A few days ago, I went to The House Of Yes — a former Brooklyn ice warehouse — and laid on the floor with approximately 50 of my closest complete strangers, while watching FOUR, a sci-fi-influenced techno-infused aerial acrobatic burlesque/art show. It thrills me to write that. It’s not a “look at me, aren’t I interesting”-type thing, it’s just that that declaration stands as further evidence that I’m becoming less and less of a shut-in. It also means that when I tell people that I’m committed to a life shift, one in which I embrace new and interesting things, I fucking mean it.
If I don’t explain why a small thing like going to a quirky Brooklyn art show feels like climbing a mountain to me, a lot of the rest of this piece is going to feel overdone and pointless. I’ll try to make this as quick as possible because intimate confessions make me squirm. Here we go:
What was supposed to be the fun half of my twenties started with me sick on my back and mostly stuck in my bedroom, lost in a haze of images on a screen and worries over my shrinking future. My legs were unsteady, causing me to occasionally collapse when I tried to walk (once landing on my head, once nearly crushing my cat) and my arms were weak. My eyes often wanted to stay shut and my head hung down… Hey, what’s it called when something is a metaphor and a hard truth all at once?
My sickness (which I prefer not to name) got so bad that a friend told me that he would have killed himself if he were me. He wasn’t me… luckily for me. Eventually, my body healed (save for some occasional aches and unshakeable fatness) and I tried to leave all of the sadness, missed opportunities, and disappointment in the rearview. I had to move on, I figured, but my determination to do that didn’t stop the fear from lingering or my once abundant confidence from being shattered. In the aftermath of my sickness, I got used to saying “no” a lot. I was living on the sidelines. It wasn’t a bad life, certainly not compared to the crushing atrophy of what I had been through previously, but “no” is very boring. It’s life in a box — which is no way to live your life.
Sometime within the last three years, thoughts about saying “yes” more became prominent in my mental landscape. It got to the point where the “yes” drumbeat drowned out the “no” chorus. Chalk it up to massive FOMO and seeing friends and co-workers embracing life in ways I envied. Something had to give. Finally, in 2017, I took a leap forward in my efforts to shed preconceived notions about my limits, my likes, and the world. Long-delayed experiences were embraced, trips were taken, cities were explored, fun was had, and fear was faced over the pained screams of a sometimes anxiety riddled inner-me. There was also a lot of food. Unshakeable fatness!
In doing all of this (even though a lot of it might seem minor to most people and I’m not nearly as far along as I’d like to be), I seized back some of the independence that I had surrendered years before and, in the process, regained a bit of the swagger that I’d been faking for so long. The me that said “yes” to a night out in Brooklyn at the literal House Of Yes doing the least “me” thing I could possibly imagine feels like the me I hoped to be.
But that isn’t the epiphany. It’s just the prelude to the epiphany.
I’ve lived in close proximity to New York City for more than 20 years, yet it’s always felt like another continent. In my mind, buildings are cartoonishly tall and people move at a rapid pace, zipping along, living lives that are far less ordinary than mine. Some of those ideas have begun to fade with more exposure, but my awkwardness at parties seems to be here to stay, causing me to stick to far walls and feel completely isolated from everyone in the room who isn’t being paid to pour my drinks or tied to me by previous association.
And so, at The House Of Yes, I took my place at the outskirts — gently bopping out of rhythm to the music and the buzzing chatter of everyone else — while standing along a ledge and underneath a pair of giant unblinking eyes that never looked down at me.
Ten minutes past the scheduled start and I was getting antsy. I didn’t have anywhere else to go, it was just the curiosity biting at me and a desire to sit (or lay) after throwing down a couple of vodka, mint, cucumber, and lime cocktails called “The Basic.” That name felt so right considering my “stranger in a strange land” profile and my separation from the other revelers, who seemed most assuredly not fresh to the world of these kinds of events.