For the past three years, I’ve attended the feminist scifi conference called WisCon. I first discovered it as sort of a happy accident when I moved here to Madison and found information from someone I followed on Twitter. That first year, I was pretty terrified but made it through the conference in tact and even found a friend here in town. Last year was okay but barely memorable because I decided to participate and presented a paper, which left me pretty terrified as well. Yet I made it through the weekend with the help of that same friend I’d made the year before and even made a couple more friends in the process. Otherwise, I was pretty much another face in the crowd.
However, this year I looked forward to WisCon for more than a few reasons. One: I’d decided to participate on panels and found myself moderator for two I proposed. Two: I was finally going to meet a few people in person that I’ve met online. Three of these women were on-air personalities for my favorite podcast Nerdgasm Noire Network and another blogs for the sister site.
I first have to explain what NNN means to me. I’ve grown rather attached to podcasts over the past few years and I’ve listened to NNN for probably more than two years now. At some point, I’ve not only gotten brave enough to participate in the chat while the show airs live, but I also connect with these ladies online. NNN has done so much to make me feel less alone and know that there are like minds. But while getting to know the ladies over the past couple of years, I’ve felt a lot less like a listener and more like family.
I not only looked forward to meeting De Ana, JP, Jamie and Maria, but they also genuinely wanted to meet me in person. I was so excited and nervous about this whole weekend even though it quickly became apparent I had no reason to be. All of these ladies treated me with nothing less than kindness, love, welcome and support as they always have when we talked online. Those gestures of embracing me, bringing me into the circle and keeping me protected are so appreciated but so unfamiliar to me.
You see I felt just a little intimidated even though everyone I met is far less intimidating than they appear online. Nothing anyone did made me feel this way. I was brought into the fold with open arms and treated as an equal and as someone who matters. But I say this embrace is unfamiliar to me because I still come from this perspective as someone who has spent a lifetime trying to shrink herself into the nothing I’ve always felt myself to be. I spent the weekend with the ones who’ve always been the cool kids in my eyes and they let me be one of them and here I was an equal.
Yet I still felt ugly and inadequate with them. Nothing they did made me feel this way. These women have gone through some of the same struggles in life I have, probably much worse, and I am in awe of them seeing how they can come together in a safe space and breathe life into a room just by being themselves. I still haven’t reached that point and they worked so hard to help me get there this weekend even trying to make me see something that was right in front of my eyes but just not connecting with that part of myself who still feels like that little girl everyone called ugly and unwanted. (Yes, De Ana, I still find it hard to believe that this “situation” exists.)
I know we’ll still connect online as always, but I’m incredibly sad this weekend at WisCon has had to end. But I want all the ladies in Nerdgasm to know how much I love, respect and adore you. I know you’ll have your bad days, but I want you all to know that you have more compassion and class in one eyelash than anyone who has tried or will try to make you feel less than. You may have started this podcast and site just to get your jollies out and have a good time, but what you do matters and I know it makes a difference to more people than just me. As much as I’ll miss your physical presences, that distance between us will never diminish the impact you’ve had on my life. When you brought me close to you this weekend, you took in someone who only believed she took up space but had no presence.
I hope that on those days things seem like can’t get any worse you’ll remember that you have made a huge difference to at least one person and how much that means. If all I can ever offer you is love and support, you’ll have that from me as long as you need it. WisCon may come to an end, but everything I’ve learned about myself through you goes a long way toward the lessons I need to learn about my own self-worth.
For anyone else I’ve connected with this weekend, if you took the time to speak to me or acknowledge my presence and made me feel like more than a shadow, it was not unnoticed or unappreciated. Everything I’ve said to the Nerdgasm ladies applies to you as well. You never know when you’re being a light just at the right moment of darkness and I hope you all know how much you matter in my little world.
Yeah, cheesy, but apt 😉