During the past week, I’ve had a lot of thoughts. You are about to hear them, whether you like it or not, so if you’re not in any mood for emotional reminiscing, this probably won’t be a good read for you.

Last week while I was going about my daily routine, I had an epiphany. Now, those can be incredibly scary even if they help open your eyes.

The backstory? I was thirteen when I was introduced to Hanson. One of my best friends at the time popped in their cd when we were hanging out one day. Soon after that first time (pausing for dirty thoughts to subside), I became so entranced with them. I remember traveling to the record store (RIP Peaches, you are missed) with my aunt and cousin, so thrilled to be doing such an “adult” thing buying and owning my very first cd. Leaving the record store while blasting Middle of Nowhere in my aunt’s car is something I will never forget because it made me feel important and mature. My very first Hanson concert experience came shortly after at the Y-100 Wing Ding in Miami; I count that as my first REAL concert, period. I’ll always remember being there with my mother and brother (complete with his Hanson sign and all, which is something he’d like to deny), who got their first (and in my brother’s case, last) taste of being at a Hanson show. I’ll also remember being hot, sweaty, and tired of standing for hours; little did I know what was to come for the next 10+ years, as that show marked just the beginning. Twenty-one shows later and here I am, typing this blog entry in the back of my school library hours before I’ll be missing their St. Pete show and attending two Halloween parties instead.

My epiphany? I am not a  Hanson fan anymore. Sounds simple enough, right? Not so much for me. It scares the hell out of me because that’s been my identity for over half of my life. Who am I without that label? The used-to-be self-proclaimed Mrs. Taylor Hanson is now without her safety net. This realization has been culminating for quite a while, it’s just taken me a long time to pay any attention to it.

Why, you ask, is this such a big deal? Hanson and their music was a huge source of comfort for me growing up. Different obstacles paved the way for a lot of change within my family structure and the way I treated myself. When I wasn’t sure about a damn thing, I knew I could pop in a Hanson cd and feel that comforting familiarity of songs that I knew and I could transport myself to a state where nothing else mattered except the fact that that was one thing that remained the same. In the moment, I never even realized that’s what was happening, but I just knew it felt instantly comfortable to escape real life. That feeling is what kept me traveling and wanting to see them so often.  I could just be a kid.

My second show was in 1998 in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was fate that my aunt picked up a local newspaper and read that Hanson was going to be there on August 9th, which *happened* to be the day that we were leaving. After a lot of convincing and probably a few pouts here and there, my parents agreed to stay and buy tickets to the show. Can you imagine our excitement? I bet not. We called everyone we knew and a friend of ours convinced HER mom to drive up for it as well. I asked her to bring my fan club membership kit (she lived down the street from me) because I knew it was to arrive while I was gone. Inside the venue on the day of the show, we saw people holding up their MOE ( the name of the fan club) cards. It turns out it was for a contest to go backstage! For the excitement that ensued when I was quite unexpectedly chosen, there are no words. I got to meet my idols face to face and it was one of the happiest and most memorable days of my life and I am so grateful for that and every amazing experience that followed.

Scientists believe that we are born with certain traits and predispositions, but that our environment determines if and how those traits are expressed. After I began to listen to Hanson and learned every. single. song, I discovered that I really liked to sing and eventually believed that I was fairly good at it. Maybe I would have discovered that anyway, but it could have been a lot later in life had I not started to listen to music when I did. Unbelievably, I also realized that singing was another way that I could escape my troubles (or at least be distracted from them), no matter how big or small, even if just for a moment. That became, and still is an invaluable tool for me.

One of the coolest things about a Hanson show, if you are able to get past the screaming and those immature fans who think it’s funny to push, is the comraderie that exists between fans. You may not know the person next to you, but there is automatically an unspoken bond between the two of you because you just get it. A couple of weeks ago I was looking back at experiences I’ve had and trying to pinpoint just what specific qualities make a Hanson show so unique. Among them are the connections we make with certain songs and meeting others who feel the same way and feeling as if you’ve grown with the band and have come out on top. Following is a list of things that make me feel connected to fans and the band:

1. The way every single person in the crowd knows the beat to every song. The way we collectively thrust our hands up and throw the beat down as if we, ourselves, were behind the drumset (“A Minute Without You”, anyone?).

2. The way we sing “is it gonna be a daisy or rose?” during “MMMBop” because nobody else even knows that lyric exists.

3. How we wail “WHERE DID JOHNNY GOOOO??!!” during “Yearbook”. Because we personally knew Johnny.

4. The rapid circling of the fingers during the chorus of “Where’s the Love”

5. Also applicable to the above song: screaming the lyric “waiting for the bright light to break through”

6. How we all learn to count again during “A Minute Without You”.

7. This is a complete throwback to 1998, but the collective “youuuuu”, complete with finger pointing, at the end of “I Will Come to You”.

8. Thanks to Steph, the dance to “Been There Before”.

9. “You make me sick” clapclap “you lead me on” clapclap…

10. 2 part harmony amongst the crowd with “You can’t say/ I didn’t give it/I won’t wait…” and “won’t go down” during “This Time Around”

11. The way we expect there to be a “test, test, test” before “Crazy Beautiful”. And the increasingly rapid finger snapping.

12. How we Floridians expect Taylor to sing “Florida” in place of “Georgia” every time. Man, he screwed himself over with that one.

13. And you say… “HEY!!!”

14. The second that harmonica comes out, the screaming that ensues is beyond deafening.

15. The way that when they play “If Only”, regardless of where they are in the world, the entire earth feels the impact of feet pounding the floor.

16. You wish, however futile it may be, that they would bring back their “Rip it Up Cover” for just that one night.

17. The crowd belting the emotionally driven “then I’M wrong/yes I’M wrong!!!”

18. At times overzealous fist-pumping for “Stand Up/Stand Up” during “World’s on Fire”

19. The more recent “Thinking ‘Bout Something” dance

Hanson shows also create an environment complete with plenty of exhaustion and delirium, which then leads to incessant giggling, joking, and otherwise memorable and lasting bonding. Cue the time that Jess and I scared and probably scarred the innocent lady at a Wendy’s drive-thru by fervently explaining to her that Frosty’s make the world go ’round. Or the time that Alex, Steph, Holly, Rachel, and I decked ourselves out  in glow sticks and did the TBS dance in Epcot. Or the time I spilled coffee down the front of my skirt because everyone fled the store thinking the tour bus was coming around. Or the time when, during the “Thriller” encore, a wasted Hellogoodbye band member tried to lick my camera and fell off the stage, which Steph so expertly caught on camera. I’ve had some of the most amazing times seeing Hanson and meeting people and I will always appreciate and cherish that. I know now that I don’t have to hold on to that, though.

That’s the trick, that whole letting go thing. Now that I know I’m at that point, the question is how do I know how to do that? Can’t there be a magic switch that makes it less painful? A “one, two, three” click and everything’s all better? The ironic part about having that epiphany is that I am now going through the absolute hardest time of my life and I feel not only that I don’t have that constant anymore, but that I don’t want it. I don’t know which of the two terrifies me more. It’s a scary place to be because I literally feel stripped naked and like I have no identity.

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