Last Night A DJ Saved My Life

‘Over it,’ I thought to myself as I approached my ninth MTV Holiday Party. ‘Been there, done that, drank the bottom shelf liquor.’

It’s a big mess of an affair. Five thousand MTVN employees packed into The Hammerstein Ballroom, wolfing down stale sushi, tossing back shots of Mr. Boston Vodka, and shaking their humps to an only-slightly post-Studio 54 soundtrack. It was fun the first time (getting stoned in the wings and taking Polaroids with a live penguin). And it was fun the fourth time (doing one shot of tequila for every Corona and waking up in a puddle of upchuck). But last night? Wasn’t feeling it. Wasn’t even gonna go. Until…

Rachel stepped into my office. She comes by a few times a day, always smiling.

“You’re not going, are you?”

I rolled out a litany of excuses. Tired from the road, sore throat, closet full of dirty clothes, yada yada yada, blah blah blah. She endured it all, smiling, and wisely let me talk my way into it.

“If you’re going over there right now,” I said, “I’ll go.”

“Put on your coat then.”

Seconds later, we were stepping out into Times Square.

“You ok?” she asked crossing 42d Street.

Rachel is sage beyond her 23 (soon to be 24!) years. She reads me pretty well. (Or I’m easy to read.) Still, it’s a difficult question to answer when you don’t know the answer yourself, or it requires more vulnerability than you’re willing to muster.

The answer is, yes, I’m ok (and thanks for asking). I’m tired from the road, have a sore throat, a closet full of dirty clothes, and an apartment choked with sheetrock dust. But that’s not it, really. Or that’s only part of it.

I think I’m suffering from postpartum depression. And one-third-life crisis. Add in seasonal affective disorder, and you have yourself one hell of a December.

There are a lot of hopes and dreams wrapped up in every record release. I’m not even sure what all those hopes and dreams are. Not fame or fortune, really. More like adulation and appreciation. Or acceptance. Or affirmation. Or something to fill this (as Bono calls it) “God-shaped hole.” But despite three weeks of applause, a tiny bit of ink, and whole bunch of very kind, very supportive emails, well, the hole is still there.

It’s one-third-life crisis. I have this MTV career. I have this rocknroll cottage industry. I have these marathons and triathlons. But I’m not a kid anymore. I have other things I wanna be: husband, father, author, and filmmaker. Something’s gotta give. Might as well be the financial black hole that is my singer/songwriter career.

The question is, who am I if I don’t make records? Who am I if I don’t play shows?

Will you still love me if I don’t sing?

These and other minor life questions were floating around my head as I walked into the MTV Holiday Party. Dudes from the mailroom were pimped out in matching Gucci separates and sunglasses. The ceiling was blanketed in twinkling, artificial stars. There was cleavage everywhere. I left my coat on, but stayed over two hours. Every one of my colleagues asked about the tour. Every one of them wanted to know about Iowa, and the new record, and what comes next. Every one of them had warm words.

One in particular, though, saved — if not my life — then at least my night.

“Every once and a while,” he said, “I’ll be sitting at my desk trying to figure out how I’m going to finish what I’m doing at work, get to the gym, and get home to my wife and kids. And I wonder to myself, ‘How does Ben do it?'”

I have no idea. All I know is that I wanna do it again, and again, and again, and again…

But I don’t know why.

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