I left smelling of pyrotechnics and sweat. My feet ached in my black boots and my sheer tank top stuck to the sticky skin of my back. I was tired and sore as my voice scratched in my throat from too much use. The Panic! at the Disco concert was an event. From the glitter cannons to literal fire on stage, the concert was as energetic as the exclamation point in the band’s name. Also, like the exclamation point, it was unnecessary.

As a broke graduate student, the $120 spent on tickets could have gone to other necessities. Originally purchased as a Christmas gift for my sister, they became an extra expense when she was unable to go and it would be Bryan and I attending in her place. Bryan wanted to sell them, and we did put them up for a bit, but as it got closer to the event and they still hadn’t sold, I convinced him to take them down. I really wanted to go because I had been a fan since my angsty teens when the only musicians I listened to possessed a melancholy that rivaled Shakespearean tragedy.

This band represents a transition period for me. Growing up as a homeschooler, I basically only listened the music my parents liked. So, a lot of Michael W. Smith and Casting Crowns. Panic! was one of the first bands I discovered through Pandora when I first began to branch out to secular music. I was obsessed with “I Write Sins Not Tragedies,” even if I would only listen to radio edit because, at the time, I still didn’t listen to music with swear words. Panic! had been in Omaha before and I hadn’t been able to see them and my heart desperately wanted to experience them live.

In our situation, many would argue that we should have just reduced the price significantly and sold the tickets to recuperate some of the cost. We always need extra money by the time the end of the month rolls around and even a fraction of the full ticket price would be helpful. But I think the tickets held more significance than that. They weren’t just a commodity to be sold, the represented an experience and experiences are something that are too often undervalued.

According to an NPR interview with Dr. Ryan Howell, Assistant Professor of Psychology at San Francisco State University, buying experiences make us happier than buying possessions:

“we asked them to think about a time in the last three months that they had used their money to make them happier. Half of them were told to think about specifically a life experience – like you said, eating out or going to a concert or traveling. And the other half were told to think about a time that they had tried to make themselves happier when they bought a material item… we were able to use mediation modeling, and it showed that participants who were in the experiential condition said that they were more likely to consider their money well-spent at that time but also that currently that their purchase was still making them happier”

For the many teenage girls who attended the concert, the experience definitely made them happy. At least I would assume so based off the amount of screaming that happened every time a new song came on.

The NPR interview may seem counter intuitive because objects stay in our life whereas experiences don’t. However, in a way, experiences are more permanent. An object can be lost or broken, but once an experience happens it stays with you. The time I spent walking on the Beach in South Africa and helping in the school there added to the sum of my life and fed my soul, more so than the anything I could have purchased with the thousands of dollars I spent on the trip.

Growing up, my family didn’t have a lot of extra money, so I didn’t have a lot of experiences. We never went on family vacations and even going to the movies on a Saturday was too expensive. But now that I have control over my own money and it’s just Bryan and I, I’m willing to tighten our belts a little bit to experience more of the world. Every new experience is like a piece added to the puzzle of my life, expanding the picture of who I am and making me more complete.

I believe positive life experiences are especially important because of my mental health. The more joy I add to my life, the easier it is to combat the dark stain that sometimes creeps in. Shaking up the monotony of my life breaks up the thick fog that descends on me and re-sparks the joy in my heart.

The concert was definitely worth the money we spent. The feeling that a concert gives you is unique. You get to experience the music move through you as the beat vibrates in your bones and deafens your ears. The days and weeks before, I listed to Panic! nonstop to prepare myself to sing every lyric at the top of my lungs. Each song becomes your favorite as it plays and my off key singing and lack of rhythm doesn’t matter as my  voice and dancing disappear into a sea of other voices and bodies all united by the notes of the music.

When the last song began, I felt a wistfulness seep into my chest. It is like when you finish a good book, you’re glad to have experienced it all but you wish it wasn’t quite done, you aren’t ready to leave the world that has been built around you. As the last notes of “Victorious” faded away and we wove our way through the crowd I was glad I made the decision to keep the tickets even if I woke up the next morning feeling like I had been hit by a truck.