An Unexpected Blast from my Past
Last Wednesday night, I went to the Tom Petty 40th Anniversary concert at the Forest Hills Stadium in Queens New York I've been a big Tom Petty fan for years, ever since hearing his song "Won't Back Down" on the radio as a little kid. This was my third time seeing him live and I knew I was in for a treat. I had put out feelers to friends to see if any one would be interested in going with me, but as I didn't receive any takers, I was attending the show solo.
I arrived at the venue about half an hour before Tom (yes, I am on first name basis with him even though we've never met) was to start his set. The stadium was an outdoor arena with bleacher seating. The sky was a mix of oranges and blues as the sun was setting. The temperature was just right, a true miracle considering it is the middle of summer in New York City. The stadium was filled with a wide array of folks- grizzled old dudes, hip millenials, and the professional crowd obviously arriving straight from work. I was enjoying myself and taking it all in, when I caught sight of my ex-boyfriend and his current girlfriend walking up the stairs and planting themselves a few rows in front of me. There was no "maybe that's him, but I can't quite tell" it was absolutely him. I heard someone behind me yell his name and he turned around and waved at them. I completely ducked down as I was right in his line of sight.
I was filled with so much dread and apprehension. In the meantime, Tom had come on stage and started playing his first song. I was so freaked out about this situation that I wasn't even listening and later, couldn't recall the song he played to start the show. I texted both my mom and younger brother what was happening and both replied back adamantly stating that I was there to enjoy the show. While texting, my ex and his girlfriend had moved a few rows behind me, presumably to sit with the people who had yelled his name earlier.
I realized I had a choice to make. I had spent a lot of money on this ticket and had been looking forward to the show for months. I had to decide right then and there that I was going to focus on the show and not spend the entire time, craning my neck around to see if he was seeing me or to observe them. My initial reaction was to try and find a different seat, but that also felt like hiding, but that is not who I am nor who I want to be. Also, at previous Tom Petty shows I had danced like a crazy fanatic and I had anticipated that this show to be the same. If I stood to dance however, he might see me and see that I was alone. Knowing how badly I wanted to dance I said to myself, "Fuck it. I've paid too much money for this ticket and I fucking love Tom Petty and I don't give a fuck if he sees me dancing." (I swear a lot in my mind, hopefully you, dear reader, aren't completely offended). And then Tom started playing Won't Back Down which is so danceable and I just couldn't help, but decide, "I'm dancing." I danced so hard, I'm pretty certain I left a part of my ass in Forest Hills.
In the end, I don't think my ex ever saw me, but it doesn't really matter. Making the decision to have a blast no matter what felt so empowering. I was worried that if he did see me at the show alone he might think "What a loser, she's here by herself." But that's not how I see myself, I view myself as someone who won't miss out on an opportunity just because I'm alone. Once I made the decision to have fun, I also felt more at ease with any possibility of interacting with him. That never came to pass and that's just perfect.
Tom Petty played so many of his hits... Free Fallin', Won't Back Down, American Girl and one of my favorites, Yer So Bad which I put on repeat the following morning.
But not me baby, I've got you to save me
Oh yer so bad, best thing I ever had
In a world gone mad, yer so bad.
Singing out loud, I sang those lyrics about myself... "I've got me to save me... Oh, I'm so bad, best thing I ever had, In a world gone mad, I'm so bad..." The decision I made at the concert, the decision to have fun no matter what is ultimately a declaration of faith in my own sense of self and the knowingness that I can carry on when life throws me a curveball.
Thank you so much for reading this post! If you would like to receive my weekly stories directly to your inbox, subscribe to my newsletter below! And if my stories resonate with you, please feel free to share them with friends, family, lovers, etc.