Kara’s Flowers

I got together with a mentor of mine the other day. It’s always a love/hate experience. What I love about seeing my mentor is he expects and believes great things of me. What I don’t love about seeing my mentor is I’m never as far along as I want to be.

Sitting with him makes me desperately impatient with my lack of progress. It doesn’t matter the successes I’ve had, or the things that are going well…  Every time I meet with him, I drive away frantically thinking of short cuts or accelerators to get
me where I want to be.

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The feeling reminds me of when I was 14 and wanted to go to my friend’s house but my mother said she wouldn’t drive me. I was so dramatically impatient, I started making a construction paper chain (remember those)—a link for every day until I turned 16. Of course, I ran out of construction paper before it was complete, but the struggle was real.

Since life really is “about the journey,” this obsession I have with the “destination” causes a lot of angst. And in those moments, I’ve found the best way to deal with it is to remind myself of Kara’s Flowers.

The story of Kara’s Flowers is actually one I heard from my husband Michael. At first glance, the Kara’s Flowers story seems self-serving for Michael—because it requires Michael first tell the story of the punk band he started in high school where he was the lead singer and played bass. Their first few songs weren’t well received; with titles like “Artichoke” and “The Birth of Industrial America” (which was only an instrumental because they were too nervous to sing), it’s hard to imagine why…

However, they did get some airtime on the radio in San Diego with their smash hit, “Syphilis,” and eventually opened for Blink-182 and had women’s panties thrown at them onstage. (Bucket list check.) Sadly, the success was short lived; the band broke up when the boys went to college. One to Stanford, and the rest, including Michael, to UCLA.

It was during those UCLA nights out in Westwood that Michael and his buddies met the band Kara’s Flowers. Correction. They never actually met Kara’s Flowers—because no one wanted to meet Kara’s Flowers. Kara’s Flowers was one of the bands that played upstairs at the Westwood Brew Co. and everyone knew the bands that played upstairs at the Westwood Brew Co. weren’t worth listening to.

Kara’s Flowers was no exception. They were a sad little group of high school kids playing some strange pop/rock combo no one could get into. The lead singer was kinda weird looking with stark black hair, a long, pointy nose, big bushy eyebrows that looked like they might swallow his beady little eyes and a ridiculous falsetto voice that echoed through the empty, upstairs lounge.

No fans, not even a random groupie went to hear Kara’s Flowers.

After a brutal hour or two, Kara’s Flowers would come down the narrow dive-bar stairs; carrying their equipment, elbowing their way through the indifferent crowds. Invisible. If Michael had taken the time to look Kara’s Flowers lead singer in his beady little eye, he might have seen a flash of desperate impatience… but Michael didn’t look; no one looked at Kara’s Flowers. And truthfully Michael should have forgotten about them completely.

However. One day, just a few years later, Michael unexpectedly encountered Kara’s Flowers again. Though not in a seedy college bar—this time he was driving down the Pacific Coast Highway with the windows open and the radio loud when he heard the unmistakable falsetto of Kara’s Flowers lead singer, only the band he was singing with wasn’t called Kara’s Flowers anymore. Intrigued, Michael Googled it and sure enough, Google responded with an image of the pointy-nosed, big-eye-browed singer Michael had ignored.

The singer’s name was Adam.

And Kara’s Flowers was now Maroon 5.

Maroon 5. If you were to ask me my favorite band, I’d answer Maroon 5. If you were to ask about my favorite workout music, I would answer Maroon 5. Favorite love song? The CD I listened to the most (when CDs is how we listened to music)? And favorite lead singer?… Adam Levine’s distinct look and falsetto is just fine by me.

I love when Michael tells the Kara’s Flowers story. Not just because I love Maroon 5, but because at the end of the story he says:

“I wish I would have gone upstairs and listened… because something really cool was happening up there.”

A group of guys with a dream, honing their craft, fighting impatience, journeying to their destination.

In that way, Kara’s Flowers gives me hope. On those days when I am tempted to turn construction paper into links I can cut off to indicate progress, I think about Adam and Kara. I think about all the people who, like me, are feeling the same desire to speed up the journey, to get to the destination faster. And not just in business or bands—people who are seeking fitness goals, or learning to cook, or when I watch my son try to take apart the teeny-tiny Legos that seem impossible to separate… all of those journeys that don’t have shortcuts. Just lots and lots of thankless nights doing the thing we’re trying to do, even though there’s not a groupie in sight.

As I drove away from the meeting with my mentor the other day, frustrated, Maroon 5 came on the radio. Now, it’d be easy to think that it was some cosmic sign—but it wasn’t.

Maroon 5 is ALWAYS on the radio.

I rolled my windows down, turned the music loud and reminded myself… “something really cool is happening here.” And I did my best to enjoy my journey home—which is probably what my mentor would have wanted me to do.