The convention is over. The boxes are packed and hauled away for shipping and storage. Nothing went wrong. There were no disasters. I can feel myself unwinding, relaxing. This whole event has been a very stressful one for me. It was filled with things I knew I could do, but had never actually done. Most of them were small things, like calling for a cab. But small things add up and filled the weekend with variables rather than certainties. I spent most of the event riding an emotional sine wave with oscillations between overwhelmed and okay. I tried to keep all of it suppressed so that my oscillations did not affect those around me, but they’re smart people and they could tell I was stressed.
More than anything else this event taught me that large events require a crew. We had an amazing booth crew. Problems were solved without me even knowing that they existed. They had things so well in hand that I was able to be away from the booth more than I was present at it. That capability was critical because I had to shepherd Kiki and Link through the show, keep track of them, and make sure that they were safe. This was made easier by the third cell phone we acquired several weeks ago. Kiki and Link are fairly self sufficient and were very good about following instructions. Even so, there were several times when I felt like I’d lost track of them or was not doing as much as I could to maximize their convention experiences. This was where my second crew came in, the one I hadn’t even considered as a crew, but who turned out to be invaluable in reducing my stress and helping me make sure the parenting portion of this event was a success.
Friends drove down from Michigan specifically to visit Howard and I. They hauled me out to lunch and listened to me ramble about my stresses. I mentioned how I wanted Link to have a chance to explore some games that were not electronic. They then introduced me to one of their friends who is here demoing board games. Together we collected Link and hauled him, despite his protests, to a board game room where he proceeded to have fun for hours. The whole process was one of those moments where I am filled with gratitude at not being alone in the tasks that are in front of me.
These same friends then continued to hang with Howard and I through dinner and late into the evening. It was so good to have familiar people near me. We wandered the convention looking at the spectacle and talking. We wandered by the place where giant structures were created out of cards then knocked down by a siege of small change. Then the change was collected to donate to charity. It is only one example of the activities at the convention. Everywhere we looked adults were expending energy and creativity on play activities. I love this about science fiction/fantasy/gaming conventions. Grown ups get to play. I’m very glad my kids got to witness it. At the end of an evening wandering with good friends I was calm and happy for the first time in the entire convention. I was sad to say goodbye, but they had to go home.
Going to church this morning completely changed my emotional landscape in regard to the convention. The kids and I walked into the church building and it was like we had taken a single step that transported us home. The feel of the place and the format of the meeting was completely familiar. My brain was too full for me to pay focused attention to the speakers, it was the place I needed. I finally had sufficient clarity of thought to see a disconnect in my own thinking which has been creating emotional dissonance.
When deciding what events and challenges fit into our lives, I evaluate them for business usefulness and family strain. These are important measures in decision making. I have been neglecting a critical third evaluation measure. After I do all my logical, logistical, and emotional evaluation, I need to step back from all that I’ve previously considered. I need to pray and try to feel whether the thing I am considering is right or wrong for our business and family. I did this today. I sat in church and prayed about our attendance at GenCon both this year and next. Both feel right. Having that confirmation separate from business considerations was amazing. All my conflicted feelings about the amount of effort and expense vanished. With them went my worries about the strains on our family and about working on Sunday. I felt peace and was thus able to be happy about the convention as a whole. After church I returned to the booth and it was fun. Having the quiet confirmation gives me a big stick with which I can beat back the voices of doubt. Because doubt always sneaks in the back door and tries to make me second-guess my stressful decisions.
This convention has been full of amazing things about which I’ll be telling stories for years to come. The stressful aspects will fade away. Next year will be easier because fewer things will be new. We won’t have as many set up costs. I can truly and honestly say that this has been a good show and I finish it feeling both happy and grateful to have been here.