Denver Comic Con (or DCC) was my first large-scale convention. I've gone to smaller ones in the past, like the one here in Spokane, and one in the Tri-Cities area--but this convention had something about it that blew my mind even more than the more local conventions I had attended. For this convention, I helped assist with a booth with my friend Carrie. She runs a local photography business in Denver (and, she also runs the photography blog that I guest blog for, Photography Awesomesauce); her booth was about taking professional, studio-style portraits of cosplayers (that's people that dress up in amazing costumes portraying their favorite characters from movies, cartoons, anime, comic books, etc). The setup was simple, effective, festive, and it was SO. MUCH. FUN.
Except for taking pictures of Carrie's dogs, and some architecture I couldn't stop crushing on, I kept my picture taking to my iPhone. I know, I know. I had the camera, but honestly, I was so busy helping with the booth, I didn't really have a lot of time to take pictures. And even more honestly, I found that living in the moment, instead of looking for moments to capture, gave me a better connection with people. I honestly can't say I regret it. I really loved being able to fully enjoy every moment.
**Intermixed with my top 5 breakthroughs are the pictures I did manage to capture during my time traveling these last few weeks. Coincidentally, they're also on my Instagram feed (which is pretty consistently updated!) so be sure to follow along over there as well (@shmilyface is my name!). I take pictures of scenery, food, my toddler, dogs, and wine. It's pretty great. **
1. Introverts united. And we did it proudly.
I love emotional and thought-based science. . So going to the convention let me experience something somewhat rare, and incredibly beautiful: A vast sea of introverted and extroverted gamers and nerds being surrounded by those who respected and appreciated what they loved. It was like one big therapy group. I saw introverts who bravely dressed up in Cosplay and smiled shyly as people asked to take pictures with them. The level of vulnerability, and the acceptance and respect for that vulnerability, was breathtaking. The only judging I ever saw was of those that didn't catch every Doctor Who or Star Trek reference that was dropped--as well as grammatical errors. Not on appearances. Certainly not on weight. In general, everyone was loving, accepting, and uplifting--and it was so good to see.
2. I Was Given Permission To Be Myself.
I never talk about my hobbies on my blog, mostly because they're kind of obscure, and because, well, it's something I got made fun of for when I was coming into my own. I was always afraid of that level of transparency--I love playing Final Fantasy. I love watching Star Trek and Firefly. I watch anime. I play board games that are incredibly obscure. Not everyone will get that. And I didn't want to face the fear of rejection from sharing such a cherished part of my life.
But at the convention? I geeked out on my favorite anime, talked deeply about the differences between Star Trek captains, high-fived Lord Business as he wandered the aisle's with his massive tube of Kragle, and made incredibly obscure jokes that only other geeky nerds got (AND appreciated). It was okay to share this facet of my personality that no one else really knew about. And when I discussed the new expansion of Final Fantasy XIV with another Cosplayer wearing a Victorian Steampunk gown with a stunning corset and a colorful top hat? I actually got misty-eyed. I had found my people, and they had found me. I could connect with them based on what I was stoked about, and they were just as stoked back.
3. People were celebrated.
Voice actors. Comic Book Artists. Magic the Gathering artists. Webcomic creators. Childhood movie actors. TV series stars. Costume Creators. Game concepts. Visual Effects. All of these people played essential roles in the success of the con, and it felt good to pay homage to those that helped create the industry that I loved to live in. Seeing the actors from such amazing hits like BattleStar Galactica, Lord of the Rings, and Cult TV Shows like Buffy and Firefly, Voice Actors from my favorite animes, and designers of some of my favorite webcomics, all in one place, was a dream come true.
Even more than that, some of the greatest thinkers of our time also came forward to donate their immense mind mansions to the power of nerdy pop culture. There was a panel where a Biologist and an Astrophysicist took the time to discern if Tatooine could actually exist, as well as it's flora and fauna! (Spoiler: It potentially could!!)
4. I made amazing friends and connections.
I drank with an astrophysicist and befriended a biologist. I geeked out with a police officer who was wondering why I was carrying a massive iMac through downtown Denver. I exchanged puns with an amazing sci-fi writer. I became friends with an artist, a t-shirt maker, and a graphic designer. And even after the convention ended, while I was at the airport, I connected with two other people who had been at the convention, and became friends with them as well! Learning how they lived and worked, getting a glimpse into the worlds of such diverse and incredible people in the world of geeks and nerds....connecting and befriending these amazing people...it's definitely changed me for the better.
5. I renewed my sense of self-worth.
Running a booth at a convention isn't for the faint of heart. It's demanding. It requires connecting with people, creating a good experience, and investing in a relationship, whether it be for a few moments, or a lifetime. But through helping Carrie with her booth, I learned how to be gracious, to serve, to put my wants and needs on the back burner in order to help others. I learned to not take things personally, to stop being fearful of rejection. I learned that not everyone can or will like me--and I accept that. I left Denver feeling more confident in myself, in my goals and ambitions, in how I wanted to treat others, how I wanted to be treated, and how to improve my relationships.
But most of all, I learned that conventions are something I really want to keep going to. I love the atmosphere, I love connecting, and once I got past the initial anxiety of having to connect with people, I thrived. For those that know me....I basically learned how to stifle my social anxiety, and let myself flourish. It was the most valuable experience I've had in 2015 yet, and it's not even half over.
There are more than just Comic Conventions, by the way. There are conventions for pretty much any niche you can think of. And I strongly, strongly recommend going to one, if there's a hobby or topic you're passionate about pursuing. Meeting like-minded people, who geek out about the same thing you do, is a gift I can't quite put into words. All I can say is do it.
Thanks for reading! <3