Exactly Where I Needed To Be

Back in May, when I started making the big plans that I’m putting into motion now, I said on Twitter that this year is going to be my year, the year that people learn my name and take notice of me. I was talking specifically about the time period between June 10th, 2016—when I turn 36, an age that is a perfect square—and June 10th, 2017, when my age will be a prime number.

I didn’t mean to wait until my birthday to start doing things, but I figured it would take me several weeks to get any momentum or traction. And I’m definitely still finding my footing. But I think the Year of Achieving Notice is off to a decent start, as WisCon 40 really was a bit of a breakout year for me.

I’d classify my overall WisCon experience as positive, tracked across the years. I’d say—I have said—that I’ve had a good time most of the time. But the truth is that while I’ve justified it as a career-building experience, for years I’ve been coming away feeling like I just took a very expensive vacation whose major benefits included an exciting new collection of upper respiratory infections and a touch-up job for my impostor syndrome. I’d hang out with friends and make new ones, of course, and there were certainly fun experiences, but networking? Career advancement? Self-promotion? There was all this tantalizing potential I could sort of sense was there, but I had no idea how to do it.

This year… something clicked. I think part of it was that I stopped giving a dang about that stuff, which allowed me to relax, which allowed me to spot opportunities and go with the flow. I think part of it was just a lot of right time, right place.

I made connections with people, not at the expense of making new friends and hanging out with my old ones, but as a natural extension of it. I didn’t do much explicit self-promotion, but people still learned my name. I gained a lot of perspective in terms of what my strengths are, how people relate to each other in fannish circles and across the reader/author divide, and stuff like that.

There were a lot of great moments during and around the con. I met Mark “Does Stuff” Oshiro in a hot tub. I moderated a panel in the big room with returning guest of honor Nalo Hopksinson and past guest of honor Andrea Hairston. John Scalzi stopped while power walking to the bathroom to shake my head. I had a drunken, rambling conversation in the hallway with Na’amen Gobert Tilahun about how I felt like being a young Neil Gaiman fan had prepared me to be a mature fan of writing like his and N.K. Jemisin. At a moment before all of that when I was at my lowest, feeling like my life was made up of missed opportunities and squandered potential, two people who were passing me on the sidewalk stopped to tell me that I was amazing and had great presence. All weekend long, people I think of as fashion icons in their circles stopped to tell me that I looked fabulous. There’s a part of me that usually suspects any comment on my appearance, no matter how complimentary, is a cruel joke, but that part of me was asleep at the time.

I had a business lunch. I made introductions for people. All weekend long, it was just right place, right time. I was actually in a cafe at one point where Amy Steinberg’s “Exactly” was playing, and I was exactly where I needed to be. It was so crowded and noisy that if I hadn’t known the song by heart I might not have recognized it over the general hubbub, but I do and I did and it became my theme for the weekend.

There’s a lot of stuff that happened in the last week of a “Because I ______, this happened.” nature, and more of it is still unfolding.

The con was not perfect this year, as it hasn’t been perfect yet, and there are definitely problems that need to be addressed. Unrelated to any of the issues in that post or to anyone’s issues but my own, I did not personally have a fun time 100% from start to finish, and the point where it got bad, I think I exacerbated by freaking out about the fact that something had not gone perfectly. But even that part can be put under the heading of “all’s well that end’s well”.