This past weekend my sister and I went to see my favorite band in concert. Our seats were in Row G, which was up pretty high and to the right. As the opening acts played on, more and more people arrived, filling the belly of the theater with bodies and noise.
As the minutes remaining until the opening act took the stage ticked by quickly, the seats around us remained empty. Everyone was moving down and in, filling the unclaimed chairs, but we stayed put, waiting for the curtain to fall.
At 9:45, the theater went dark and cheers of anticipation filled the night air. Suddenly, a drum beat and the screams got louder. A bass guitar strum and everyone on the lower level stood up. When the stage lights flashed on, the song swam through the speakers into the crowd and everyone began to sing the words they knew so well.
The first song played was one of my favorites, and I swayed in my seat with its melody. I looked down at the pit and saw people jumping and dancing and waving their arms, completely enraptured. How badly I wished I was with them. My voice would be drowned out by the crowd and my dance moves blocked by other bodies. I would be anonymous, unseen and totally free.
Row G was quiet. A few groups were scattered around us, all determinedly seated, mildly bobbing their heads; I didn’t dare stand up here. If I did, I know I’d feel eyes on me; pointed fingers and quiet laughs. The rhythm would feel awkward on my body and I’d feel the need to sit back down.
With a sudden scream of the electric guitar the next song started, sending the lower level into a frenzy and my knees into a seated bounce. Row G remained quiet and still, but my body began to resist its clutches.
I again looked down at the pit, still longing to be an anonymous voice in its choir, but then I realized the true implications of this request: to be a voice unheard and a face unseen. If I were to dance and sing in the pit, no one would think twice about it because that’s what everyone does there. I’d blend into the mass like a bee in a hive. If I stood up in Row G, few would fail to notice. Their peripheral vision would awaken at the sight of my dancing silhouette. But that’s just it, they would notice.
Who knows how many of the people around me felt the exact same way I did. How many other knees were bouncing, anxious to stand? And what was keeping us in our seats besides the unspoken assumption that that’s what we were supposed to do in our section?
As I felt my toes continue to tap uncontrollably, I realized that this simply wasn’t going to work for me. I didn’t care who saw me, I didn’t care what they thought, I was going to stand up and I was going to dance.
Over the course of my life, I’m sure I’ll come across many situations where I’ll have the choice to stand or stay seated. The decision won’t always be easy, nor the answer the same. I will have to react to each situation in a way that is true to who I am, without worry of how I’ll be perceived by others.
It will always be easier to stand among the crowds, knowing that my words are like a single clap in a stadium of applause. And while more difficult to speak, the words among silence will be those truly heard, even if it’s just lyrics by a rock band sung completely unhindered. It will take a lot for me to speak these words, and at times I’ll probably find myself paralyzed with fear. But applause is built on single claps, and the first one often awakens the rest. We all have the right to be that first clap, just as we all have the right to stand up, even the girl in Row G.