It’s half past seven on Monday morning when I’m starting to type this, and I’ve slept poorly and not long enough, and XOXO 2015 is over, and I am really genuinely relieved by that. Because it’s too much. Being at XOXO is work, socially draining emotional work and too much standing all at a go and trying and failing to remember the names and stories that go with the faces that float into view, it’s coordinating haphazardly and trying and sometimes failing to not leave out or be left out, it’s a weird staggering of Sudafed and beer to keep sinuses and social anxiety respectively from kiboshing the whole thing, it’s being so sure you want to see the last half hour of this thing that started near midnight and being so certain that you need to be in bed already to let your body have any chance to keep up with all this shit. It’s trying harder for a few days straight than I normally have to or would ever want to try at a lot of things.
I’m relieved and I’m sad, because it’s too much and it’s not enough, and it has to be over but it shouldn’t be over. It’s fucking untenable, and why isn’t there more of it?
(I was going to write “bummed”; that’s the sort of word I’d normally use here, because…because emotional vulnerability is hard? Basically? But in the spirit of this whole thing, I’m trying a little bit more this morning. So, it’s a goodish sad, a bittersweet, glad-to-feel-it sort of sad, but I’m sad.)
I’m sad because I’m gonna miss seeing all the new out-of-town people I’ve met, and doubly so the old friends I got to see again for a little bit. Because the sense of something coming together — of us all being in on this weird excursion — feels special, is special. Because as overwhelming and too-much the social weight of this dense press of creativity and nerdery and good-heartedness and awkwardness and empathy is, however much it may overload me and leave me off balance and fighting to keep my head above water, it’s also wonderful and unforgettable and the kind of thing I keep thinking about all year afterwards. It happened last year, and it’ll happen again this year.
I almost didn’t sign up for XOXO 2014. I’d been to a few conference-type events before, SXSWi a couple times and a couple other internetish things, and they never clicked and I just felt like I wasn’t supposed to be there. And so even being friends with Andy Baio and knowing what a wonderful brain and heart he has, I was like…eh. Been burnt before. Probably not for me. Not for the first one in 2012, not for the second one in 2013, and it was only the combined encouragement of my wife Angela and my friend and co-conspirator Jesse Holden that tipped me over for 2014.
And I ended up loving it, and hoping it’d happen again and that I’d get to come again and am so thankful it did and I did.
But it would have been so easy not to do it. And I wouldn’t even have been wrong, exactly: because it’s too much, and it’s overwhelming, and it’s hard and I’m exhausted in some of the exact ways I was worried I might be. But it was worth it and it was wonderful, and justified many times over getting outside my comfort zone long enough to forget about my comfort zone a little and recognize some of the stuff I miss when I stay comfortable. I wouldn’t have been wrong to not go, but it would have been a huge mistake.
I love what the Andys are doing with XOXO. I’m excited about the Outpost. I’m excited about all the podcast and gamedev chatter I got up to, and the post-conference excitement from folks in town and elsewhere to keep doing stuff. I’m excited about new friends and neighbors I didn’t know I had. I’m excited about the kick in the pants all the wonderful speakers provided, to keep doing shit that’s worth doing, that wants doing, even if I’m not sure if it’ll work or if people will like it or or or.
I have too much in my brain to unpack and not enough energy to really think about it or process it. I’m thrilled and tired and happy and sad and it’s a lot. It’s too much. It’s not enough.