The Opposite of a Grateful Dead Concert

Updated: May 13, 2020

I am coming to terms with the fact that I am an introvert. After years of running a business, being a relatively public figure, I am happily settled into this new role of being a talking head behind a tiny screen to just a handful of people. It suits me. They say that extroverts become energized from being around people and introverts get energy from being alone. It only took me fifty years, but now that I've been in this required solitude for over two months I can see clearly that I am an introvert. I do miss people, but I am also quite content, actually energized, by this aloneness.

When my twin sister and I graduated from high school in Chicago, we went to different universities in different states. I went south to Missouri and she went east to Indiana. This geographical parting was an opportunity for us to define our independent identities for the first time in our lives. Having mostly ridden on the coattails of Katherine's social ingenuity and popularity, I realized when I got to college that my shyness would be hard to manage without my twin sister as a crutch. 

Without my social liaison I felt eternally awkward; I assumed that there was something wrong with me, that maybe I was missing a part. I was like a deer in headlights, constantly trying to figure out how to engage. I struggled socially and threw myself into the academics of college. I made the most of the social expectations and eventually learned to fake it a little bit, to play the part of extrovert. I found a group of friends. I went to parties. I did the college scene. But my favorite part was always the end of the party, when I could go home. Katherine, on the other hand, seemed to roll right into an extension of her high school celebrity status-- wildly fun and popular, the life of the party. During our freshman year in college, Katherine started following the Grateful Dead. She loved the scene and traveled all over the country with different friends to spend weekends in the mosh pit of free love.

The summer between our freshman and sophomore years of college I went to one Grateful Dead concert in Wisconsin with Katherine and some of our friends. We camped for two nights and spent the long, humid days steeped in the fog of pot smoke and patchouli. I hated it. It was like all the expectations of college on crack. And ecstasy. And speed. My senses were overloaded and I had the immediate desire to hide in the tent. I felt lost in the love fest. I spent the whole two days in a raging battle of my inner judges- judging everyone around me for being who they were, then turning the gavel onto myself and criticizing my own uptightness, my inability to just let go and be happy.

The abundance of contact and community and interaction at the Grateful Dead show was too much for me-- too much humanity; too much chaos. Though people were kind and loving, making and sharing food, giving out miracles, selling their bizarre and amazing creations, swaying with joy in their colorful, feathered, flowing frocks, I couldn't find a way to be in it. I was exhausted by it. I just wanted to go home. 

And now, thirty years after that Grateful Dead concert, I am home. Literally and figuratively, I am home. I loved my life before, but as I look back, there were long periods where I simply endured, white-knuckled it and faked it really well, made the most of it until I could get back home and recharge. I wouldn't trade any of the past, and there are certainly days right now when I wish I could open up my world a little bit.  But mostly, I'm relieved to be home, in my element, living in the opposite of a Grateful Dead concert.