December 13, 2013

Being in the Moment: Lessons Learned from an 80’s Rock Band.

In high school I was a closeted Bon Jovi fan.

This fact may sound ridiculous, but it would have been difficult to maintain my status among the new wavers and the National Honor Society types, if I had been vocal about my adoration for the Jersey rockers.

The “bad girl” clique were the ones who carried the Jovi torch at my high school just outside of Philadelphia.

So, in the 80s, at the height of their popularity—and hairstyles—the Bon Jovi train passed me by while I was busy camping out overnight for Duran Duran tickets and shopping for a Beat It jacket.

Fast forward to the late 90s when, by accident, I caught Bon Jovi: Behind the Music on VH1.

I immediately stopped what I was doing, got comfortable and caught up on the last 10 years of band news. From that day forward I was a proud—and vocal—Jovi fan. There were no cliques to get into or to be kicked out of, so I was free—finally.

I joined the Bon Jovi fan club.

I regularly attended concerts and fan club events in the corridor between New York and Washington DC. And when Jon Bon Jovi rolled out an arena football team in Philadelphia, I was there, even though I didn’t know the first thing about arena football.

Then, in 2007, I moved to Denver.

Denver is a long way away from New Jersey in both distance and attitude.

I started coordinating my visits home with Jovi shows. This made it seem like there was a party in my honor every time I flew back to Philadelphia. Year after year I’ve done this and this year was no different.

In early November, I returned to Philadelphia with fifth row Jovi tickets—and a sprained ankle.

A serious foot injury is not something to take to a live show especially when the arena is filled with hardcore South Philly fans.

I took a couple of safety precautions. First, I brought my cane with me to take the weight off my ankle during the three-hour show. Then, I asked to be escorted—via elevator—to my floor seats. And finally, I left the photography to my friend and fellow Jovi fan club member, Hollie.

It had been years since I’d attended a concert from the first 10 or even 20 rows without a camera stuffed into my purse. However, this time, I didn’t have the balance or coordination to deal with a camera, a cane and a swollen ankle.

So, because I wasn’t competing with rows and rows of fans with electronics held high in an attempt to get the perfect shot, something unusual happened.

I watched the show. Now, this may seem odd since I’ve attended many shows for many years.

What I’m saying is that I really watched the show—with my eyes—as opposed to seeing it through a camera’s viewfinder.

I’ll admit that once during the show I pulled out my iPhone for a quick shot. And there was Jon Bon Jovi singing a beautiful ballad a few feet in front of me, while I juggled my purse, my cane and my iPhone. I realized I was ruining the moment and shoved the phone back in my purse.

When did photos, videos and social media check-ins replace memories?

Maybe this question is too extreme. I’ve always—even back in the 80s—taken photographs while traveling. But, when did we begin to feel the need to take hundreds of photos of the same rock star in one night?

Or, perhaps a better question is when did we start feeling the need to photograph our dinners and then post those photos on Facebook? When did a pot of tea become Instagram-able? When did those Twitter pics of our cats become a daily routine?

I’m not sure. I only know that I spend a lot of time Facebooking, Tweeting, and Instagraming—at home and on the road because I always have my camera phone with me.

How could I possibly keep up with tweets and likes and text messages if I left my phone behind?

So maybe I should be thankful for my sprained ankle that forced me to sideline my electronics and watch the show. Maybe I should leave my phone at home one day while I go to the park to observe the leaves changing color.

Perhaps I can even describe my floral pot of tea that included real flowers in a face-to-face conversation.

But then I read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. The book chronicles the 12-month period the author spent changing her life with the goal of being—well—happier.

In April, Rubin focused on lightening up and becoming a treasure house for happy memories while also taking time for projects. In May, Rubin addressed the serious business of play and spent the month finding more fun and starting a collection for that purpose.

Then, it dawned on me that I have a collection; one that is a accumulation of Bon Jovi concert photos, ticket stubs and memorabilia. One of the projects I take time for is creating collages and scrapbooks of these items.

When I finish a new collage or scrapbook I’ve ultimately made a home for happy memories—my happy memories of my Bon Jovi fandom over the years.

I began feeling justified in my addiction to electronics as a vehicle for happy memories.

Even Facebook itself showcases a collection of photo albums that highlight my adventures from the last five years: concerts, travels, comedy performances and my wedding.

As I scanned my home office to appreciate the paper collages and scrapbooks on display, my eyes focused on the November issue of National Geographic Traveler and my smile faded. In an article titled “Queen of the Jungle,” wildlife conservationist and National Geographic Emerging Explorer, Krithi Karanth, comments on the behavior of wildlife tourists.

She observes that so many of them forget to actually watch the wildlife and live the experience because they are busy obsessing over taking the perfect photograph. Visions of my African safari popped into my head. Was I one of those preoccupied tourists?

So what is the right thing to do when trying to have an experience while also trying to capture a memory?

I took a walk around the lake today.

Afterwards, I opened Instagram to capture the view I enjoyed of the ice floating on the lake. Then I posted it to Facebook, and Twitter and Tumblr.

Was I wrong in wanting to share this amazing image of a beautiful fall day at Evergreen Lake in Colorado?

Maybe the answer is that we shouldn’t capture happy memories at the expense of missing the experience. After all, is it really a happy memory if all we’ve done is worry about snapping the perfect photo?

I’m still thinking about this contradiction. And, I’m looking forward to discussing the dilemma—in person—with friends over the holidays. But first, I’m anxious to check out the Bon Jovi photos Hollie took at the show; they should be posted on Facebook by now.

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Assistant Editor: Jes Wright/Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo Credit: Hollie Havens

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