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20 Feet from Justin Timberlake

It was January 31, 2019. I was working until 8PM and it was 4 degrees outside. My father had called me that afternoon; him and my mother would take a drive into the city to pick me up because it was going to be too cold for me to take the train. I told them no, but he insisted so eventually I gave in. It was Justin Timberlake's birthday and he was playing at Madison Square Garden, just 10 minutes away, on his Man of the Woods tour. My mom and I had gone to MSG to see him a few months earlier so I got my JT fill for the year, but something about him being there that night was making me fidget. The only tickets left were the expensive Floor Seats, so I waved my white flag and decided that seeing him in October was enough.

There was a fun perk about my job. If you were working the night of a show and there were unsold tickets, sometimes the manager would gift them to an employee. Lots of my co-workers got to go to Broadway shows and concerts, but I was never working the right shift at the right time. Except on this particular night. The office knew I was a HUGE JT fan, and with some unsold tickets for the concert, my manager walked up to me and told me I was going to see Justin Timberlake again, except this time I would be on the floor. Close to the stage. For free. Are you ready for my response?

"Thank you so much but I can't. My parents are already here to pick me up."

The room fell silent except for the sound of jaws hitting the floor. I nearly insulted the whole company. 'Did she just say no?' I wanted to go SO BADLY but my parents drove from Westchester to NYC and were waiting outside, so I had a lot of guilt. I love my parents and they are so selfless and giving, and I felt like I would hurt them if I went to the show. I paced the room, trying to understand what I just said no to. "Well, I already saw him in October so it's not like I'm missing out." "But it's for free AND I get to be on the floor where I could be super close to him. It would be a different experience this time." Eventually, I called my parents and told them my dilemma. They weren't upset and they told me I had to go. I still felt so awful and I promised them a sushi dinner the next night (which I followed through with happily).

My co-worker and I sprinted to MSG. At this point it was around 9PM and he had just hit the stage. We got through security and sprinted to the ticket line. We scanned our printed tickets. DENIED. Normally my heart would break into a million pieces, but one thing I knew about my job is that if this happens, there is still a chance to get in. I called my manager. There were only 2 tickets left but they were PDF tickets, which meant they needed to be printed, which meant we were going to have to sprint back to the office to pick them up, then sprint back to MSG, losing more show time. The lady scanning the tickets was very nice, and being that the show already started, she offered to try to scan the PDF tickets, but if it didn't work we would have to go get them. The tickets were emailed to me, and we crossed our fingers as I zoomed in on the barcodes. I was ready to run back but I was really hoping not to. And I didn't have to because THEY SCANNED! We all cheered happily together and my friend and I proceeded to enter the arena.

As soon as I walked through the doors into MSG, I saw JT and his dancers on stage, and I could not believe how close we were. It was the most insane thing I ever experienced in my life. The floor wasn't jam packed so it was easy to walk through, and we were nice and close to one of the turns on this winding path stage. The main stage with the band was a little further up but we could still see everything.

JT came around that turn quite a few times, and at one moment stopped to face us and sing. I was in awe. It wasn't that I was starstruck. This is an artist that I have been inspired by since I was 6 years old. I learned how to sing mainly because of Justin. I learned how to perform because of him. He's one of the main reasons that I am even pursuing a music career. It was such a surreal moment for me.

When the opening chords of "Mirrors" plays, the audience is lit up with bright lights, and everyone starts cheering. It was a really moving moment and one of my favorites in this show, so when I saw it this time, instead of focusing on the stage, I did a 360 turnaround and looked around at the audience. I took in the cheers, the lights, and the music. I was experiencing the crowd as if I was on that stage, and it was a feeling I cannot describe.

Justin Timberlake is performing in NYC again on his birthday this year, this time to a selected, lucky few. I am hoping to be one of those people, but I'm not holding my breath. This reminded me of that time I got to see JT up close and how I almost didn't go because of guilt! My parents have long forgotten about that time they drove into the city to pick me up and left without me, but I would have never forgotten how I turned down floor seats to see my idol.

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