This blog post was prompted by a twitter conversation with Merrie Haskell.
Our family travels a lot for SF/F conventions; we do between 8-12 a year, depending upon the year, invites, etc. This is both for my day job and for Uncanny.
The way I experience conventions has changed significantly in the past few years. We now typically travel with Caitlin rather than without her. We drive instead of fly. If there’s a flight involved, or international travel, it will likely be one of us rather than the whole family.
Getting where we’re going (in terms of packing, driving, etc.) is an extensively planned tactical strike followed by a marathon. It takes more energy and time than it used to. I now build in half a day for packing and a post-convention recovery day where possible. It helps, but it’s not a cure-all. I’m trying to adjust my own expectations for How I Convention in response to the New Normal.
When it was just Michael and I when we first started going to conventions a decade ago, it was not uncommon for me to stay up late socializing (late for me = 1 am. I’m still basically Cinderella) and not have a terribly regular or healthy meal schedule. I would do 8-10 panels in addition to the late nights (my record is 18 on-book program items when I was the Guest of Honor at CONvergence–I had a great time, but NEVER AGAIN). I gave in to my fear of missing out on social time, fear of not participating enough to justify the trip, and exhausted myself. By the end of the convention, I’d have lost my voice, and would be in need of several days of sleep and a lot of vegetables.
I’ve learned some hard lessons about taking care of myself in the past few years. Now that we travel with Caitlin, I simply can’t physically do that anymore, not in combination with her care. Also, I’m 10 years older than I was then. So, at the ripe old age of nearly 42, I’ve developed some new guidelines that seem to allow me to not feel as though I’ve been physically hit by a truck post convention.
Here’s what you need to know about how I convention nowadays.
- I now limit the total number of panels/programming that I can handle at a convention. My absolute max is 6 unless it’s a 4 day convention, in which case, 7. Ideally, no more than 2 things per day. Paneling requires me to be “on.” It takes energy and focus to be a good panelist. That is in more limited quantities now.
- In a world where I was not required to be physically present for any particular purpose (like work or school), my natural body clock is to go to bed between 11 and midnight, and to wake up between 7 and 8 am. Pushing past those limits makes me either tired and unsocial (early mornings) or stupidly tired and not cogent (late nights).
- Please don’t be surprised if you cannot find me in social spaces after 10:00 pm. My social time is over and done by 10:30 pm at the absolute latest if I’m on Caitlin duty. That’s the upper limit of how late she can stay up, and she can’t do it daily.
- I will typically have one evening where I’m off Caitlin duty. My social time ends by 11:30 or midnight that night. I have to go to bed, because Caitlin still gets up in the morning by 7 or 8.
- I want to see people! But I cannot physically do it at 2am. It’s just not going to happen. If you want to make absolutely sure that you get some socializing/hangout time with me, schedule it during the day. Pick a meal, ask me to coffee/tea, etc. I will do my best to work it into my convention/programming schedule. Having limited my official convention schedule helps immensely with this.
- If you are a GymCon person, I’m also trying to commit to working out at least once per con in the hotel somehow where optional, so this is a good way to get time with me if you don’t mind seeing me sweat.
- I try to carry around water to drink and healthy snacks to nibble upon, and have committed to eating two actual real food meals daily. One meal per day must include fruits or vegetables or both in as close to natural states as possible. Fried vegetables do not count for this metric.
- I now am much more vigilant about managing both my caffeine and alcohol intakes. While I was never a huge drinker to begin with, do not be surprised if you see me either nursing a single drink or not consuming alcohol at all during typical BarCon experiences. If you offer to buy me a drink, I may ask for lemonade. I’m still grateful for the hospitable gesture and am happy to chat.
- I’m going to point out that telling me I look tired has developed into a pet peeve. I understand that it’s meant to be an expression of concern. No matter how much makeup I’m wearing, I have resting tired face, apparently. I look tired to people when I’m not being “on,” when I’m relaxed or comfortable, listening intently, or focused on a task. It’s perfectly okay to ask me if I have hydrated lately, or to offer me healthy snacks or a cup of tea if I look as though I’m beginning to wilt and you are the kind of person who feels the need to do something useful.
- While I’m in a general sense comfortable with hugging people I know, and being photographed, please ask first, especially if I haven’t known you for a while. I am committed to doing the same.
While these are not hard-and-fast rules, I’m finding that I personally have a better convention when I roll with these guidelines.
Good boundaries make good conventions!
Thanks for understanding.