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Inspired by the Empathetic

Once upon a time, I met Bassnectar on a plane. I suppose this isn’t the most uncommon occurrence—I’ve seen plenty of people post about meeting the man behind the project at airports, but the last place I was expecting to cross paths with him was on my way to Miami to visit my family over Martin Luther King weekend. I thought I recognized his profile in first class as I boarded, and luckily I was firing on all cylinders because I had just tried Guayaki's passion-flavored Yerba Mate for the first time as I had been planning to get some work done on the flight. I didn’t think twice about it, and I stepped aside to briefly introduce myself before making my way to economy class.

I realized that this was the perfect opportunity to write a letter to express my gratitude for how his music has impacted my life and informed my healing process. I’ve gotten flustered around artists that I admire before—I accidentally stood up George R.R. Martin at a bar once—but I knew I could come up with something in six hours within a contained space.

I tried not to overthink it too much and bared the color of my soul into this letter. In the back of my head, I thought that maybe, just maybe, if the letter was good enough, he might just wait for me. The only blank paper I had on me was in the back of a book I had just started reading, aptly titled “Last Night a DJ Saved My Life,” making this the first time I have ever defiled a book. I wrote about how his music has helped me release complex emotions from my PTSD, and told him about the most profound experience I’ve had at a show and how it empowered me to reconnect with my body as a rape survivor. I wrote about how Be Interactive helped me realize that I “have the power to change things” and that I want to channel that into spreading the conspicuous consent culture at Bassnectar events to all night clubs and music venues as a way to heal myself. Imagine just how far this idea could go with his platform’s support. I also shared this website with him, and told him that I hoped he would let me write his biography one day.

Now I just had to figure out how to get this letter from economy to first class. I told some flight attendants that I had lost a bet with my friend sitting in first class and that I had to buy him a glass of wine. “A bet’s a bet,” the flight attendant replied before accepting my payment. I sent him on his way with wine and the note and hoped they would find their way to Lorin.

At best, I was expecting him to maybe send me a drink back, but the last thing I was expecting was for him to be waiting for me at the gate. He was on the phone, and I didn’t want to seem like I was lingering, so I figured I’d just walk over, wave goodbye and say nice to meet you one last time.

“Actually, I was waiting for you,” he said. “Do you want to walk to baggage claim together after I finish this phone call?” This was a deeply meaningful gesture of solidarity and respect. The content of our conversation is paraphrased to the best of my memory.

I think he started off by thanking me for the wine before describing my letter as beautifully written and incredibly moving. Even if it's on a much smaller scale, it is surreal to think that my "art" had affected him in a similar way that his art affects me. And in response to my favorite moment that I shared, he said, “It’s amazing that I didn’t know you or your story, and you can still have that experience.” We mostly talked about how to create safe spaces at shows, and that he would pass my email along to the head of Be Interactive so that I could get involved. I certainly hope that he follows through. I am so grateful for the opportunity to share with him how his choices as a DJ and the experience that he curated triggered a moment of clarity.

I feel like I almost manifested this encounter. Just a week before, my friend held an intention circle at her birthday party, and I shared that I wanted to be more proactive about spreading consent culture at nightclubs and fighting back against the sexual harassment that is so normalized.

After this experience, I felt the same way that I do after his performances: that anything is possible. And I had quite the tentative agenda for the weekend. I had been wanting to “come out” to my parents about being raped as a teenager for a while. It felt like they didn’t know me, or that they were holding onto this version of myself that doesn’t exist anymore, and this chasm has made spending time with them painful because they unintentionally bring up triggering memories. This was enormous for me to even be considering as I had spent the better part of the last year telling my therapist that this was an impossible feat.

I knew I didn’t want to tell them until my last day because I didn’t want to spend days treading water in the aftermath of the grief. I was afraid I would drown. As I contemplated whether (let alone how) to tell them on my penultimate night, I realized I was afraid of the magnitude of their reactions and whether I was capable of receiving them. I tried listening to some of the music that’s guided me through my healing process thus far but realized it wasn’t giving me the new insight necessary to make this next leap forward. But then I thought about just how fortuitous it was to meet Lorin at this particular moment in time, and looked up what song he chose to ring in the new decade with at his 360 event for New Year’s: Empathy, which is what not only he met me with at the airport, but also the people within my community that I have cautiously shared my story with.

I had always interpreted this song as encouraging empathy towards others, but I started to wonder what might happen if I could hold space for people to feel empathy for me and what I had experienced since I was never able to feel it for myself. And so, inspired by the empathetic, I decided to give it a shot. After all, the lyrics are not “anything I can feel you can feel too;” they’re “anything you can feel, I can feel too.”

As I sat down to watch Jeopardy with my family on my final night, I exposed the skeleton in my closet, nearly 10 years later, with as little detail as possible: I was raped at a fraternity party when I was 17. I had expected my father to be more devastated than my mother, but it was my mother who gasped and put her hand over her mouth as she let out a pained wail before running over to hug me while she wept. My father held his composure long enough to ask why I didn’t tell them sooner before he started weeping himself.

I hate that my story causes people pain and grief, but witnessing and receiving empathy from others, and occasionally accessing it myself, is cathartic because I didn’t allow anyone the opportunity to grieve for the person I was when I was raped because I was incapable of experiencing and receiving grief. And maybe it's not too late for her. Even if she wasn’t able to be saved in that moment, I might be able to redeem her by spreading awareness about consent and what it means to be an active bystander in night clubs and music venues. It's worth it to me even if it only saves one person. And imagine what the world might look like if we could save more than one.

It’s just a matter of self-confidence at this point now that I don’t have anything to hide. Just as I found strength in Lorin's gesture of solidarity, perhaps I can continue to find strength in receiving empathy from others as I leave this decade defined by denial behind.

I know that I have the power to change things. And with great power, comes what I feel is a great (perhaps moral) responsibility to break the proverbial wheel. Fuck repeating the cycle by freezing and disassociating when I'm triggered. I am not going to stop the cycle. We, as a community, have an opportunity to break the cycle. I think it's easy to take the culture at Bassnectar events for granted. It's up to us to spread the message and set the example for the rest of the intersecting communities. And just like I needed support from Mark Farina’s team to do it the first time, I could use the support of Lorin, his team, and the Bassnectar community to take this idea to the next level. I hope that crossing paths with him is only the beginning.

Do I dare

Disturb the universe?