I still remember the experience of my first concert like it was yesterday. It was the final show of the OP Presents Tour; the headlining act was my then-favorite band, Boys Like Girls.

I’d been counting down the days for what felt like forever. I remember the rush of adrenaline I felt as my cousin, my sister, my mom and I joined the long line wrapping around the venue. I remember listening to the chatter of the people around me, observing them and picking out the band tees and worn-out Converse low-tops that matched mine exactly. When you’re thirteen, all that seems to matter is fitting in and feeling like you belong, and for the first time, I did. Some had brought warm blankets with them, a sign of true dedication, since they knew they’d be waiting for several hours out in the November cold. And then, finally, feeling my heart skip a beat as the line started moving.

Seeing my all-time favorite band burst onto the stage was more thrilling than I ever could’ve expected. Being part of that crowd, that group of hundreds of strangers, united by our love for the music; hearing my favorite songs played live right in front of me and singing along; feeding off of that energy shared by everyone in the room—it was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. And of course I’d taken a gazillion pictures and videos so that I could relive it all over again the next day.

After that first concert, I caught the bug and I was hooked. I even traveled to different states a few times for those special shows with killer lineups that I just could not miss. To this day, I have probably been to at least thirty concerts, and the looks of surprise I get from people when I tell them this never gets old. I have to explain to them that concert-going isn’t just a hobby, but a lifestyle for me.

Now that I’m a junior in college, I don’t get the chance to attend concerts nearly as often as I did in high school. But I still consider my love for live music one of the most important parts of me (and of course I still snatch up tickets whenever I do get the opportunity!). Those seven years of road-tripping to see my favorite bands, of waiting in lines in the summer heat at Warped Tour to get photos with them, of decorating t-shirts with their lyrics and album art and getting tons of compliments on them, were a defining period of my life. One of the best and most memorable parts of it was the overwhelming sense of community and solidarity it brought, especially at the smaller venues. In my normal, everyday surroundings, it was pretty rare to find even one person who felt as strongly about certain bands as I did, and some people even made fun of me for how “obsessed” I was. But once I was there, at the show, surrounded by people who understood, I felt right in my element. I probably spent hundreds of dollars on tickets and mercy during those years, and I do not feel one ounce of regret. Having those experiences helped me figure out who I was as a teenager and brought me so much happiness and wholeness, and now I have amazing memories to hold onto forever. Now, one of my adult goals is to become financially secure enough to travel to shows and music festivals all over the world.

I know that concerts will always be a huge source of happiness and comfort for me, and it feels pretty special to have developed an interest in my early teens that has stuck with me into my twenties. For those reasons, I feel absolutely no shame in my concert history, and acknowledge the nostalgia I feel even for bands I no longer listen to or care for. My taste will probably continue to change and evolve as I get older, but I will always owe my passion for live music to those early days and they will always mean the world to me. I plan on being an avid concert-goer until I can’t walk anymore, and if people want to call me crazy for that, I’m okay with it. Because, in the words of Gerard Way, former frontman of the beloved emo band My Chemical Romance, being at a show is all about “singing your heart out, and knowing it’s okay to love something maybe a little too much as long as it’s real to you.”