Today is the last day of work before Spring Break. Usually this means sleeping in, catching up on my to-do list, and enjoying time away from teenagers. I’m never conflicted about break. I always love it and am thankful for it…until this year. Don’t get me wrong. There are lots of things about break that I’m needing and looking forward to. I cannot wait to sleep in. I love the fact that I will have time to just think and to write some in order to process some life lessons that I got the last couple of weeks. But this spring break does not really feel like a time to relax. Why is this? I’m sure you all know that I’ll be traveling to the Pop Culture Conference in Indianapolis to present our research on female dominated fandoms. Originally, the plan was for Rhonda and I to do this conference together. Now, though, it is just me, which frankly scares the hell out of me.
What the heck am I so scared of, you may wonder. I’m not totally worried about the presentation itself, like you may think. Yes, of course, I’m nervous about speaking in front of strangers, academics, and other scholarly types. It is silly, really. I talk every day. I present all the time. This audience, though, will be very different than the usual teenagers that I normally deal with. This group will be paying attention to me. They will listen and be focused. My students don’t know enough (in most cases) to judge. I cannot say the same about the people who will be in the audience at the conference. That said, I know that our theory about competition in fandoms is a good one. I’m confident in our research and our conclusions. But I won’t lie. I’m still going to be nervous as heck. Still, this isn’t what causes me fear as I suspect my professionalism will kick in, like it does at job interviews.
No, my fear comes from a different place. It is all about the social aspects of the conference. I don’t do well putting myself “out there” socially. I tend to be the person who sits back, watches and attempts to observe before I attempt interaction. This, too often, comes across as me being distant and cold, which I’m always sorry about. I don’t want the conference goers to see me like this. I know about this personality quirk of myself and have generally dealt with it by avoiding going to social scenes alone. Usually, when I go with someone else, I seem more human, more approachable as I’ll talk to the person(s) I’m with. Let me give you a story. In 2004, when the Duran Fans Convention came up, I desperately wanted to go. I wanted to meet other Duranies and express my excitement about the band’s reunion with other people who “got it”. Well, I didn’t have enough guts to go on my own. Instead, I dragged a friend with me. I never regretted that decision as I obviously had a great time and met lots of great Duranies there. Would I have had that great of a time without my friend being there? I don’t know.
This conference isn’t like a Duran convention or concert. I highly doubt that anyone there will be a Duranie. Likewise, I’m sure that there will not be an all night party in room 7609 in the hotel either. When I found out that Rhonda would not be able to go, I did what I always do. I turned to my mom to express my newly created anxiety and she is such an amazing person that she offered to go with me. Then, my dad got sick and it became clear to me that she is needed here. No, I have to face this challenge alone.
Now, I could just avoid going. After all, my writing partner won’t be with me and I worry that I won’t do our work justice. It will also cost me money and time, both of which are extremely valuable, especially during the school year Yet, I know that I cannot and should not do that. I must go. It is important for our work that I go. I’m hopeful that I will rise to the challenge and that not only will I present our work well but that I also am able to grow from challenging myself. This could be really good for me. It could be really great for us and all of the research and writing we have done. More significantly to this blog, it could also be good for the study of fandom. After all, I believe strongly that we captured the uniqueness of female fandom, something that needs to be shared and understood by academics as well as fans.
On that note, as I prepare for this conference, I ask that you all send me strength. If I cannot have Rhonda with me, then, at least, I could have people holding me up when I really need it. I hope.