The Shakes

Until recently, I'd always been a "comfort zone" kind of person. I stuck to my routine and had every minute planned and enjoyed going to the same restaurants and ordering the same thing. I lived a pretty structured life and I liked it that way; I liked feeling in control, knowing what to expect.

I owned a beautiful condo in North Boulder, and it was a running joke among my friends that I never went to South Boulder - I literally didn't leave my geographical comfort zone. I had just started listing my place on Airbnb to make a little extra cash while I was away when a lovely woman named Page requested to stay there for the weekend. The only problem being that I didn’t have any plans to travel that weekend - I had simply forgotten to update my Airbnb calendar.

My initial thought was to politely decline Page's request, apologizing for the oversight in my calendar. But something in me said, "fuck it," and I decided to take Page’s request as a reason to go somewhere. I took the Friday off of work and planned a ski weekend with a friend. He had a mountain house we could stay at, and he also had an extra ticket to the Alabama Shakes show that Saturday night. After two glorious days of skiing, we headed back to Denver to go to the show.

I entered the small venue as a medium-level fan of the Alabama Shakes; I knew their songs well enough to sing along and was psyched to snag a ticket to this sold-out show. Dave and I took a standing spot a few feet away from the stage - which I never did at shows, I liked being in the back and having lots of space. Brittany (the lead singer and all-around badass chica) BELTED out the lyrics while hovering just above our heads. The energy of the place was palpable and the emotion behind Brittany’s voice reverberated throughout the tiny venue.

I was officially living outside my comfort zone that weekend, and for that night all my self-consciousness melted away. I remember pounding my feet to the rhythm, shaking my head and letting my hair fly everywhere. I screamed the lyrics that I knew and hummed to the ones that I didn’t. I watched Brittany in awe; I’d never experienced a concert like this before. I hadn’t taken any drugs, but felt like I was on something. I was high, I was out of my body - or maybe I was finally IN my body? I was not thinking about anything outside of that space and that time. I wore my snow boots, jeans, and a loose-fitting striped t-shirt I’d recently bought at Target. I remember it so clearly because for one of the first times ever, I felt amazing in my own body. I felt carefree, sexy, fun, confident...

After the show we grabbed a nightcap, totally blown away by the experience we’d just shared. As we sat there nearly speechless I remember comparing the experience to a night of fantastic sex: it was extremely satisfying and utterly exhausting and all a little blurry in retrospect. I was beside myself, mind-blown; I felt "full" in some way, and I needed more of whatever that was.

Upon returning home the next day, I immediately looked up the Alabama Shakes’ tour dates for more opportunities to get this feeling. I followed them to a festival in Napa – an event I would typically never have considered going to, but I visited some friends in Cali, had a new experience, and fell in love with even more bands upon seeing them live (um, Black Keys, anyone?). I saw the Shakes back in Colorado again, when they came to the phenomenal venue that is Red Rocks, but I still wanted more…

And then I saw it in their tour dates: they were playing on my birthday, at a festival that some friends of mine were already going to, in a place that I was already considering visiting – it had just been a matter of when to go. Because in this case, going meant kicking off something much bigger.

So clearly my birthday had to be the kickoff; I bought a ticket to the festival, and one-way airfare to Belgium.

All this while I’d been plotting a big change in my life – a move across the country, punctuated with a trip through Europe.  Kicking off the Big Trip with a music festival in Belgium with friends seemed like a great place to start, and a great way to celebrate my birthday. Not a big festival-goer to begin with, a European music fest put me well outside my comfort zone once again.

I had made some Belgian friends while roadtripping California the previous summer (yet another jaunt outside my comfort zone), and I was lucky to share their hookup to a great camping setup: tents and sleeping bags and even a real shower and kitchen outside the grounds. Again I discovered new bands and sounds and feelings while there. I made new friends and got closer to the ones I already had. I met a guy who was unfazed by my angry resting face; he broke through my walls and made me laugh with his shenanigans. He forced me to dance to even the least dance-able songs. He got me to stand incredibly close to the stage and forget I was in a giant crowd of people. He kissed me under fireworks on my birthday, and continued to woo me as we toured the small country of Belgium together after the festival. We spent the next year meeting up in different cities across Europe and the U.S., all the while him making me smile and giving me something to lean on during one of the most tumultuous years of my life.

All because a woman named Page requested to rent my condo.

All because I decided to ditch my plans (or lack thereof) and accept Page’s request.

All because my buddy had an extra ticket to an Alabama Shakes show.

All because I got a taste for something, and I needed more.

I don't chase that feeling anymore, because I know where to find it. It lies just beyond my comfort zone; it's beyond what I think I'm capable of, beyond that line that separates my reality from my dreams, my what-if's. I don't chase that feeling, but I do say yes to things that scare me - the things that I always say I want to do but get a little uncomfortable about actually doing them. Those things it would be a little easier to just say "no" or "later" to.

You know those things.

I've learned that it's not about a certain band, or a place, or a person. It's about finding those glimpses of me being ME, so utterly and truly and without self-consciousness; those moments when I surprise even myself with who I'm capable of being.

I'll never re-create that pivotal night in a small venue in Denver - before the Alabama Shakes got huge and before my entire life was changed by my trip through Europe.  But I do still make it a point to see the Shakes whenever I can - to stomp my feet and shake my head and sing along to what became the soundtrack of my adventures.

See you in Austin, Brittany.


Where can you loosen up your routine and step outside your comfort zone? What opportunities can you say yes to, even if they're not according to plan? Share in the comments below!

If you think you’re ready to get out of your comfort zone but want a little guidance and support along the way, set up a call to see how working together can help you build the confidence you need and clarify your next steps for moving forward.

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