(Wednesday afternoon. Two girls sit at their desks, avenues and offices apart. They strike up their usual conversation over AIM.)
Friend: “Do you have a minute to play arm-chair psychologist?”
Friend: “I want to know why every time I watch Friday Night Lights, I cry.”
Me: “Probably because it touches you somehow. I cried the first time I saw Almost Famous and that movie ain’t sad. And then I became obsessed with working for Rolling Stone.”
(Conversation moves on to people and things we hate.)
How many people do you know chose their careers based on a movie? Seriously.
Up until junior year of high school I dreamt of becoming a lawyer. My mom would actually take me to courthouses just because I wanted to know what they were like inside. Then a few debate club losses later (among some other teenage disappointments), I gave up on that dream. In the midst of all the typical teenage drama, I discovered music. Not just any music–classic rock, my friends. Zeppelin, Dylan, Joni, the Stones, Greatful Dead, and most importantly, Fleetwood Mac. I honestly cannot say why or how lead singer, Ms. Stevie Nicks, reached me at the age of 16 (“Edge of 17” maybe?), but the bitch moved in and still won’t leave.
In my quest to learn everything possible about these bands that I loved from a time before I was born, I spent hours on the computer doing research. While the rest of my friends studied for AP classes and went to basement keggers, I sought out unreleased albums, out-of-print books and old articles. On one of these nights, I discovered a Rolling Stone article written by Tim White titled “Out There with Stevie Nicks.” It was the best piece of writing I’d come across in my life. I actually looked at the byline, something I never did. And then it all kind of came together. I wanted to go to there. I realized that yes, I had been in debate club, but I also wrote for the newspaper and was a die-hard member of poetry club. I wrote for fun as a kid. I even won awards for it. It was an early A-Ha! moment. I was born to be a journalist. And once I saw the film Almost Famous, I did indeed cry. I cried because what I saw on screen was what I wanted from life. I wanted to be with the band.
Fast forward to sophomore year in college. I scored an internship with none other than Tim White at Billboard magazine. I was writing reviews and listening to CDs all day and I was blissful. And then Tim died. He had a heart-attack in the lobby of the building. I hadn’t even really spoken with him yet. I was just waiting for the right moment, but it never came.
A couple of years later, I knocked down the doors of Rolling Stone and stayed there (for free) until they pretty much kicked me out. Even though I didn’t want to leave, it wasn’t the environment I was holding onto. It was my dream.
I learned an invaluable lesson in my pursuit to be a rockstar writer: Dreams can come true. You can get to where you’ve always wanted to go, but the catch is it’s nothing like you dreamt it would be. That’s some painful shit.
As one of the groupies in the film said (in reference to the new wave of girls hanging out backstage):
“I mean, they don’t even know what it is to be a fan. You know, to truly love some silly little piece of music, or some band so much that it hurts.”
That’s just it. You can want something so badly it hurts. Just to get near it almost destroys you. You unwillingly change, whatever it takes, to stay there. But all the while you know something isn’t right. See, the party is over and it ended before you even arrived.
Sometimes I think I should throw in the towel with my writing career and go to law school, and sometimes I think I’m the best music journalist that will never be. That’s the nature of dreams. They don’t die. They creep up on us in movies and music and in books. Something or someone can touch us so profoundly there are no words, there’s just that familiar feeling.
“And the days go by/Like a strand in the wind/In the web that is my own/I begin again/I went today/ Maybe I will go again tomorrow/The music there it was hauntingly familiar/On the edge of 17…”
When interviewers ask me where I want to be in five years or what my dream job is, I’m honest with them. I don’t believe in dream jobs and I don’t believe in destinations. For me, it’s what I’m doing at that job and who I’m doing it with. So while I’ll still fantasize about backstage press passes, I know I may never get them and I’m not gonna die trying. I don’t need to. Happiness can’t be sought–it’s discovered, and in the least expected places and people. There is no Hollywood script. There are no happily ever afters. It’s what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans (thank you, John Lennon).
“I always tell the girls, never take it seriously, if ya never take it seriously, ya never get hurt, and if ya never get hurt, ya always have fun, and if you ever get lonely, just go to the record store and visit your friends.” -Penny Lane
“I’ve Seen All Good People,” Yes. My favorite song on the Almost Famous soundtrack.