrics I do during the best and worst times, who know all the words and sing along with me to even the most obscure B-sides, who will protect your spot on the rails if you have to get a drink or use the restroom, who believe in the gathering power of music and know no strangers at shows. It actually still doesn't feel real. Remember in the days and weeks following major life milestones, like your first kiss, or losing your virginity, or getting married, when you had those moments where you suddenly remembered that you were no longer exactly the same person you were all the years before? That is the only thing I can compare it to. For 20 years I've never known anyone else in real life who was as moved, as changed, as dedicated to the music of Third Eye Blind as I have been, but now I do and I will never be quite the same. 

Before wrap up this incredibly long and messy--whatever this is--it wouldn't feel right to not mention a few other things that saved my 2017.

Other things that were amazing in 2017:

Lindsey Hileman