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Tomorrow is going to be a real test for me.

2017 has been an emotionally inconsistent year. I was forced to move once again and now occupy a living space filled with potential regression and negativity. I’ve struggled all year to be more productive, to exercise, to adjust my diet, and perhaps most of all to fend off that dreadful vaporous beast known as depression. Obligations tug me in all directions as I try to consider all the things I want to do versus all the things I think I should do. I will detail some of this more in a “state of the blog” post, but for now I will confess that the many worms of sadness burrowing within my brain were causing me to feel increasingly negative about MAGFest on the horizon.

Were it not for the friends I was sharing a room with, I would have canceled my hotel reservation and skipped the event altogether. I was convinced I’d much rather take the time between Christmas and New Years off from work in the future, foregoing the festival. The difficulty in obtaining a hotel room this year all the more convinced me to make this my final MAGFest. “It’s not worth it if you’re not in National Harbor,” I exclaimed. For those unfamiliar, National Harbor – the town in which the convention takes place – is only maybe about three-by-three city blocks in size, and thus has very limited hotel space. Ironically, the convention can hold more people than all the hotels in town, and thus many attendees are being relegated to “satellite” hotels. My group and I were one such, forced to either drive to the convention daily or take public transportation. Some of us opted for the former, others the latter. It was this prospect that had me dreading MAGFest, thinking it wouldn’t even be worth it.

I am so glad I went. A convention like this is a chance to leave all the negativity of the world – all the negativity of the Internet – behind. Of course, it had to be assisted by a drastic change in my own mentality.

I fear that, deep inside, I’m a more selfish person than I’d like to be. I’ve spent plenty of time trying to be introspective and analyzing how I can improve myself, but inevitably a lot of this inward naval-gazing results in a greater focus on all the things I lack rather than appreciation for what I have. Every convention I’ve attended in my life came with a hope of something happening. Something that would rock the foundations of my currently dull, plain, seemingly insignificant existence. Meeting the right people, establishing connections, being recognized as a peer, taking a step in elevating my status. It has forced me to make foolish decisions at times and driven me to sit in convention hallways feeling deeply unsatisfied and envious of those that seem to be having a much better time than I.

When I drove down on Wednesday night, I made a conscious decision to not try and force anything to happen. Not to think about everything I was missing out on. To enjoy the time I had with my friends and to have a good time listening to music. That evening prior to the convention I was reunited with two friends I had not seen since I had relocated. For the first time in over half-a-year I was back with perhaps my best friend of all my life.

It was an evening that set the tone for everything to follow. The first lesson being that it is best to arrive in town the day before the convention. Take the week between Christmas and New Years off? Nah. Better to take the time between New Years and MAGFest.

From then on, it was most certainly a better experience for me. Theoretically, being outside of National Harbor did somewhat make it more of a “filler year” for me. This is not to say there was a lack of great events or shows, and in fact making the music a higher priority for me helped make this past weekend completely worth it. There were no late nights wandering the halls seeing what’s up, stumbling upon surprise dance parties or taking another intoxicated spin at Robotron64 within the arcade. I had to keep bus schedules in mind and, on Saturday, was simply too exhausted to do anything resembling a “party”.

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Despite this, it was possibly the happiest time I’ve ever had at a convention in years because of a renewed positivity. I did not try and force anything to happen. I did not regret a lack of monumental meetings. I didn’t care that I have a YouTube channel, a blog, a website that I write for, and complete anonymity within the crowd.

Which isn’t to say I may not have made a fool of myself, or perhaps I didn’t seize on opportunities like I could have. At events like this it’s easy to meet someone and want to have a conversation, only for there to be other friends or more charismatic folks around with similar desires. It’s easy to find yourself in an uncomfortable position where you’re hanging around waiting your turn, seeming like a creeper when you simply wish not to interrupt or have no idea how to even politely call attention to yourself. Or perhaps you would wish to have a longer conversation but do not know how. Or maybe someone quickly compliments your Geeky Jersey, commenting on the name on your back and leaving you without the opportunity to inform them it’s actually your YouTube channel because you’re in a hurry.

Sometimes these brief social interactions are fine and I’m left without any second-guessing. Others force me to overthink every syllable that escaped my mouth. Or at least, had forced me to overthink every syllable.

One night I drunkenly hopped online and began to scroll through Twitter. Doing so was like jumping into the dark world of A Link to the Past or Twilight Princess, or at its most extreme crossing over into the rusted nightmare of Silent Hill 2. At MAGFest, in physical meat-space, I was able to interact with complete strangers and walk away with a smile on my face. It felt like a community of friends you never knew you had. Yes, there are a few bad apples, but being stopped because someone thinks my Pokémon Jersey is awesome or telling a Zero Suit Samus cosplayer that I think her custom job on the heels was awesome are all interactions that remind me I’m someplace wonderful. Twitter, on the other hand, is endlessly hostile. In searching for a community people congregate based on what pisses them off rather than what brings them delight and joy.

Not to suggest I’m entirely satisfied with just brief interactions. I encountered a few familiar faces from prior years that I wish I had spent more time with, but I may not have been able to at the time of discussion. I let it pass, wishing I could have done something more, when there was a simple question to ask: “planning on any late night parties or gatherings?”

There’s a part of me already worried I’ve tripped right into a pothole of social ineptitude. After all, I’m putting this blog out onto the net where some of those very acquaintances could read this and feel like I’m considering some sort of “game” thing. I mean, isn’t this how all that trash started? Socially inept people trying to figure out social situations because they couldn’t piece together the intuitive code programmed into others. In my mind, this isn’t really about any of that, though. It’s a simple possibility into discovering not just a way to spend more time with these folks, but to perhaps find other social gatherings where I could meet others. It’s more proactive, yet casual enough that it continues to fit that concept of not trying to force anything to happen. So perhaps it is socially inept of me – I mean, my Twitter is proof of how awful I am at just about everything social – but it’s a lesson that can be carried into next year nonetheless.

Regardless of all that LiveJournal sillyness, these reflections and lessons have rekindled the crackling love of MAGFest. There will be a next year. I’ve learned that I don’t need to be in the National Harbor to have a good time. I’ve learned that being with the friends I already have is enough to make it a rich experience. I feel vindicated in my choice to skip over most panels in favor of concerts and performances. I’m curious about other side events – such as the forge – that I’ve yet to check out.

I spent so much time dreading MAGFest 2018 only for it to be precisely the refreshing step away from the world and its baggage that I needed.

Which is why I dread tomorrow. I now feel reinvigorated. I want to focus even more deeply on projects such as RamblePak, this blog, and writing for GamersWithJobs. I want to spend less time on forums. I want to avoid reading Twitter and spend more time posting positive thoughts to it.

However, when I sign back into work, I know there’s going to be a lot of tasks left untouched by the person “covering” for me. I know I’m going to have a lot of tasks demanding my time that I’d rather dedicate to… well, everything else. I’m going to search for podcasts only to find they lack the positive conversational qualities I yearn for. I’m going to be away from some of my greatest friends and back into a routine.

For me, MAGFest is once a year and I won’t be doing another convention until TooManyGames in June. How long can I keep this feeling of positivity up for? How soon will my day job crush all that joy and desire for a better and productive life out of me?

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MAGFest freed me from my depression for about five days so far. I can only pray it has granted me the necessary armor to keep fighting for much longer than that.


 

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