This past weekend, I lost my phone in the middle of a music festival. Thousands of jumping and screaming and laughing people…and all of a sudden there’s my inner chaos as I realize my sole means of communication was lost somewhere between those jumping feet.
There’s a jolt of panic when you lose your phone (or anything relatively expensive or important, for that matter). You suddenly feel stressed, like right-before-a-major-exam stressed. You start breathing quickly. You begin retracing your steps like a madwoman, willing whatever it is you lost to appear, and torturing your brain with all the possible ‘what ifs’ and terrible scenarios (for example, that someone will come across an email filled with passwords that will divulge your entire identity). And if you’re anything like me, you instantly start crying.
But when life hits you with an unfortunate set of events, there’s only so much you can do. You can freak out (which is always the first step), you can try your best to remedy the situation (aka carefully squeeze through crowds searching the ground like a weirdo), and then you can accept your fate and look at the bright side (which ultimately means cancelling your cards and service, freezing your accounts, calling your parents, finding your friends, and going back to raging).
In all this—the ups and downs of dancing my butt off, bawling like a baby, and returning to dancing my butt off—I learned one important thing: life isn’t about the material things. At all.
When I let go of the ridiculous idea that I was going to find my phone in a crowd of thousands, in the rain, and in the dark, I realized how stupid it was to stress over something so material. This was a phone, sure, something that costs money, but it was just a thing.
A phone was just a thing. It was replaceable. But the memories, the laughs, the dancing, the friends that surrounded me and the strangers I hadn’t yet met—those things weren’t. Those were things I would lose out on if I focused only on the material and what I had lost.
I pushed the thought of my stupid phone out of my mind and started jumping with the crowd. Lights and sounds blasted from the stages around me, tinting everyone’s faces in reds and blues and greens. The strobes made our movements dizzy, robotic. The bass was so loud I could literally feel it vibrate in my heart. I turned to a person next to me, who was head-banging to the beat. We made eye contact and laughed, throwing our bodies forward in unison.
I turned my eyes to the stage; the DJ was jumping around, shouting that he loved our energy, that we were an amazing crowd. My guy friend grabbed my arm and pointed to his shoulders, I could barely read his lips in the flashing of the lights, but I nodded my head and he bent forward for me to climb on his back.
He stood up and suddenly I was taller than everyone else, surveying the thousands of smiling faces, brightly colored bras and crop tops and tanks and glow sticks and fists pumping in the air. The colors blended together, lights ricocheting off reflective sunglasses and fuzzy hats and posters and flags. There were people from all countries and corners of the world, dancing and celebrating life. I took it all in, laughing along with them, singing at the top of my lungs and throwing my own arms into the air.
I wasn’t caught up in wanting to take a video of the experience, in Snapchatting the scene, in capturing a pic or Tweeting about what an awesome time I was having—instead, I was living it, soaking it all in. Experiencing the reality, rather than the cheapened version from behind a screen.
In that moment, I realized the freedom I had from material things. Suddenly what mattered wasn’t my connection to the rest of the world, but what I was living right now. It wasn’t about updating my followers, getting the best Instagram filter of the stage, or being distracted by social media at all. True happiness was enjoying what was happening and who I was surrounded with, which really was the most important thing.
Now, I don’t recommend losing a phone. It’s an anxiety-filled, bank-breaking, unnecessary hassle that I’m sure your life (and wallet) don’t need. (Plus, it’s scary thinking that your embarrassing photos and awkward text messages and deeply emotional playlists are somewhere out floating in the world for a random person to discover and laugh about.) But in all reality, letting go of material things is a cleansing experience.
Instead of worrying about who is or isn’t contacting you, what you should or shouldn’t post on social media, or even what time it is—you get to focus on the moment right in front of you.
You give your full attention to the noises, smells, sounds, and people. You truly see your friends. You look at them when they’re talking. You listen to what they say.
You experience lights and bass in your chest and give yourself vivid memories that will last way longer than a camera phone pic or a ten second Snapchat. You feel alive.
As humans, we’re always trying to discover happiness. What makes us happy? Is it people? Experiences? Places? Things? Looking back on my weekend, in some strange way, I think I’d say that losing my phone was one of the best-worst things that could have happened to me. Sure, I’d love to have kept my stress level at minimum and a couple hundred bucks in my pocket, but without losing my phone, I wouldn’t have realized how much I depended on it…and how much I don’t need to.
Without losing it, I wouldn’t have seen how freeing it was, how truly happy I became when I let go of this material possession and leaned into the lights, the music, the smiles, and the bodies around me all celebrating one thing you don’t need material possessions for: really living your life.