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What Going to Concerts Is Like Now That I Have Chronic Medical Issues

As anyone who knows me will tell you, I am a music obsessive. I listen to music as much as possible and love discovering new music. I even interned at a music magazine in Dublin when I studied abroad there during my junior year of college.

An important part of consuming music is, of course, hearing it live. Going to a good concert is one of my favorite things to do, ever. I’ve been going to shows since high school, when I saw my first concert: The Script with Joshua Radin, and loved it. Now I always track my favorite bands so that I can save up and catch them when they are in town.

One of the things I was excited about when I moved to New York in June was the music scene here. You have huge shows, tiny venues, free shows. In fact, the day that I accepted my job, I bought a celebratory concert ticket to see Eve 6. That also happened to be my first solo concert.

I’ve found that my concert experiences are quite different now from when I was younger. Now that my medical issues have gotten more intrusive, I need to make sure that I will be able to sit at a show. Gone are the days when I could stand for hours, getting as close to the stage as possible while surrounded by the mosh pit of concert-goers.

Sometimes I am able to have the best of both worlds, since some venues are set up with options for both sitting and standing, with concert-goers able to move between the two freely. That was my experience at the Eve 6 concert, which was held at the Grammercy Theatre in Manhattan. I was able to sit towards the back for the three opening acts, since I wasn’t as familiar with their music, and save my energy to head to the front of the crowd for the main act.

Not all venues are set up this way, unfortunately, and as I know other people with chronic “invisible” conditions deal with, I am not automatically able to sit in designated priority seating. I still feel uncomfortable taking the seat away from someone not in the gray area of chronic illness, someone who appears to need the seat more than me. I’m hoping that more venues are able to create enjoyable concert experiences for everyone, despite illnesses or disabilities.

Last week, I went to see blink-182 with a good friend from work. She knew I would be a more low-key listener, sitting instead of dancing, and that we needed to get actual seats as opposed to standing room tickets. She didn’t expect too much from me, and was able to enjoy the music with me, even though she normally would’ve been more than happy to dance in the mosh pit below us.

It’s a different experience than when I attended shows in high school, but I know that being healthy enough to attend a concert is a big deal, and I definitely do not take that for granted. Going to concerts is, for me, a sort of defiance against what is going on inside my body that I can’t control.

Because of my medical issues, I have to put myself in places that I would rather not spend time in: the emergency room, operating table, doctor’s office. When I have the energy, I want to be able to be in environments that make me happy. For me, that includes the noisy, buzzing energy of a live show, in which total strangers are able to connect over songs they’ve listened to over and over in their private spaces. Concerts turn the private listening experience into a public one.

Music is my “safe space,” a coping mechanism, and my favorite form of entertainment. I definitely won’t let any illness, diagnosed or otherwise, take that away from me.

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