It was only last Tuesday that I returned home from a weekend trip to Boston. I was a working at a big gaming convention called PAX East. A few hours ago I had been walking through the streets of downtown Boston and took the MBTA—Boston’s equivalent to the MTA— to have a slice of the original Boston Cream Pie at the Omni Parker House before leaving the city for good.
What I returned to was an overcast, rainy New York City with copious amounts of loud honking to greet my ears and the signature gritty streets of The Bronx; a return to a life of normalcy as one of the millions of people living in the city like friends who I worked alongside with. I felt a feeling of emptiness as I got to my bedroom to dump my travel bag and my messenger bag: I was feeling the post-con blues. I went into a reclusive state for the next several days in a semi-nostalgic state. It wasn’t the first time it happened to me nor will it be the last.
Let’s rewind back to the aforementioned PAX East weekend for a moment. I was on a road trip with some friends en route to Boston with a common thread tying all of us together: we were all convention veterans who had met four years ago working at New York Comic Con and shared a love of working at conventions. Not a care in the world nor a reminder of our urban motherland for the next couple of days was the mission of our work vacation. It was our second year working at this convention.
So it comes at no surprise that working at a convention as much as it was about the event itself, it was also about the excitement to wake up in another city bright early each day however temporary it was; to see people I only see at best once a year if they don’t live in New York. It was also a reunion with other New York veterans I had not seen in several months.
The thing to understand about volunteering/working at a convention is that one meets dozens of people from all walks of life and ethnicities who essentially become temporary family for the next couple of days; your “brothers-in-arms” if you will.
There’s a strong sense of camaraderie that comes with it that I was missing after I returned back to New York. Naysayers will say “well you guys are geeks so of course” but it’s less about that and more being around like-minded people that are working towards a common goal. If it’s paid, it’s never about the money. I’ve cancelled dates that coincided with conventions and while there were repercussions, I have no regrets putting friends over a potential love interest on a busy weekend.
For many of us con veterans, the transition isn’t easy at first but as the weeks go by, we get into a rhythm and what was a weekend working a convention a few weeks ago, becomes a memory in the past. Pictures, swag (free convention stuff), lanyards with badges, and work shirts being our mementos of being there in that moment. A possible promise at reunions with local veterans leaves a glimmer of swapping stories over drinks. The key important thing being what we took from it to carry over to regular day to day lives.
For me it was about experiencing a taste of freedom away from home being one of the many 20-somethings living at home with their parents in this day and age with our extremely competitive job market and high cost of living in New York City. I was usually the last person to turn in for the night and enjoyed having so many options on my plate that I fully took advantage of it and did exactly what I wanted to do. Which is to say that it was a much a needed vacation.
The hardest day is usually the last day when people are taking pictures, swapping work stories, exchanging contact information, and farewells. This is where the root of post-con blues begins to slowly grow. It becomes a bit of a mourning phase; the mourning of not waking up the next day to be a PAX East Enforcer as Gavilan, my Enforcer name; the mourning of a vacation gone just as it came a few days before only for the fishing rods of our homes reel us back in to shore.
With that being said like everything else, the post-con blues phase eventually passes; there’s thousands of conventions in the U.S. each year yet so much time and money to work them all. For me, it was through writing this article that I’m letting it out and being open about it. It’s been about a week since I returned to New York and I’ve getting back into the swing of things as a New Yorker and doing the things I enjoyed doing in addition to my day to day responsibilities.
However for me, it’s never about saying “goodbye” as I honestly don’t believe in that but more about saying “see you around” because working at conventions is always a small world. That’s the one silver lining that makes me a veteran at dealing with the post-con blues and makes me smile when I look back at it.
If anyone is curious about ever want to work at a convention at least once, do it. If you do, then remember that it’s about the journey, not the destination. And if you end up experiencing the post-con blues, then let it all out. We stand in solidarity with you from all our homes.