If you were not aware of the number of references I've made in past blog posts or in my shows, I am a huge nerd. I was in denial regarding it for a very long time, even though I found myself in a group of nerds and we liked the same stuff and obsessed over things in the same way. But I was not a nerd, no sir! And then I turned 23-years-old and thought, "Oh, wait, yeah, that's exactly what I am."
Identifying your tribe is a natural part of being human. You find your pack, you stick with it, and you are presumably safer in numbers. Well, until the jocks find you and call you names. And then later they tell you they’re sorry and that they genuinely find your mom attractive, which is somehow worse. Which is when you find said tribe and they provide temporary comfort until you can go to your therapist about how your bullies want to date your mom.
Anyways, back to tribal nerdery. I go back and forth with the whole pack mentality. Events, especially. The few sci-fi conventions I have been to have been... overwhelming, to say the least. I'm a shy, anxious introvert who is easily stressed. Large crowds aren’t one of my favorite things.
I recently went to DragonCon over Labor Day weekend. For the sake of context, I need to explain what DragonCon is. Explaining DragonCon is a bit like explaining the Ewing format to your mom before either of you have had a cup of coffee. So here's a breakdown.
- DragonCon takes place in Atlanta, Georgia.
- It runs 24/7 with late night events and endless cosplay partying.
- It covers almost all fanbases from science-fiction TV to skepticism to puppetry. However, musicals and theater are still left out. (I'm petitioning to remedy this.)
- There is a drink called "pie" and it will knock you on your ass.
This year’s DragonCon had more than 75,000 people in attendance. That's a f**kton of people. I should also remind you that nerds span the spectrum of introversion and extraversion, and they all look the same despite their costumed revelry. So I could be sitting at a panel, waiting for it to start. When out of nowhere… EXTROVERT ATTACK! And then I collapse into a fetal position and the person in question stares in confusion.
Luckily, at this point in my life, I know my limits. There's a lot of pressure to stick it out, sit with other people at the cafeteria table, start a conversation with the group of Deadpools screaming loudly in your ear. But, honestly, I'm just too old for that. That’s right, I’m even too old for the group of Deadpools. Stop yelling at me about chimichangas, I get it, you’re using the mask to harness the power of obnoxiousness with none of the Ryan Reynolds' charm.
So when time allowed, I went to a quiet corner and ate my lunch. Often I went to the hotel room I shared with my friend and did a bit of free writing. It was great. I highly recommend it if you are one of those people who is overwhelmed by people easily. In fact, there was a day when I just went to the Center of Puppetry Arts by myself, even though I had already gone with a group of friends. Okay, part of it was for quiet, the other part was for the 30th-anniversary exhibit for Jim Henson’s Labyrinth. I can do two things.
Then when I went to panels, I was refreshed and ready to chat and perform social activities. Hell, I even crashed a podcast because they were having a panel about Little Shop of Horrors. Luckily, they were OK with the podcast-bomb and invited me back if I wanted. If I had not taken that quiet time or found a quiet space for myself, I would have been stressed out and exhausted from the hustle that so many people are trying to do.
It's a lesson I should have followed years ago, maybe even a month ago. And the lesson can be summed up with this anecdote: Someone made a joke at an Ewing audition saying, "Wouldn't it be weird if someone was just reading a book right now, waiting for this audition?"
Let me answer this question. Hello, I'm the girl with the book at the audition and DragonCon. Now, shush, Old Lady KC is reading Terry Pratchett.
KC Ryan is an improv graduate turned Sketch Writing Level 2 student. When she’s not working at the day job, she is a writer and podcaster for everything that combines feminism, comedy, theatre, and nerdery. She also performs in the puppet improv troupe Empty Inside.