Let’s say you were lucky enough to be able to attend a blog conference. Your body rushed with the anticipation of hustle and bustle and acquiring things – things you may have only heard about, things in which to carry other things, things one can ingest and/or imbibe, or things that may or may not serve as lasting mementos for posterity – talking to people, and getting the word out about who you are and what you do.
Your trek to the conference venue is uneventful, except for the few moments you peer out the window at a harbor dotted with sleepy sailboats and you thank your lucky stars you are among grown adults and have the presence of mind to appreciate the quickly disappearing landscape.
You check into your hotel room and realize that it’s really quite nice – not a bed bug in sight – and you proceed to theatrically drop yourself face-first on your mattress. You sit up rather quickly, though, realizing that the comforter’s white and your makeup’s acquiesced to ninety-plus degree heat. You relish the fact that you’re a) alone, b) relaxed, and c) silent, until the reality hits that you’ve endured numerous unpleasant hardships in order to attend a conference. Resigned, you hop into the shower in preparation for your social media cotillion.
You meet a few people, and realize that no one, and I mean no one, looks like their Twitter picture. The favorable glow of sunset is perspicuously absent, the many filters that hide one’s flaws are torn away. That favorable lighting avoids you as well. You wander into the main hall, where you are presented with a choice – take a photo with a life-size Lorax or a man in a banana suit. You deem this terribly unfair, since you have been awake since five-thirty and lack the level of caffeination required to fully appreciate (or at least see the humor in) such a situation. So you settle for a canvas bag. This will be the first in a very long line of canvas bags.
You wander through the hall trepidatiously – what with all the bananas on the loose – carefully eyeing your cohorts playing enthusiastically with digital devices tethered to pedestals, sycophantically enjoying copious amounts of greek yogurt, and slurping Jungle Juice as if the franchise were closing that very day, and you begin wondering if you may have made a mistake.
You round the corner to hear the smooth strumming of an acoustic guitar, which is soon accompanied by a cacophony of twenty-somethings extolling the virtues of household disinfectant. Household disinfectant. It is at that point your wonderings are firmed into truths. But you’re alone, you’re not in pajamas, and all is still well with the world.
You meet a few people, exchange business cards, and meet others in person with whom you’d truly expected to click. You’re not sure, weakly trying to beat through façades, or the images in your head, but you resolve to let the issue lie because your feet hurt so badly that thinking makes it worse. You attend your first off-site party, a party which you can clearly see the organizers took significant time and effort to create, now covered in sweat and blisters. You stand quietly aside, chatting with a colleague as you watch people quickly swill mixed drinks and then make off with bags of product that may or may not ever be extracted from their plastic encasements.
You can’t find the people with whom you arrived, but there are several other attendees ready to leave. You are fast friends, and agree to split a cab. Inevitably, one of you only has a large bill that would need to be broken upon return to the hotel. You return to the hotel, ahem, forget to break that bill, and wander off on your way.
The remainder of the evening is filled with drinks, chatter, laughter, loud music, and glow necklaces worn around the head. You take your requisite photographs in front of your iconic objects, post them to the appropriate media channels, drink some more, and laugh some more, finally returning to your hotel room with sore feet, hair that smells like cigarettes, and a hamburger because you forgot to eat all day.
The next morning, you rise with the desire to attend an art museum and a show, but the guilt of attending the conference and the fact that your significant other, whom you know would enjoy it, is three states away. You give the next day of the conference the college try.
By 10 am, you have acquired six more canvas bags and carry them under your arm whilst rummaging through the remains of the conference breakfast for coffee. Finding none, you head towards a Starbucks in the lobby. Your urge to attend the art museum is so strong that you want to hop out of line and run out the door, but hold yourself back on account of the lack of caffeine.
While in line (for a very long time because none of the baristas speak English, and do look like brothers, now that you mention it), you try to block out the ebb and flow of inane chatter (Oh, so GREAT to MEEEET you!) and the fact that the girl in front of you had to repeat her order to her friend in line four or five times. (I’m sorry! ONE pump of mocha? One pump of mocha, right?) In the process, you learn that mocha flavoring comes from a pump. You are oddly disconcerted.
You try to distract yourself by calling home. You are sure everyone in the hotel can hear your daughter screaming in the background. You realize the phone call didn’t work. You miss your kids. You miss your husband. And you still want to go to the art museum.
You finally pick up your drink (which is wrong, by the way, but lactose tolerance be damned – you need coffee), and wander back from whence you came. You don’t like the dress you picked out, so you saunter on back to your hotel room for a quick change (thank God for overpacking), and head back to the conference. You meet a friend or two at lunch, make a few more, and prepare yourself for what initially drew you, the keynote speech.
For a few shining moments, you are engrossed, engaged, mesmerized. You convince yourself that this alone was worth the price of the ticket. And then it’s over. Back to self-governing and heavily commercialized bedlam. On the way to your next conference event, you spy colleagues taking pictures with rolls of toilet paper and sitting against walls Twittering exactly what they’re doing. You check Twitter, and realize that things truly do look better on Twitter than in real life.
You also realize that the people whom you admire are writers, thinkers, possibly antisocial, art-appreciating recluses just like yourself who may, in fact, feel similarly, thus lose the hope (and, frankly, desire) to run into them at the Toilet Paper Photo Booth or the Yogurt Satiation Station. You’re somewhat disillusioned, but still convincingly ecstatic to be away from home.
Then it’s party, movie, reception, party, party, and you find yourself yawning. You connect with a few more people, drink a few (legitimately tasty) drinks, and drag some branded merchandise back to your hotel. You half-heartedly, but well-meaningly play catch-up, tag, peek-a-boo, and hide-and-seek with a few people you may or may not wish to spend more time with, and finally call it a night with an HBO special and some cashews. You have an early train.
You’re left with a $700 hotel bill, an absence of true enlightenment, and more crap than you arrived with. You rifle through your booty and take only what will truly be of use (maybe). You walk by a mirror on the way to the elevator, take a long, honest look at your face, and admit that conferencing may not be your thing. You must reconcile with the fact that you are a writer, and belong as other writers, alone in a dimly lit room, hunched over a keyboard.
But, on the ride back, you’re oddly renewed, relaxed, and at peace with the fact that you are mature enough to be true to yourself. And comforted by the security of a four-hour train ride with no one in the adjoining seat and $8 hotel M & M’s still in your bag. And excited by the fact that you’re going back with your husband. Soon. And you’re going to the art museum.