Doubt haunted me.
What if I failed or made a mistake?
It could be my last chance.
Each morning 'it' was the first thing that entered my head.
'It' was not an operation to remove an organ, or a mountain of debt, but a trip to a Rolling Stones concert.
The pressure was on. In 2002 my wife and I, old enough to travel on our own, made our way to London to see The Rolling Stones on their 40 Licks tour.
Then catastrophe struck. Mick Jagger got a sore throat, and they cancelled the show.
We found out after arriving in London so had a weekend rubbing our eyes. Not from tears but the grit of London's dry streets.
Since then, Rita would say how much she would love to see her favourite band, and I promised I would try.
Roll on 16 years (some DIY projects have waited just as long), and The Rolling Stones announced their No Filter tour with a show in Dublin scheduled for May 2018.
The Little Me Inside
I've never felt comfortable at social events. Small talk makes me cringe, mingling is awkward and feasting on the last sausage makes me look glutenous.
How on earth am I going to cope in a crowd of 60,000?
Where the hell am I going to park the car? Worst of all, what if I fail to get tickets?
But I've 2002 to put right and, that's what I call purpose.
After draining a colleague of all her Ticketmaster advice, I was ready. In the luxurious position of blocking out a morning to work from home (it was rarer back then), I logged into my Ticketmaster account and joined the queue for the 9 am sale.
Five minutes passed, and nothing happened. The Ticketmaster page advised not to refresh, so I waited.
I got in after an hour. In a blind rush, I landed two Gold Circle tickets. Within a few clicks, I had booked a car park space.
If you have a sincere purpose, you can overcome fear.
I didn't want to let Rita down, and that was my incentive. My feelings of apprehension faded when I thought of someone else.
There was an opportunity for my mind to play "let's scare Alan" and it failed.
Despite securing a space, I wondered if the car park owners hadn't realised the concert was on. The car park was one of the closest to the venue, and I got it cheap.
But on the day I drove up to the barrier, scanned the bar code and parked — simple.
There's an advantage to planning instead of imagining.
It's impossible to foresee every situation unless, for example, you receive a threatening letter from a lawyer.
However, our minds give guesswork a good try. Thankfully we're intelligent and can learn to act in the moment.
The 17th May 2018 was a wonderful day. My favourite days are those spent with my wife, wandering, exploring or relaxing at home.
The day had the bluest of skies, no rain, and a cold breeze.
At Dublin we made straight for our favourite city hotel, The Merrion, to have lunch. By the end of the day, we each will have each clocked up over 25,000 steps walking the streets.
You need to create your beautiful days — they don't just happen.
Had I allowed my negative imagination to delay purchasing tickets, 17th May would have been a bland day at the office.
To be sure of finding our way, we headed early to the venue.
At the entrance, a security guy said we couldn't come in "with that bag".
Shit — they only allowed tiny bags — for lipsticks. The warning was in all the newspapers but unfortunately not on Apple News.
Always keep calm and think when a massive bouncer-type guy turns you away from the door.
Lesson 4.1 — always check the protocol for concerts.
So it was back to the car to hide our bags.
The Gold Circle
The Gold Circle is the expensive standing area around the stage. I couldn't believe we'd be so close to The Rolling Stones.
Despite the cold breeze, we warmed up thanks to the crowd's approach to shared bodily warmth. How times have changed.
Death by a thousand cuts followed (AKA enduring the support act).
The Gold Circle was more than an expensive standing area. It was a group of individual lives sharing the same moment.
Being huddled together with strangers oddly influenced me. After an hour, I believed I was with a group of friends. I had to remind myself these were strangers.
There was the aunt, with her young niece, who had a subtle way of squeezing past everyone to get closer to the front. We chatted, and I discovered the elderly lady had been to see The Stones in 1969, New York.
To my right, a young guy in denim who held beer bottles in both hands and a lone woman was moving like a new age dancer.
You've no idea what someone is like until you talk to them.
Deep breath — talking to strangers can be fun. There, I said it.
The Rolling Stones
The show was fantastic. I like the greatest hits but would never call myself a fan; however, the show blew me away.
Here we were watching masters of rock at work. These guys were The Beatles' peers. Next-door neighbours for heaven's sake.
While The Beatles, and I am a fan, got tied up in contractual conflicts, The Rolling Stones kept it together and kept the fun.
Lights, hits and electricity filled Croke Park that night, and I'll never forget it.
Never let age define you.
Mick Jagger is a perfect example of defying age. As Mr Jagger approached his 75th birthday, he made the stage look like a playground.
He'd put other performers, less than half his age, to shame.
As I approached the half-century, I'm a bit wiser and a lot fitter than ever before but I could never move like Jagger. Forget about age and live.
After two lightning-quick hours, it was time to leave.
The gentle current of the crowd carried Rita and me along through the exit. Tens of thousands of people left without fuss, buoyed by a feel-good buzz.
While I had initial concerns about escorting my wife back to the car along the streets late at night, I needn't have worried. We were accompanied by thousands back to the car park.
Strangers are only people you haven't gotten to know.
Never again will I fear entering a crowd unless they're in the middle of a fight. And with age, I'll have time to get to know more strangers, and you never know, make a few more friends too.
TLDR - but you had to get to the end to find this bit 😉
I went to see The Rolling Stones and hung around with 60,000 people.
I realised there's no need to dwell on the unknown, fear strangers or act your age.
And The Rolling Stones are AMAZEBALLS!!!!