Always meant to start doing blog posts after conventions, but I've never gotten around to it until now. With how astonishing BABSCon was this year for me, I felt it was necessary this time around. Hopefully I'll have the ambition to make this a thing
Admittedly, this convention was a bit... different for me to say the least. So this isn't a normal retrospective. I'm focusing this much more on my emotions than a run down of my day to day activities because of what this convention meant to me. Because of this, it's going to be an unusually long blog and a bit of an emotional one.
Wall of text in 3... 2... 1...
So how do you describe a week that quite literally changed your outlook on life? Let me start from the beginning I suppose...
I have had the pleasure of spending the vast majority of my two years on this forum as a member of the Poniverse and MLP Forums staff. To say the staff is filled with my best friends is the understatement of the century, they are nothing short of family to me... each and every one of them. Since I joined the staff, my reasons for going to conventions has drastically changed. What started out as genuine interest in the convention itself has very quickly morphed into more of an excuse to spend a weekend with my Poniverse family. Last year at BABSCon, I had the absolute joy of meeting some of my closest friends on staff like Jeric, Koukatsu, and Feld0 among others, and with even more staff coming to BABSCon this year I was really hoping to feel the sense of satisfaction I felt from last years convention again.
Ironically, despite this convention being one of the single greatest experiences of my life, things actually didn't start out that wonderful. I've never been a particularly healthy eater... I tend to eat a lot of junk food and basically live off of drinking soda and coffee. I knew this sort of a diet would eventually catch up to me and I would have to make changes to my life, but I didn't quite anticipate how soon that would happen. The past few weeks I've experienced a few changes to some pre-existing medical conditions. Without going into too much detail about my medical history, the past few weeks I've started having some very negative reactions to certain foods I had become accustomed to, namely caffeine. Because of this, right before BABSCon I was forced to completely change my diet, and cut nearly all caffeine, coffee, and soda from my routine. The problem with this was that I had quite literally become addicted to caffeine, having made a habit of consuming an exorbitant amount of caffeine on a daily basis for years. Long story short, on top of the dehydration and nausea I had already been dealing with for three weeks, the first few days of BABSCon also came with me going through the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal. If you attended our panel at BABSCon and noticed my knee consistently shaking through the entire panel and some visual discomfort on my part, that is why.
Long story short, I was actually feeling like crap throughout Thursday and Friday at BABSCon with the worst of it happening Friday night where I tortured my poor roommates with about 2 hours of pacing back and forth in pain while I desperately tried to eat a small piece of chicken to prevent my blood sugar from dropping further despite feeling extremely nauseous at the same time. Anyway, there's a reason I bring up in such detail how crappy I felt beyond feeling bad for myself.
The reason I bring all of this up is that despite the fact that I actually was quite a bit of an inconvenience to the rest of the staff because of this, they did nothing but try everything they could do to try and make me feel better both physically and emotionally. Little gestures like my amazing friend Nervous Stitch taking me aside before the Poniverse Panel on Friday after noticing I wasn't feeling well and making sure I was okay to Jeric, Fhao, and the rest of the staff at our panel stepping up and taking over since they knew I wasn't up for hosting the panel like I had originally planned to do. Even people I hardly knew like Troblem's wonderful husband made sure to take a moment to check and see how I was feeling and see if there was anything they could do to help. I've never felt so cared for or cared about in all my life.
The truth is I've struggled much of my life with depression to varying degrees, with a lot of my issues stemming from a feeling of invisibility. It's one of the reason why so many of the things I have done with my life put me on center stage... in middle school I was a singer frequently performing in front of several hundred people. From there I went on to volunteer in a diversionary court program where I spoke in front of a couple dozen people in a courtroom on a near weekly basis. I went on to law school to actually train to become an attorney. I felt a sense of great satisfaction in being 'the best' at something and feeling like I had been recognized by my peers, but through all of these things, when it fell back to my normal day to day social life I slipped back into obscurity and invisibility. I may have been well known in a courtroom or in a choir group, but when I left that very small setting, I was nothing more than an acquaintance to even the people I cared for most. It was a very hard feeling to go through high school, college, and law school knowing that the few friends I had would never be able to care for me as much as I cared for them.
And in much the same way as I have done throughout my life, I've pushed my way through the ranks of Poniverse staff up to my current positions as Head of Public Relations and a member of Poniverse Council. In all my previous endeavors, while I did have some feeling of importance when I pushed my way to the top, it felt shallow and meaningless when I got there. Everybody may have known my name, but they didn't truly care about me as a person. Poniverse however is different for me, and I don't think I really realized that until this week. The genuine concern my friends on staff showed for me wasn't about Poniverse or my position on staff, it wasn't about the convention or ponies or anything to do with what Poniverse does... I realized that concern was for me as a person. That for the first time in my life I had found a group of people who genuinely and purely cared for one another without reason. These first few days of the convention made me realize these weren't my colleagues or even my friends, but they were for all intents and purposes my family.
There was actually one small gesture that above everything else made me realize what an astonishing group of people I really had found. I won't mention names or go into great detail but they know who they are... Saturday morning I was actually starting to feel better, but now there was another one of our staff who wasn't feeling good, and they actually were likely in significantly more pain and discomfort than I was. Now this person more than anybody had talked to me to make sure everything was okay the days before. When I went to check on them Saturday morning to make sure they were okay, the first thing that person asked me, despite their own problem they were dealing with, was how I was feeling. It was such a small thing, but was truly one of the purest and most genuine acts of someone putting my feelings first that I had ever experienced, and I will be eternally grateful for this small but meaningful gesture.
Thankfully, the weekend wasn't entirely consisting of illness and injury. Friday afternoon we had a small birthday party for one of Jeric's two amazing daughters. I won't say much about this other than it's hard to put into words what a neat feeling it is to see every single one of the staff take a break from all of the various things going on in the convention to make the convention special for someone they had barely just met.
Saturday I was feeling better so I finally really got to get involved in the convention. I attended the charity auction which I always enjoy if for no other reason than to experience bronies pulling out all the stops to help give back to others. From there I went to the VIP Meet and Greet where I met up with my good friend and convention buddy, Diva Pony. My friendship with Diva goes back to the first BABSCon in 2014. I honestly at this point can't say exactly how it happened, but somewhere along the lines we began PM'ing eachother back and forth before BABSCon and became good friends. We quickly formed a bit of a tradition where myself, 11th Doctor Whooves, and Diva (and usually 1 or 2 other people) would meet up one night of the con for some wine and snacks to just relax and chat about everything. These little gatherings have become a staple of BABSCon for me and it's one of the things I most look forward to when I attend BABS. There's nothing quite like sitting back with a group of friends with no goals other than to talk and get to know one another even better than we did before.
Sunday proved to be relatively uneventful, in a good way. The convention wound down and the staff took the opportunity to meet up once again for some pizza, games, and good conversation. Not everything at this convention was ideal, but the acts of kindness and friendship were something I had never before experienced to this degree. As we said goodbye to some of the staff Sunday night, the rest of us prepared for the second leg of our trip in Las Vegas!
Let me explain... a couple years ago my best friend, 11th Doctor Whooves, joined me before BABSCon in a short 2 day side trip to my hometown of Las Vegas. We had a blast and this became yet another BABSCon tradition. This year, we opened up the trip to all of the staff instead of just the two of us. So myself, 11th Doctor Whooves, Rusty, Melon, Simeon, Stitch, SFyr, and Koukatsu spent the next few days in Las Vegas and the trip was a blast to say the least. Monday night we ordered a massive pile of chicken fingers and spent the evening chatting. It's kind of a unique thing... 8 people mostly in their early to mid 20's hit the Las Vegas strip and instead of gambling or going to bars, we found our joy in simply enjoying the company of one another. That continued throughout Tuesday checking out the Bodies and Titanic exhibits on the strip and spending time with eachother over some good meals. Some of the staff went to an Elton John concert on Tuesday night as well, but not being a big fan myself I stayed and chatted with Stitch, SFyr, and Melon in the hotel instead. Much to my surprise, when the staff returned they had brought some stuff to throw me a small party for my birthday the next day.
Not to devote more time in this blog to gushing about my emotions, but it's worth mentioning that this was actually for all intents and purposes my very first genuine birthday party. Growing up the only birthday parties I really had were small intimate gatherings with family. I never actually had the opportunity to spend a birthday with my friends. So the staff again taking the time out of their vacations to try and make my birthday special is a gift I can never truly repay to these amazing people.
Tuesday night past and Wednesday proved to be bittersweet. While it was by far the best birthday I had experienced in recent memory, it was time to start saying goodbye to the people I had become so close to the past few days.
It's a hard feeling to explain to someone... for most people friends tend to live nearby, but when the people you consider your best friends and family are spread around the globe, it's a difficult feeling to leave them knowing it may be months or years until you see them again, if at all. This convention being such an emotional journey made the departures even more difficult. And so that was the exciting journey I went on this week. It wasn't the trip I expected and maybe it wasn't what I wanted, at least initially. But on whole it proved to not only be the most fun convention I have been to, but one of the more important weeks of my life and in many ways a turning point for me.
All I can do is thank the staff for everything they did for me this trip and for eachother. All the acts of kindness they didn't even realize they were showing have given me a new love for what I do on this site and for the team I work with. I know none of you asked to be thanked in such a public way for what you did, and maybe some of you don't even want to be thanked, but showing my gratitude in some little way like this is the least I can do for all you guys have done for me. Truly, I thank each and every one of these amazing people for making this the single greatest week of my life.
Let's see if the next con can top it. <3