Don't Stop Believing

Belted shower singing...

Who doesn't love this classic? I think I've been obsessed with Journey's melodic hits since I can remember. Their lyrics are not only catchy, but infused with soul and vulnerability that can only be written and performed from the heart. There have been periods of my life that could only be expressed through belted verses to "Faithfully" in the shower, or kitchen dance parties with my daughter, to classics like "Don't Stop Believing"- made almost more inspirational, by television show Glee's depiction of a washed out high school choir teacher, and his dreams of winning a greatly coveted national competition with a menagerie of misfits. I challenge anyone to be free of goosies after watching that performance. In fact, I've been found once or twice, sobbing silently to these inspirational clips. The thing is, these songs are relatable to every human experience. We have all felt hurt, alone, and longed for love, riding (at times) the faux optimism of resilience, believing it's just around the corner.

This last week, I was blessed enough to attend a Journey concert with a cherished friend. The last time I was this close to the stage for a major headliner, it was New Kids on Block. (cough cough) My inner 90's tween still squeals when "OH-oh-oh-OH-oh... Hangin Tough" reverberates through my car stereo via Siriusxm radio. I'm only mildly ashamed to say that out loud.

Scoping YouTube...

Prior to this concert, I had heard through the grapevine that Journey had found a uniquely special replacement for the frontman role. In 1998, the legendary vocalist Steve Perry left the band, to be replaced with Steve Augeri, who was later forced into retirement due to vocal damage (it's a hard gig) in 2007. This is when the story becomes a fairytale. Without someone to sing, the band was left desperate to find a new lead, that could carry on the branded sweet sound of Journey. Desperate for any last shred of hope, guitarist Neal Schon was scoping YouTube for tribute singers late at night, when he came across an ameteur recording of a man from the Philippines, Arnel Pineda. Now this isn't any regular guy. Arnel's story is that of tragedy. His mother passed away when he was just 12 years old, after battling a long illness. His family had sold everything they owned to care for her, and eventually lost their home. Arnel chose to go off on his own at this tender age, only to live on the streets, and sing for food. Over the years, he experienced what many performance artists fall subject to- depression, substance abuse, and heartache. After 25 years of working to make it, he received a call from Neal Schon, having just seen his YouTube video, looking for a singer to his American band- Journey. The rest, as they say- is history. Wowza.

If the angel was all rock n roll...

So here I am at this epic concert. An opportunity to see a band that everyone on this planet knows and loves, when out rushes this tiny man, with the voice of an angel. If the angel was all rock n roll, and covered in sleeve tattoos. This guy is about a million times cooler than I could ever hope to be. He bounded across the stage like a ninja, jumping off of boxes, amps, and set design. I was floored, in the way you are, when witnessing true talent. I once knew a guy who could paint large lifelike paintings spanning a wall's space, in front of an audience in about 20 minutes. That was essentially witnessing a miracle. So was this. As I watched Arnel perform in a way that was designed especially for him, by The Powers That Be, I was flooded with gratitude for the opportunity to witness it. Sometimes a concert is just a concert, but in this case- Arnel was a conduit for me to reflect on the true possibility that exists within all of us. 

Digging through the walls of San Quentin...

When I counsel wounded souls, I see people who are shrouded with self-imposed limits. People that have lived in a box, seeing the world only within its confining quarters. It's like someone who comes from a family littered with mental illness. Great-grandpa was depressed, grandpa was depressed, dad was depressed, I guess I'm going to be depressed too. That perception is self-fulfilling! If you tell yourself everyday that you are bound for depression, poverty, disappointment, and disability, you bet you're going to find that future. I hear people argue that their story is told, they can't change the plot, or the characters. Their future is decided. They will never be anything more than they are now, will never find fulfillment, or experience true joy. Though my counseling skills are well exercised, and perked with the challenge of resistance, I'm far from a magician. Some of these barriers are like digging through the walls of San Quentin. When I see people like Arnel Pineda, it is a sobering reminder of how anything is possible. I'm so thankful to witness stories of resilience, talent, and limitless possibility. This fuels my healer heart, to peel off the layers of futility that have been paralyzing to my patients. 

Fuels my healer heart...

My body screamed gratitude...

As the band finished their first set, before a welcomed encore, the last notes of "Don't Stop Believing" were met with Arnel's ariel pose of 80's theatrics, and an explosion of confetti, showering the audience. Swirly white paper covered me. Not only was I overwhelmed with the immense talent I had been subject to for the last hours, but to share it with an unconditional lifelong friend, every cell of my body screamed gratitude. It took me days to process this experience. Yes, to some, a concert is just a concert, but to me, this was a far greater gift. I will take Arnel's story, and hold it close to my heart as evidence that the impossible, is in fact, so very possible. I ask that you remember your dreams today. Picture young homeless Arnel, singing for cookies and tea at funerals. Today, he shines bright with inspiration and abundance. Embrace your divine possibility.

Be Well,

AM