“48 inches, that’s four feet! You grew four inches this year!” my pediatrician jubilantly informed me. “You’re so much taller than I remember!”

That day at the doctor’s office was the first time I really thought about change. I didn’t feel any bigger, but now this crazy lady was telling me I was four inches taller than last year? When had my bones decided to start elongating themselves, and how hadn’t I noticed?

I came up with a master plan to catch my radius and ulna in the act. I was going to mount a camera above my bed and record myself sleeping every night. If I could capture my life on film, then I could go back, watch it and actually see myself grow, right?

My mom didn’t much like that idea. She told me that growth was a slow process, and that the changes were so minute that they’d be impossible to see.

“Life isn’t like a cartoon, Andrew,” she lectured. “Your legs don’t just extend in the middle of the night. I promise.”

I was skeptical of her self-proclaimed expertise. After all, I didn’t hear the doctor telling her that she had grown four inches. She was probably jealous that I was growing so quickly. Unfortunately though, my meager earnings from raking the leaves weren’t going to cover my astronomical camera costs, and I decided to get really into Pokémon instead.

Years later, I find myself thinking about change again. My growth in inches has come to a halt, but as a person, I feel a little less childish. By no means am I an adult yet — my unmade bed, overflowing pile of dirty laundry and dinner of macaroni and cheese all point to the opposite — but with my foray into the real world looming ever larger, I’m close to ready for the next step.

Only when we can measure ourselves against ourselves can we really see the change. For me, this change is very apparent through my experiences at music festivals. I’ve attended at least one festival every summer since my graduation from high school, and my philosophy has changed a lot.

As an 18-year-old music festival virgin, going to Lollapalooza in Chicago was a musical “birds and the bees” talk. Six naïve kids, straight out of high school, entered a world filled with tripping twenty-somethings and neon-clad college students, only to realize that we were way out of our element.

One of the first lessons I learned was to plan ahead. I think I probably spent $90 on food during those three scorching August days, not understanding how essential packing your own food can be. I also learned that sneaking cheap booze into a festival is a lot easier than the brochure will tell you. We spent about an hour surreptitiously pouring vodka into water bottles and gluing them shut, a genius plan indeed. However, we never had to avoid the prying fingers of concert security, as the fingers never attempted to pry. Upon opening my backpack to drink from the chalice of drunk-tory, we learned our third lesson of the day: Never leave your vodka-filled water bottles in a Quizno’s sub shop.

The music is important, of course, why else would I be there? But when the rainy Bon Iver show, the ostentatious Snoop Dogg set and the seizure-inducing Bassnectar laser-light sweatfest ended, my experiences remained. These experiences extend far beyond Chicago, Detroit and Barcelona. I’ve met wonderful new people, and realized that some old friendships needed to end. I’ve happily been the center of attention, and I’ve learned that sometimes it’s satisfying to sit back and watch from afar. I’ve been the leader of the group, deciding which bands to see next, and I’ve been a follower that is happily, and sometimes unsettlingly, outside of my comfort zone.

The last festival I went to was Primavera Sound in Barcelona, and I could see a change manifest itself. Maybe it was the European atmosphere — more emphasis on comfortable listening than sardine-esque crowds — or the incredible people that I was with, but I finally felt like I knew what I was doing. A few years of college, peppered with some unique people, a six-month stint in Madrid and a dumb mistake here or there, had transformed me from an unprepared festival rookie into a grizzled veteran.

Turns out my mom was right about growth after all. I couldn’t see it while it happened, but somehow I’ve become a marginally functional human being. I never did end up catching my bones growing, but it doesn’t take a genius to know that they did, and the same can be said for growth as a person. And I think that knowledge is a little cheaper than installing cameras in my room.

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