How A Metallica Concert Changed My Life

…and my ties are severed clean
The less I have the more I gain
Off the beaten path I reign

Metallica, “Wherever I May Roam”

This title will undoubtedly cause a lot of strange looks. Bear with me here.

Metallica came through my city in October 2018. Twenty years had passed since they last visited. Twenty years I waited for a chance to see them. Metallica has a central role in my adolescence, from my older brothers listening to them in the 80s, to my friends and I in junior high listening to them, to eventually forming a garage band and covering their songs. (We were awful, but man was it fun). I listened to the ‘black album’ through my most formative years. When I heard they were coming to Pittsburgh, I splurged on tickets. I was going to finally see them, and I was going to do it right.

The seats were amazing. The stage was square and situated in the center of an oval hockey arena. The stage was rotated such that two corners almost touched the center-ice seating areas. I literally had front row seats. When the concert kicked in, Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield alternated standing directly in front of me. It was loud. It was energized. It in no way disappointed. It may have been the best concert I’ve ever been to (sorry, Iron Maiden).

At this point, I know you’re thinking: “Okay, guy loved Metallica growing up and finally got to see them. That’s sweet. Good for you.” It’s heartwarming feel-good-ery. But that’s not what it changed my life. Yes, I crossed something off my bucket list, but it changed my life in a different way.

Metallica was formed in 1981. By 2018, they had been rocking venues and traveling the world for 37 years. Lead singer James Hetfield was 55 years old when he stood before me wailing away. What hit me mid-concert was the fact that these guys had got to spend their lives doing what they loved. They made music, wrote songs, expressed themselves creatively. Because of this, they got to travel the world, rub elbows with all sorts of famous people, celebrities, world politicians. Their scrapbook of memories is endless.

And they were still going when most people were counting down to retirement.

Endless self-help books and financial guide books always ask the reader to know what they want. Tony Robbins harps on it. What do you want most in life? For most of my professional life I knew what I didn’t want: a day job working for someone else, working retail for money for bills, a path to decades of entry-level employment until I retire. But I never had an answer as to what I WANTED. Sure, I always wanted to make movies. I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to go to weird and exotic places around the world. But it was never a coherent, singular want that I could put into words. Seeing these guys rock in front of me and thinking about listening to them for 30 years finally caused it to appear. I had figured it out.

I wanted to live my life through creativity.

Geez, that still sounds vague but here’s what I mean. I want to make my way through my creativity, not through working a day job. If I travel the world, I want it to be because I’m doing something creative — like if a movie project took me to a foreign country. I want to meet people through creative projects, not because they walk into the store that I work at. I want to meet a movie star because I cast them and work with them creatively, not because they’re signing autographs for money somewhere. I want to collaborate creatively. To make things. To explore life as part of the creative process, not on my phone in the bathroom on a lunch break.

During the concert I thought back to a VHS cassette I used to have called A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica where it was nothing but behind-the-scenes footage of the band making the black album and the album’s tour. The band got to go all sorts of places, meet other elite music acts, travel the world, and play to huge crowds — all as the result of their creative endeavors. I watched it in it’s entirety the morning after the concert.

It seems to miniscule. But life is stitched together by these infinitesimal moments. I was finally able to verbalize what is I had always wanted. A tiny thought became a huge push to finally quit my job. I felt focused. I knew that when I was 55 years old I wanted to be fully immersed in creativity and living my life through it.

Five months later I quit my job.

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