Originally posted 2015-08-26 00:54:23. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
As Bob noted in his point of view in Part One of our recap, he and I spent this past weekend at something called Penguicon. Bob had his eyes opened to a whole new world that he was completely unaware even existed, but that doesn’t mean that I took everything in stride. Far from it, actually.
So here’s what happens when a geek who’s strayed from his roots a bit over the years goes to a self-professed geek convention with five kegs, a case of booze, and a sense of wide-eyed optimism mixed with an abject fear of the unknown…
Confession time: I used to be a lot geekier than I am these days.
I know that may be hard for some of you to grasp, but it’s true. I was heavily involved in bulletin board systems (the precursor to “the internet”, kids) to the point where I had multiple phone lines for different computers and uses. I ran a Star Wars website that, depending on which search engine you went to (Altavista, Excite or Yahoo back in those pre-Google days) was either the #1 or #2 site on the topic. The Sci-Fi channel came to my house for an interview. I’m in the author’s notes of a few Star Wars novels. I got into an online and on-air flame war and battle of wills with Mitch Albom over his disdain for science fiction fans in relation to sports fans. I met my first wife in the Star Wars forum on CompuServ long before Match.com or eHarmony came into being. I was the SysAdmin that users dared not ask questions of, and whom companies heavily relied upon.
Now? Well, like I said in one of the panels I took part in, now I’m the Master of Visio flowcharts and diagrams at work instead of ruling servers with an iron fist. I haven’t touched that Star Wars website in about 10 years and let it turn into a cobweb while writing blogs about That Guy. I only go to events like Motor City Comic Con where I can meet celebrities from the 80s instead of DefCon to learn the latest hacking techniques in dark rooms littered with empty two liter Mountain Dew bottles.
Now I’m sitting here wondering what in the ever living hell happened to me, and it’s all because of Penguicon.
I believe it can all be best summed up by a single moment. As I was catching up with some friends that I hadn’t seen in literally more than 15 years, I glanced over and noticed Bob sitting off by himself against a wall just looking a bit out of sorts. I walked over and asked if anything was wrong, and he shook his head, laughed a little, and said “No no…nothing wrong. I’ve just never quite seen you at this level before. Do your thing. These are your people, I’m just here to play.”
And there it was: my people. These were…no dammit…are…my people.
From the Yip Yip in the hallway at a room party to the retro console gamers. From the the girl with animatronic fuzzy ears that I kept running into during smoke breaks between panels to her husband the unix administrator. From the socially paranoid folks who we put at ease during our panel on networking by letting them know it was okay to be themselves to the guy who comes to our events on a regular basis that yelled at us for focusing too much on the online world instead of real world interactions during the Flirting for Geeks panel.
All of them. They’re all my people, my friends, my peers.
And without even knowing that I did, I’ve missed them terribly. Even the ones I just met.
Which is why after getting only three hours of sleep on Friday night and only two hours of sleep on Saturday night, I felt more energized on Sunday…and continue to feel that way…than I have in a long time. The room parties. The random hallway chats. Swapping horror stories about customers. The awkward “Hey… whoa… yeah, not my scene, but y’all have a blast” moment. Slurred conversations over a bottle being swapped back and forth while comparing favorite moments from sci-fi shows and movies.
And it continues to be that way. My brain simply will not shut off. I keep thinking back to those conversations, those chats, those parties, that world…and I can’t wait for it to happen again. I can’t wait for next year. I can’t wait for the next post in the Penguicon Facebook group because I want to read other people’s experiences and see more photos. I’ve been emailing, Facebook friending, LinkedIn connecting and Twitter following like mad over the past few days anyone and everyone I can find and remember.
I realized that I have to get back to “me”. As I’ve been back at the real world job for a few days now, I’m already missing this weekend’s “me” more and more. I’m back in meetings, arguing architecture patterns and project plans and flowcharts, and talking on conference calls. And while I realize that it’s the “me” that I’ve become that allowed us to do things like help Penguicon wrangle people with 3d printers for their charity event…it still doesn’t completely negate the fact that I can hear the scorn and derision from the early 20’s “me” in the back of my head calling me a “sell out”, taunting me for having “gone corporate”, and mocking me for getting more blisters on my hands from burning them on the grill during cookouts these days than on soldering irons over a motherboard…
…I feel like I buried that inner version of myself for so long that it came roaring back out with enough (perhaps a little too much at times) energy and passion to keep me burning for a while, but as any good pyromaniac knows, fires need fuel. Penguicon might be the match that got things burning initially, but now I have to find the materials to keep it going…at least until next year. I have to find a balance between who I am and who I was, because there are practical considerations these days. A house payment, wife and kids I didn’t have back then. A job that pays me a lot more than the ones back then could. Things for this group that take up some time.
But I won’t let that part of me fall so far by the wayside again…and I’m hoping that all of these new friends, contacts and acquaintances will help make sure I stay true to that. Because the ecosystem that’s there is a support system, and in addition the key takeaway from Bob’s post – consent – that’s the other key part of Penguicon that I think needs to get hammered home – diversity. I don’t care who you are, what you’re into, what segment or splintered faction of Geekdom that you claim as your own…there was at least one other person there this weekend who wanted to scream “OHMYGODILOVETHATTOO!” with you.
And that matters more than damned near anything else in life – a sense of belonging, of community, of realizing that you’re not alone and that it’s okay to let your inner “you” come out. You don’t have to hide it, you don’t have to be afraid, you don’t have to worry about getting judged…in short, Penguicon was basically Geek Utopia. And while we all realize that it’s not a perfect world out here back in society…it was for that weekend…which gives you a little bit of hope that the everyone else just might catch up some day.
Until then though…if we haven’t connected on the various social media platforms yet…well, I’ll see you next year. I’ll be coming back home again, because as the saying goes “home is where the heart is”, and I sure as hell heart Penguicon. I can’t possibly begin to thank Nuri and Scott enough for getting us involved, and for trusting us to run the panels we did. And a huge thank you to everyone else I encountered, talked with, yelled at as I was passing by in the halls, shared a drink with or never even got a chance to do any of that with, because thank you for simply being there, and making Penguicon what it is.
If you missed it, you can read part one of this review from Bob’s point of view here: http://www.itinthed.com/17044/2015-penguicon-review-part-1-the-sales-guy-learns-something/