So here’s the thing, cons may have taken over my life, in a good and healthy way, probably…but nonetheless, they have become a much larger part of my life than the “one and done” vacation it was supposed to be. If you’ve read the book already you know that through the cons I’ve found my friends. For the first time as an adult, I have a group of friends that I can lean on..and con with.
This last weekend I went mostly alone. I fear I may have done all this backwards. My first con I went with my best friend and we knew no one. Since then I have slowly accumulated a circle of friends, maybe more than one circle. I have “con” friends that I only ever see and talk to at cons, but I also have a group of four or five others that I talk to most days and at least two of them have to every con with me since the second one. Not one of them were with me in Chicago.
I wasn’t completely alone. I’m not one of those brave souls that ventures into this world all alone. I had a friend with me the whole time, but we had never conned together, and we were there for different purposes and didn’t have much opportunity to hang out, and I had a new friend I had seen around and just recently started talking to but never hung out with in person. I didn’t have my con group.
I went to this con on a wing and prayer. I’ve had a rough time lately, in nearly every way you can think of. I’ve been stressed out and overwhelmed, the path that has been so clear for so long, became crowded and blurry. I’ve been to six cons and two Louden Swain shows in the last eight months. I’ve come to depend on these quick getaways. So I went, against all reason and all logic, without a firm plan, and without my people.
My friends are absolutely my favorite part of the cons , the best thing that I have gained from these adventures. I left confident that even without my people, the time there would do me good. I was proud of myself for going, having another adventure, excited to see what it would be like to be in that environment, in my favorite place without most of my favorite people. Would photo ops still be as fun without people to giggle with? I had no idea, but I went anyway, secure in the knowledge that I would always be at home at a con.
Ya’ll, shit went sideways so quick. I was overwhelmed and stressed out before I got there, I had a million things go wrong before I left, nearly cancelled the trip right up until the day I flew out. Things did not improve. My phone kept blowing up with bad news, my autos didn’t go the way I wanted them to, my photo ops served as a reminded that I fell off the weight loss wagon again. I wanted so badly for something good, something positive and I just couldn’t find it. I went to vend, to sell the book, no one was buying.
By Saturday, I found myself skipping out on Misha’s panel (the only panels I never miss are Misha, KOC and R2M), and crying alone in a hallway. I don’t mean, a few tears of frustration, full out ugly crying behind a water cooler. In that moment, everything seemed hopeless, I was stressed and sad and grieving, convinced that writing was a waste of my time and my book must be full of lies. I’d never been so disappointed or sad at a convention.
Here’s the thing though. I needed to break. For months now I have been struggling, struggling to accept that my brain has betrayed me and I might not ever be all the way better and the weeks before the con were just too much. I’d gone to other cons and I kept myself busy, so busy I couldn’t focus on being sad, or scared. I cheered myself up with ops and autos, something to look forward to. It’s a healthy way to cope for the most part. I spent a few days away from my grown up stuff, drank a little too much and talked to my friends. What I didn’t do during those cons was break, cry and grieve. Conning kinda alone allowed me to do that.
There is no where else I could’ve taken that time. I have a career, three children, I got shit to do, I don’t have time to sit and cry. At the con without my friends, without any distractions and no responsibilities I could. It didn’t take very long before there were people around me. No one pushed me for answers when I didn’t want to talk about it at first, no one judged me when I shared.
I don’t know the name of the woman who sat with me in silence while I cried. I don’t know if I’ll ever see her again. She did not know a think about me when she sat down other than I was sad. I’m not an easy person to comfort, I’m a psych major, trained for crisis intervention, well versed in depression, anxiety and emotional outbursts. I know when I’m being irrational, I still become annoyed at feelings, I’m getting better, but crying makes me angry, crying in front of others is unacceptable, except, apparently at a con.
Sunday things got a little brighter. Sales picked up and little moments throughout the day revealed that I had more friends than I thought. Others noticed I had been off that weekend. Some of those people that I only ever see at cons, recognized that I was sad. Some of the interactions that I initially took as exclusion or distance, were later found to be quite the opposite. People cared, people I barely knew, only recognized, people I didn’t really think I mattered to; they all checked in, helped out.
Without my con people there, I still found people to lean on, I was taken care of. I cant tell you how amazing that was. As a mother, it is so rare to be taken care of, to be able to crash and break and just stop for a minute. This weekend was nothing like any other con I’ve been to and that’s ok. It was gift and a lesson, in it’s own way, the opportunity to just stop, allow myself to feel the feelings even if they were kinda terrible and at the same time be confident in the knowledge that everything would be ok, that I had people around me that were making sure that I ate, and rested and drank water, that made sure I had those interactions and ops and autos and experiences that never fail to make me smile.
The tag line for the book says every con has a story. That is still true, every con also has a lesson, at least for me. The lessons from this one may very well be the hardest I’ve learned since that first con. I did a lot of things this weekend that I couldn’t have done a year ago. It occurred to me that a year ago, I wouldn’t have gone without my friends, but a year ago I didn’t have this many friends. It’s not a secret that along with friends, the cons have given me courage and a sense of adventure. They never fail to be a learning experience, showing me new parts of myself, things I need to work on. This one surprised me. I thought I would go sell some books, hang out with the couple people that I knew, have my now habitual weekend getaway, my break.
Instead, I learned to cry, to be taken care, I learned that this family goes far beyond my friends and my con friends, as long as we are in that space we are family. I learned that I can be myself all the way around, with new people I just befriended, with my vendor friends, with all of the fans, I don’t have to hide away parts of myself just cause my friends aren’t there.
Perhaps the biggest lesson though was the realization that the conventions are not a break from real life. They are part of my life and just like any other area, there are good days and bad days. Nothing is good and perfect all the time, nothing goes as expected all the time. The first two days were rough, it wasn’t fun, nothing really cool was happening, with the exception of one fun photo. At first it made me sad and angry. This was supposed to be fun damn it. It was supposed to cheer me up and break the monotony, take my mind off of things. It did none of those things but some how I still feel better than I have in a really long time. You see, the cons are what we make them really. The performers there, they are people, they are going to have good days and bad days too, we will all have amazing con experiences and pretty terrible ones, the same can be said of every part of life.
So no, cons really aren’t a vacation anymore, it’s where I go to see my friends, where I go when I want to be alone but don’t want to be lonely, where I can be taken care of. For a long time I thought I needed to work harder, to make the rest of my life so awesome that I didn’t need to go to so many cons to get away from it. That’s not the case, I don’t need to go, I want to, I love it there, I love the people, the rush and lulls, the friendships and silly jokes, late nights and the horrible con diet, all of it. I enjoy traveling and adventure. I’m not going to escape my life, or to break up the monotony, not anymore. It’s a place I belong, that I like to go, part of my selfcare, a hobby, it’s where I found my friends.