CW: discussions of pandemic and its consequences.
NYCC was a couple weeks ago. I had two authors visiting town, two different publishing parties, half a dozen lunches and dinners, and a book launch.
This used to be ordinary. A regular week in my life. Cons, workshops, launches, coffee meetings, drinks meetings, dinners, lunches, last minute breakfasts. I remember once being at a bar at a convention and saying "excuse me, I have to go to my 2 o'clock." It was 2 am. In 2019, I travelled one week out of every four.
And I was burnt out as fuck. The pandemic didn't help with the burnout, but sitting still for two years taught me a lot about myself and how I was managing my life. I've been saying a lot recently about how I never really want to go to a con again. That I want to do less work travel, turn down more conference invites.
But these last few weeks I realized how much I missed this too. I came home from a publisher party and texted a friend "hey, I think I forgot how much I love my job." Because it was wonderful to be in a room full of my friends. I not only work with these people, but many of them are my favorite people in the world. People I love to talk to, people I play games with, I go look at birds with. We walk our dogs together and drink coffee and gossip and commiserate. We yell about books while partners look vaguely bored and stare into the middle distance, having heard us talk shit about the same three people a hundred times before.
And I love talking to writers-- my clients and other brilliant talents hanging out at these events looking vaguely stunned but thrilled to be here. Shell shocked from the convention floor, overwhelmed by the sheer volume of publishing happening in front of them, I love hearing about their experiences, their ideas.
The parties are fun and I feel like after years of pandemic caution and lockdown, the vibe has shifted maybe because of the latest wave of boosters, the pervasive niggling thought of fuck it what do we care any more, that the CDC has abandoned us, whatever it is, the energy is more explosive than ever.
Is it unwise to go to a convention? Is it unsafe to hold a comiccon? Is it dangerous and exclusionary to have an indoor party? Obviously, yes, to all of these. We live in an unhinged time. I feel like I have lived under the threat of immediate danger since 2016, and it has only escalated year by year. Violence, hate, against me, and people who look like me, Asian, transgender, femme, is ever present online, in the street, wherever I go. The store, the subway, the airplane, the bathroom, all sites of infection of disease, of pestilence, of harassment, of violence.
The pandemic has taken so much from us all. I never lost anyone close to me to this pandemic, but I have friends struggling with long COVID. People I care about have had to go on disability, request accommodations from work, lose their favorite activities, give up on friendships.
And this return to a social life, to in person networking, to teaching and workshops and retreats has shown me part of what was taken from me. And, I paid for it. I tested positive immediately after returning from a workshop a month or so ago. I felt so restored by that experience, connecting with new writers, seeing old friends, making new ones. I had conversations that made me cry, that uplifted others. That meant something real to both of us. It felt so good to get back to helping people understand the labyrinthine chaos of this business.
But I got it. For the first time since March of 2020, I got the thing. Was it worth it? Was it worth the risk? Will I have long term health consequences? Was I wrong to change my behaviors? Did I calculate the odds correctly? I don't know. And I don't think I'll ever know.
I do know that being part of this side of the business brings me joy. It enriches my life. It makes me better at my job. It makes me more excited to do my job.
I hate that I live in a world where I have to make these choices. For my own safety. For the safety of others. I don't know what the answers are. I just know that people have decided to start up the old ways again. And I missed them.