I was 22, had recently graduated from college and moved cross-country to California. Being broke in a new city isn’t fun but thankfully a guy I just met vouched for me at the local Mailboxes Etc. Remember that place? It was basically a poor-man’s Kinkos. I was issued my name tag and told to wear a blue button down shirt with khaki pants. Yes, this was the uniform of late 90’s college graduates being told to fix printer-jams, sort mail and clean bathrooms. Six months had passed and there wasn’t a day that went by where I didn’t ask myself, “What the fuck am I doing with my life?!” And then it happened. I was listening to The Beach Boys, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” when it hit me. It was at that very moment I clicked pause on my Sony Walkman, turned to my boss and said, “Today is going to be my last day. Thank you for taking a chance on me but I’m not going to work for you or anyone else ever again.” I placed my name-tag on the counter and from that moment and the next 12 years, I was my own boss. I released the pause button, cranked up the volume and skated the six blocks home. It was a profound moment triggered by a soundtrack I’ll never forget. Sixteen years prior, I had been introduced to The Beach Boys. I was six and it was my first concert. It took days to wipe the feel-good smile off my face. In fact, in some ways, I don’t think it’s ever left. It triggered a moment when you make one of those life-changing decisions. A moment when a confused 22-year old, filled with uncertainty – all of a sudden, felt as clear as the San Diego sun.
Fast forward seventeen years. I’ve been living in New York and working for “the man” since 2010. Life is good. Actually, it’s damn good. My skateboard has now become a living room shelf and my Sony Walkman has since been replaced with Rdio, apps and podcasts. Last weekend, my wife and I walked down to our local theater and caught a screening of Love & Mercy. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s based on the extraordinary life of singer-songwriter, Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys. Paul Dano masterfully plays a young Wilson while John Cusack plays the later years version. The film absolutely mesmerized me – there’s a scene in which Brian Wilson is orchestrating a mix of non-traditional musicians for what would become the band’s most acclaimed record of all time, Pet Sounds. Watching this scene gave me chills. Wilson is running around like a lunatic, taking chances and pushing his craft to the limits of fucking genius. And it was at that moment it hit me, again. I thought to myself, “Holy shit, I’m watching someone who is so in the fucking moment of doing the very thing they were put on this planet to do.” The scene bumps and jumps and all the while, I couldn’t wipe that smile off my face. It brought me back to that San Diego sun and that moment a song changed my course of history. I left the theater with an extra bounce in my step, turned to my wife and said, “The Beach Boys saved my life.”