Dear pop-punks, punks, metal heads, hippies, and everyone else I can’t think of because wow I’m tired,
Last night I went to my first pop-punk show in two years. It’s been far too long considering when I was a teenager, every bit of money I had went to concert tickets. I would do odd jobs around my house, save up allowance, and covet every piece of spare change I could find. My change would be safely stored in a dinosaur piggy bank until it was heavy enough to evoke a trip to a coin machine. Music has always been my affinity, my priority, and for a while, I had enough money to at least somewhat feed my obsession.
Of course, in the past two years, gaining more independence and losing some of my health meant also having far less money. Now I find myself counting pennies to save up so that I can hopefully one day live in my own home, rather than the spare room of someone else’s. Thankfully, I’ve always been fairly talented at sticking to a budget, and every now and then I have a few spare dollars to put towards something that makes me happy rather than just keeps me alive.
Most recently, those few extra dollars brought me to The Ready Room in St. Louis last night. My friend and I (another person who also suffers from chronic illness) went early and ended up snagging the only table in the place that was in view of the stage. It was also next to the free water cooler, so we immediately dubbed it the “sick girl corner.” It was absolutely perfect for us. Since I am no longer 18 and am in chronic pain from multiple illnesses, standing for four hours is no longer a talent I have. I was ecstatic that my body wouldn’t be screaming, “get me out of here!” while waiting for one of my favorite new bands to take the stage.
As I sat waiting for the headliner, I sneakily observed the crowd. I am an analyzer, a people watcher, or as some like to call it, a creeper. The diversity of the crowd brought me so much joy. I was surrounded by people of every kind, even several with variations of chronic illness. Their presence only affirmed what I love most about music; it does not give a single fuck about your abilities or inabilities, whether you’re jumping in the front or can only gently wiggle in the back. We’re all there for the same reason, our passion for music driving us to be nothing short of ourselves, whatever that means to us.
My friends and I happily sat just out of reach of the rest of the crowd, gently bopping along to the opening bands. While at times I felt slightly bittersweet that I couldn’t be on my feet, I tried to ignore the harsh judgement of my insecurities and enjoy the show. Finally the headliner took the stage; State Champs, a fairly new Pop-punk band that immediately won me over when Nat posted their song “Secrets” to my Facebook. I felt the explosive drums in my chest replacing the constant tightness of my anxiety. I watched everyone dance and jump, hands in the air, fingers reaching for infinity. Despite having little energy and my back aching, my friends and I made our way into the crowd. well, okay, at least to the back of it.
We entered the main area, trading the light of the bar for the darkness of the venue, splattered with blue and white lights that danced in time with the music. The voice of the singer, Derek, was uplifted by the voice of hundreds of people singing along with him, myself being one of them. I couldn’t crowd surf like many people did, nor could I jump! jump! jump! as we were directed to. Instead, I ferociously wiggled and danced with fervor. I bounced and I screamed and I sang as loud as I possibly could, feeling as if my vocal chords might implode and not caring if they did. During their song Slow Burn I sang especially loudly with the chorus:
I hope it all comes back again,
I want to get stuck in your head like ,
Everlong playing on the late night radio.
I closed my eyes and as I moved my sickness was melted away. My pain was blasted into oblivion by drums and guitars and bass. I listened, I sang, I danced, and in that moment, my life was perfect.
Every day I face challenges that sometime feel too monstrous for me to conquer. Some days I feel strong enough to fight back, determined and stubborn to change it all for the better. Other days I wake up feeling already defeated, sick and hurting. Regardless, moments such as these remind me what I’m fighting for, and force me to acknowledge that the battle is always worth it, which I appreciate since chronic pain can make it easy to forget. I am reminded my existence doesn’t always have to be painful and that my happiness doesn’t always have to be extinguished. I am working on collecting these moments and keeping them close to my heart so that when I am defeated, I can look back and realize that no matter how tiresome and difficult my life feels, it still contains a few perfect, untouchable moments; and I am just so incredibly grateful to be alive for them.
We set a fire that both ends with our best lines,
And best intentions.
Let go of what we know, and make tonight our reinvention.