The Not-So-Social Butterfly at Her First CONvergence

My first CONvergence adventure included a whole bunch of things. From a full anxiety-fueled melt-down panic-attack, to donating blood, to meeting fellow con-virgins. And taking a bunch of notes and pictures, to starting to become part of the amazing network and family that is CONvergence. By the end of the day, I was ready to plan for my next one!

Article by Jennifer Valle

Social Anxiety and You: Avoid my Meltdown

Being terrified

Being this was my very first con of any kind, I was terrified. My anxiety kept insisting that I looked gross, that I was going to sound stupid, and that I wasn’t enough of a fan of anything to be able to attend such a gathering. I cried and cried while going through outfit after outfit, trying to do my makeup, putting on extras; it was miserable. I could not make my anxiety shut up about how I was going to completely fail at this. 

This was unlike any other large social gathering I had ever participated in. I was going as a guest with a PRESS pass. It was predetermined… I was going to need to speak to strangers. 

Some steps I would have taken if I knew then what I know now:

  • Preparation is key. Make sure you have already figured out and ironed out every detail of your cosplay, outfit, costume, etc… weeks or longer in advance. Try it on at least once well before the day. This gives you time to get everything you need. In case you need to reinvent a bit (or a lot), you have time before the big day.
  • Take care of yourself. Hydrate, eat well, and sleep enough. CONvergence has signs posted everywhere to help remind every attendee. They have rooms dedicated to free food for members, and water stations throughout the common or larger meeting areas. 
  • If you need a break, take a break. CONvergence had many areas for quiet time or regrouping areas. I was very impressed to discover the Teen Zone (only for teenagers) and the Parenting Area for parents to bring their younger kids to recharge. There were also many Safe Spaces scattered about (all listed on the map) as well. 
  • The volunteers and staff are amazing resources for any help you may require.
  • Have a script ready to go and written out for the information you are gathering, questions you may want to ask, etc… If I had the foresight to have a script ready to go and practiced, I wouldn’t have been so nervous trying to ask people’s names or who or what they were representing, or where they travelled from… I stumbled through a few here and there and then gave up asking unless I really needed to. I missed out on a lot of data and networking opportunities because I wasn’t prepared.

My Blood Letting (aka: Blood Donation)

When I was 16, I learned that my great-grandpa was a blood donor that gave over 20 gallons of blood over his lifetime. Since then, I have been an avid blood donor as often as I can be. 

Nice ladies at the Red Cross blood drive table
Nice ladies at the Red Cross blood drive table! / Photo credit: Jessica Garver/Geek Gals

To be able to do something at CONvergence that gives me warm fuzzies and helps others gave me a sense of normalcy and was a great speaking piece later in the day. The American Red Cross ran the donation station and bus. The ladies at the table were friendly and knowledgeable, and the phlebotomists inside the bus had impeccable bedside manner and were very skilled. 

These are My People

Group shot of cosplayers gathered at CONVergenceCon 2019
Group shot of cosplayers gathered at CONVergenceCon 2019 / Photo credit: Jessica Garver/Geek Gals

I was so scared and felt so unprepared. I stumbled through interviews and tried hard to not stand out or be “weird.”

But I wasn’t solo at this event. I had my lead with me who was not a CON-virgin, so why was I so afraid? Because the moment I walked into the hotel I knew these were the people I wanted to know, the people I really wanted to be accepted by. I had found my people. All sorts of Universes represented, knowledge, panels, games of all kinds, I didn’t know what to do with myself. 

Herf Herders HQ
Nerf Herders HQ / Photo credit: Jessica Garver/Geek Gals

As the day went on, I found out that CONvergence is not just an event. It is a family that supports its members all year. When I started to look around a bit more and get a little more comfortable, I started to notice more and more how much I wanted to be a part of this. I spoke to a few volunteers, a founder, members, and fellow first-timers. I gathered the data my anxiety needs to move forward.

We explored different themed party rooms, got a hint of the Masquerade, checked out all of the gaming platforms and rooms in the Sandbox, and almost stopped for a movie at the theater. I saw so many things I want to try and do, along with meeting a lot of people with shared interests from all walks of life and all over the country! Some of the states represented were: Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, North and South Dakota, Texas, Florida, California, Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana.

So, Year One: Operation Observation – completed. Next up: Operation Membership!

The Return Plan

The first thing I did after I returned home was tell my family that we have plans for this event next year. Second thing was look into membership. I am no longer a CON-virgin, but I still feel like there is so much more to explore and experience, I can’t wait for next year!

Be sure to check out our writer Jessica Garver’s photo gallery from CONVergenceCon.

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