I was at a party on Friday.
I was at a party on Friday for fourteen hours.
That’s a lot of hours to spend at a party. It affords you the time to talk to people, to get into conversations you might otherwise not have had. It’s more than enough time to get comfortable with the idea of introducing yourself to everybody there, because after three West Coast Coolers and every red and purple gummy frog from the jar I was hyped up on the kind of sugar high it takes days to come down from.
I’m hardcore, I know.
It was the best kind of party, bringing together a mix of people I’ve known for most of my life and just enough total strangers to make things interesting. Whenever I needed a breather I snuck into the kitchen to play with the dogs. At one point I asked a stranger if I could touch his hair (very soft). There was a gin bar at the back of the room which had transformed Good Friday into A Truly Great Friday, and a number of people were twirling and swaying in front of it to the sound of throwback tunes from the nineties.
At one point in the evening I took too long a break between sugary snacks and experienced an energy slump that led me straight to the couch, where I sat next to the guy who was aggressively controlling the Spotify playlist. He glanced at me out of the corner of his eye.
“Watch this,” he said.
Without warning, he switched the song. The brief pause in the music elicited howls of outrage from the dancers, and they all turned as one to glare accusingly. Then, as if by magic, the frowns of drunken disapproval dissolved as the opening strains of the hit classic Reach For The Stars started up. Hands were flung in the air and the twirling intensified as the group threw themselves into enthusiastic performances of interpretive dance.
The guy next to me chuckled. “I love that.”
Half a minute later he had scrolled down and stopped the music again. Heads swivelled in our direction. I considered moving seat to avoid the censure of the crowd. I settled for mouthing ‘it wasn’t me‘ and leaning away to avoid getting stabbed by a violently flung stiletto. Then Backstreet’s Back started up and the room erupted in a chorus of “EVERYBOOOOODAAAYYYYAYYYY!”
“Isn’t that great?” He muttered under his breath.
I could see the appeal. Each song elicited reactions from different people, and watching the animated responses to the musical cues was extremely gratifying. Some refused to dance to Destiny’s Child, while happily rapping every lyric to Smash Mouth. Others got rabid about Sugababes, while walking out in protest during Steps.
It was a polemic playlist, to say the least.
I sat back and enjoyed watching gin and tonics spill to the beat like miniature versions of the Bellagio fountains. Everyone had different songs they would respond to; everybody moved to a different beat. I guess that’s true in a larger sense, too. People are motivated by different things, and I couldn’t help thinking about this as I curled up on the couch next to this musical manipulator.
The other day, a reader pointed out that although my bio reads that I’m as confused as ever, I haven’t actually written about my confusion at all. I haven’t explained what it is that keeps me up at night, wide-eyed, wondering why I don’t have my manual explaining the fifteen easy steps to a rewarding adulthood.
The truth is, I don’t really know what I’m doing most of the time.
Part of it is work-related. Currently I ghostwrite articles for whoever will buy them, I transcribe interviews and dictations to keep my typing speed up, and I’m doing a postgrad diploma in digital marketing. When I speak to people who have always known what they wanted to do, and have stubbornly and single-mindedly pursued that goal, I feel like I’m missing something. I feel like a defective model that slipped past quality control, like I’ve been skipping past songs my entire life hoping to find the one tune that gets me moving, but so far I haven’t found it.
I need to find my metaphorical Smash Mouth’s All Star.
There are other things that keep me wrong-footed, searching for balance, but that is by far my biggest source of insecurity. I’m passable at a number of things, but don’t feel like I excel in anything in particular. Before it got truncated, the phrase used to be, “Jack of all trades and master of none is oftentimes better than master of one” … but I don’t think that really applies in this day and age, when you need a degree and five years of experience to even get an internship.
I wish I had a manual to tell me what I’m supposed to do. I wish I could buy a five-year plan off a shelf somewhere, or inject myself with a shot of ambition. I wish someone could look at my life and my experiences and my successes and failures and point at whatever it is I’m missing and tell me, “This. This is what you should do. This is what you would be great at. This is what would make you feel successful.”
I wish there was an amateur DJ with a song lined up that would get me going.