How Big Is Your Brave

How Sara Bareilles helped me become fierce and fearless 

Written October 2013

Last month my friend and I saw Sara Bareilles at the Greek. I have been a huge fan since I saw Sara play at a college music festival in 2009. We all know her #1 hit “Love Song,” but this woman is so much more than that catchy albeit empowering pop song. She is at home on stage in more ways than one. Firstly, her voice is completely powerful, and live it’s a religious experience… until she drops her first F-bomb then a dozen subsequent ones. That leads me to my second point: she connects to her audience. Someone yells out “I love you, Sara,” and she’ll call it out right back. The stage is her couch, and the venue is her living room; everyone feels at home as she tells you about the experiences that informed the song she is about to play.

Before she played “Manhattan” on that September night, she discussed her decision to leave Los Angeles—her home of fourteen years—to make the cross-country move to New York City: a need for change, a bittersweet good-bye, and the knowledge that this chapter of her life was coming to an end. She hints at a break-up, perhaps because she was back at the scene of the crime. The lyrics were chillingly beautiful. Written from the perspective of her ex, the one who’s left behind, you get a sense of the pain felt from both parties.

At the show at the Greek, she dropped the veil of detachment that she sometimes puts up while discussing her journey in making the new album. Perhaps it had to do with coming back to L.A. after moving. Perhaps it had to do with playing the iconic stage. Regardless, she showed raw emotion that struck a chord with me.

It was during this song that my eyes started to well up with tears. It was during this song when I had a moment of clarity accepting that all the tension I had felt in the months prior was for naught. After a stressful day, I’ll drive home from work to my quiet apartment trying to breathe deeply and think about anything else. It finally occurred to me that what was missing from my day was the ease of surrounding family and a feeling of home.

That Quarter-Life Crisis

After getting over the hump of finding a job after college, getting a promotion a couple years later, and figuring out my post-grad social life, I thought I overcame the dreaded “quarter-life crisis.” Who knew it was an ongoing passage of confusion that continues into your mid-twenties. (Probably everyone.) Having accomplished the basic formula for a “proper” independent existence after college (i.e. living on my own in a city away from my family with a full-time salaried job, health insurance, and good friends), I find myself feeling surprisingly antsy. I’m facing new challenges in the quarter-life crisis: What does it mean to be happy and successful? What else do I need to do to get to the next phase of my life?

I’m ready for something new. What that means exactly, I have no idea. At this point, I do feel that my professional and social life is a reflection of the investment of hard work and time I’ve put in to it. I wonder if it’s time to start investing in something else: letting go… of the past, of stress, of worry, of trying to control where I think I should go.

Maybe it is enough to release good energy into the world in order for it to guide me to the next step. Good decisions most often stem from going with your gut, and as it is now my head is ruling the battle. Should I stay in L.A.? Should I move to a different city? Do I have the time and resources to travel? Am I putting myself out there enough? What do I want?

It’s an endless cycle of questions that leads to a lot of inaction. Maybe I am asking the wrong ones when it’s time for me to simply listen. Maybe it’s okay to make the “irresponsible” choice. A friend recently told me that “Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” It’s okay to extend dinner with a friend to a five-hour meal with more glasses of wine than you can count. It’s okay to spend an afternoon teaching your friend how to hula hoop. It’s okay to have solo dance parties in your bathroom to the Beyoncé Pandora station instead of working an extra hour. Sometimes you have to just be, and the universe will tell you where to go next.

Show Me Your Brave

Sara’s encore, a cover of Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” was the ultimate story about the decision to go home. “I’ve finally decided my future lies / Beyond the yellow brick road.” Contentment, the grown-up version of happiness, comes down to balance. It’s about redefining your definition of success. It’s reaching for what you want and giving it your all but stepping back and recognizing that winning isn’t everything. It’s about going inward and listening to the little voice inside, reminding you of who you’ve always been and who you are meant to be. When you accept that and let go, you feel at home in your own skin and can feel “home” no matter where you are.

Sara is who she is. She hints at her awkwardness and self-doubt, but she is comfortable with the person she is becoming. She’s powerful. She’s authentic. She’s brave. And by seeing someone so in her element, doing a trust fall every night in the form of her first solo tour despite uncertainty, I felt inspired to be brave and let go.

If you love Sara Bareilles or any of her songs, I highly recommend picking up a copy of her DVD (Brave Enough: Live at the Variety Playhouse) on sale now. Forgo the stacked parking and the overpriced popcorn, and you may still have the same eye-opening experience that I had. But, unfortunately, you totally missed out on her performance of “Cassieopia” standing center stage and gracefully clashing a set of cymbals.

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Originally posted on The Single Diaries.

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