Frank Ocean Reminded Me That's It's Okay to Feel
IMAGE CREDIT: #SHOTBYDEE
“I can't be by myself tonight”, I tell my best friend as we walk away from the Panorama Stage, where Frank Ocean just finished his headlining performance. The hundreds of thousands of people who are also leaving Randall’s Island can see that my friend and I are holding hands as to not lose each other in the dark crowds. What these same people cannot see is that holding my friend’s hand is my coping mechanism. They cannot see that I’m actively fighting off thoughts of distress that Frank's set triggered. The thoughts that I had convinced myself I had already worked through. Breathing in and out steadily, focusing on trying to make it out of the festival area and away from everyone- away from dealing with the thoughts that were engulfing my mind.
I knew this was going to happen, I saw this coming weeks before. I tried so hard to ignore the sentiments of nostalgia that Frank was going to force me to acknowledge and dwell in. The juxtaposition of my first time experiencing Frank live and the fear of dealing with my fear and disdain for emotion was too strong. I even tried to prepare myself for what Friday night at Panorama would feel like. Days leading up to the festival, I refused to listen to anything but mid-2000s hip hop in an attempt to distract myself from what was to come. I prayed. I talked to myself out loud. I wrote. I'm sort of new to this thing called processing emotion. Still working through it.
As we’re watching the breakdown of Solange’s set and the making of Frank’s, I’m looking around, taking in everyone passing me by. I’m looking for someone or something, but I'm not sure why. The sky had begun to change colors but for some reason, the beauty of the sunset made me anxious. Sunsets make me sad. I think it's because sunsets signal an end, a fin. The crowd begins to make me nervous. Anxiety is building upside but there is no way I’m leaving now. A once in a lifetime experience trumped finding comfort in that moment.
What did I expect from Frank? I expected him to not show up. The luxury of his presence is such a driving point as to why he is so desirable as an artist. But he did. He showed up and showed out and left me by myself, more confused, in awe and in love with him than I could have imagined. At one point, I found myself getting mad at Frank because he kept singing with his back to the audience. I finally had him and he wanted to not give me his full attention- at least that's what it felt like. As I picked up my phone to commemorate this moment, even with his back turned I couldn't help but recognize just how beautiful the photo was. How beautiful he was. Frank wasn't ignoring me, he was giving me the full experience that I was too selfish to think about. This was not a Frank Ocean performance, this was an entire experience. This was Blonde.
Here’s what I learned that night- Blonde is an intricate and deep extension of nostalgia, sadness, and loneliness. Frank is lonely too. He's so developed in his artistic talents that he managed to gently and beautifully express to us just how deep his sadness runs. During his performance, he asked us to go into our deepest, loneliest, saddest memories and then had the nerve to go into a rendition of Solo. And we did just that, we went on this journey of sadness and loneliness with Frank Ocean because we are so captivated by his art and his presence. The next morning, as I was getting ready for day 2 of Panorama, I realized that I need not be scared by my emotions. Frank creates art from his emotions. This is how he processes his life and what he sees. I am learning to create from my discomfort and hurt, and it is a new way of healing for me, but if it works for Frank, I’m willing to give it a chance, too.